What defines a healthy relationship? Friendship, trust, companionship, passion, emotion. It’s difficult to find all of these things in another person. Sometimes we take a ‘3 out of 5’ compromise and hope for the best. But is that really being fair to ourselves? Why settle? And why do we accept that as an option?
You may think the reasons people do things are so many and varied it would be impossible to generalize them. And you’re probably close to right. But there are some common themes.
A friend of mine is a good example of these themes. Let’s call her Judy. Judy only dates married men. This is a defense mechanism, a built-in obstacle. She doesn’t have to fear being hurt because there is no commitment, no emotional investment. It also means there is no chance at complete happiness because the man is unavailable for that type of relationship.
One of the biggest mistakes people make is putting their own obstacles in their path. Judy does this. If a man gets too close, her children become the reason she can’t get deeper into a relationship. The kids need me, I can’t meet tonight. When the kids are grown I’ll look for someone. An occasional evening is a lot safer than a lifetime. If things get too intense, she steps back into the familiar.
Another way we stay in that comfort zone is to enable people to behave the way we feel safest with. Judy fears getting hurt by a potential partner. So she seeks out men who are not available for more than friendship with benefits. She has no commitment to anyone, but she will help them cheat because she knows what behaviors to expect.
Sometimes people throw a wrench into the plan. Judy had one suitor who offered to leave his wife for her. After the initial Oh $#!%, Judy turned him down and walked away. She doesn’t want a relationship with a cheater. She’s aware of the inherent dangers of a cheating partner. That’s why she keeps them at arm’s length. Granted, some people can break old habits, but in general once a cheater always a cheater.
In my last post I mentioned people who are continually getting hurt by putting themselves in the same type of relationship over and over again. It’s the same thing as Judy. Fear of stepping out of that comfort zone drives her back into old habits. Losing someone hurts. Seeking out that pain will not make you happy. Happiness is in letting go of those fears and inhibitions.
Can you trust yourself? That is really the question. Can you be honest enough with yourself to see the patterns in your own behavior? Do you want to put your hand in the flame and get burned again? Respect that pain but don’t fear it. Fear of a thing will control you. You have to break the old patterns and trust yourself to take a step in a new direction. Lying to yourself won’t get you anywhere you want to be.