With my wedding coming up I’ve been thinking a lot about relationships.
I remember when I met my future husband I had a “must” list three miles long.
Must love dogs
Must love his job…
I thought if I could just meet someone who would tick all the boxes then things would be great. This cleverly obscured my personal insecurities. Sorry tinder date # 3, It’s not that I fear for you to get to know me and decide that I’m somehow damaged. It’s that you smoke (it’s not me, it’s you).
I almost did the same to my future husband. I had thought that he came across as square, and so I dismissed him. My brother urged me to stop throwing up barriers and at least go for coffee with him.
By then I had been single for nearly a year. I owned my own home and paid my own bills. I was heavily involved in trail running, and spent a lot of my time training and travelling to races. In my mind I didn’t need the stress of a committed relationship. I saw a relationship as a barrier to me being my authentic self, as they always seemed to disintegrate into petty squabbles and backbiting that left me feeling raw.
I didn’t know it yet, but the root of my issue was that I was terrified of vulnerability. A thousand times over I would slam a door or name call before I would stop and authentically say “here is how I’m hurting, lets talk about it”
Enter future husband.
He is by no means perfect. Many boxes were left unticked. So much so that our friends were skeptical. His commented that we had nothing in common, mine warned me not to let the fact that he’s not a runner influence my passion. My mother, ever the optimist, said “opposites attract!”
Combine the elusive list with my insecurities and vulnerability issues, and you get one hell of an adjustment period rife with growing pains.
As expected, in the beginning I approached our relationship with the same tools and mental filters that I collected and implemented previously. I would stomp and slam and walk away. I would mind read and assume that everything was a silent message that he didn’t value me and was going to cheat or leave me.
The same patterns played out on my end, only this time they were met with a different energy.
This is where I have to pause and say that just because someone has nothing in common with you, does not mean that they won’t be the best thing for you. The independent spirit in me bristles at saying that because I don’t like to attribute any of my successes to anything but my own grit and determination, but the truth of the matter is that I’m human, and sometimes as humans we need someone to hold up a mirror so that we can truly see ourselves.
This time around when I stomped and slammed and walked away, I was met with complete honesty and vulnerability about the impact of my behavior. Without the usual equal and opposite reaction, I was left feeling like a child throwing a tantrum. Each time he coaxed the truth of my feelings from my lips and didn’t weaponize them against me but instead helped me understand them and resolve them, my ability to speak my truth grew stronger and stronger.
I started to see myself more clearly and my role in not just our relationship but all relationships. I liken it to endurance training, but for the heart. You push your limits, and then you grow.
There’s a famous quote that says “Love does not consist in gazing at each other, but in looking outward together in the same direction”. I now challenge that. You should not love someone who always agrees with you, always takes your side, never questions you and follows you everywhere. Love someone that pushes you and challenges you. Love someone that rocks the boat. Someone that scares you. Love someone who encourages you to be your own person and pursue your own passions and interests, because after that you will be whole and authentic and have the power to love them from a place of integrity instead of loving from want.
It’s now been over two years, and I’ve grown so much as an individual and as a partner. I still have my moments, but we are both works in progress, and we are in it together.