“There can only be one purpose for a relationship, and for all life:
To be and to decide who you really are.” -Neal Donald Walsch
As I say in FULL (Kelley and Burke), “I've danced the dance of love and loss many times, which invariably leaves me feeling that I’m just not enough.” I have a beautiful memory of a new love standing in my living room after entering my house. With a hand on each of my arms, squeezing tightly after a melt-worthy hello kiss, he said, “No way will this ever be work.”
Ah, the dopamine phase. Typically, ended by a splash of cold water one might call “humaning.” Humaning is my word for our default mode of operation shaped by the current environment, past relationships, culture, family patterns, how much sleep or food we’ve had, and probably a dash of energetic and genetic variables. When we’re just humaning, we’re operating without pretense.
All kinds of things happen when we human. We stumble upon happiness. We piss someone off. We eat too much. We surprise someone. In this case, our new love. They’re taken aback and catapulted into analysis and self-protection.
Now what? This romantic relationship we thought was work-proof starts to look like every other relationship we’ve ever had, including those with siblings, parents, and coworkers. Cue thoughts like They’re not right for me. I got it wrong again. I’ve somehow attracted the same person I dated last year. And the one I divorced!
“The purpose of a relationship is to decide what part of yourself you’d like to see show up, not what part of another you can capture and hold down.” - Walsch
Romantic relationships offer growth opportunities. Growth isn't guaranteed because we must choose behaviors that lead to it. The growth opportunity in romantic relationships is unique because
self-reflection and observation of the other person are equally critical.
both parties must participate in the process. Growth rarely comes from only one party reflecting or changing their behavior/thought patterns. Synchronization is required.
they require communication skills that allow the partners to collaborate for the greatest good.
they’re the most intimate relationship type, so vulnerability is high. Vulnerability is an excellent ingredient for growth. And pain.
Communication skills are prime fodder for growth in a romantic relationship. It takes finesse, timing, empathy, compassion, directness, courage, and responsibility for your communication to be the catalyst of growth rather than the source of another problem. There is very little chance we get this right the first time in any situation. It takes vigilance, especially when our partner’s response isn’t what we expected. When that happens, it’s easy to shut down, blame the process, or other person rather than reapplying those skills.
This is often referred to as work. We’ve all heard the cliche: Relationships require work. Why would we want a relationship if it requires work? Isn’t our relationship supposed to be a reprieve from the rest of life? From all the work?
“Relationships are constantly challenging. Constantly calling you to create, express, and experience higher and higher aspects of yourself.” -Walsch
Sounds like growth to me! Relationships aren’t work; they're a canvas for creating and expressing. Relationships don’t end because one party is too much or not enough. There are many reasons relationships end, among others:
Individual creativity or expression is stifled.
Only one party is creating.
Only one party is expressing.
The relationship is viewed as work, which builds resentment and fatigue.
The beautiful thing is that the opportunity for growth doesn’t die when the relationship is complete. Endings are excellent springboards for creative thinking and expression. With every brushstroke on our canvas, we choose how we show up in the world, whether someone is painting next to us or not.
Neale Donald Walsch. Conversations with God: An Uncommon Dialogue. Book 1. New York, Tarcherperigee, 2016.
Kelley, Melissa, and Alayna Burke. Full. 1 Oct. 2022.