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Relationships: To Work or Not to Work

I am frequently asked “How do I know if I should work on this (relationship)?” I wish I could say always but I cannot. The difference lies in if the relationship is healthy or unhealthy. Let’s look at that.

Take a minute and ask yourself what you wish to experience in an ideal relationship. Now, look at what you wrote.  Did you write down what you want in the other person?  If so, that is not the question and here is why.  You can meet 10 people with the same characteristics and they will give you 10 different relationships.  So, it is important to know what YOU wish to experience in an ideal relationship.

Once you know what you wish to experience in the partnership, you will be able to develop a relationship that will bring you that partnership. Also, you will be able to see the characteristics you like in the individual and then see what they wish to experience.  If they are looking for a different type of relationship than you, you are in a good position to redefine the relationship rather than working on a relationship that will not become what you desire.

When you are in a healthy relationship the partnership is built upon what you wish to experience. In that relationship there has to be challenges because in this life we will always be experiencing challenges.  The greater the partnership, the greater the challenges that will appear because it offers each of you the opportunity to heal.  As those challenges appear, it is an opportunity for each of you to work through them together and grow the partnership and each other.  The key phrase is work through together.  If you find you are consistently working through these times alone then it is time to stop working on the relationship and talk to your partner.

When you are in a healthy relationship, you want to learn to communicate in a way that allows you to work through challenges gracefully. This does not mean you won’t experience anger. You will.  It means that when you are angry, hurt, or upset in some way that you will express those emotions with the intent to be understood and to heal.  That is one part of working on a relationship.  If, however, you begin to find that your partner is not expressing their inner experience and or emotions, then it is time to stop working so hard and talk to your partner.

In a healthy relationship you want to grow by exploring your Self and your partner. That is another form of work. Learning to communicate in a way that does not assume you know the other person.  Instead, explore by asking open-ended questions.  It is more difficult than it sounds.  If your partner is not exploring you and continues to tell you about you, then it is time to stop working so hard and talk to your partner. 

As you can see, even in a healthy relationship, there are times where you need to be aware that you are working too hard and talk with your partner about the situation and explore the disconnect or misunderstanding or difference.

If a relationship is unhealthy, it is a relationship that you followed into.  In other words, you weren’t looking to fulfill YOUR definition but were hoping to find love and or to be loved.  So, you fell for a person who showed you they loved you.  For example, you may have been excited that the other person liked you or you may have been thrilled that the other person was so romantic or beautiful, etc. 

A relationship may be unhealthy if you have an external orientation to developing a relationship. In other words, you are looking outward at the other person and following their interest in you and doing your best to meet their expectations and to be good enough. In a relationship where you are looking outward at the other, you may follow one good feeling or experience after another hoping it will end up being a “permanent” relationship.  Then one day you will find your Self struggling to keep the good times alive. 

If a relationship is unhealthy, you may find yourself being judged. You may constantly hear the other person apologizing for the mistakes or anger that caused upset in the relationship.  You may feel like you are always letting some disappointing or upsetting situation pass so that you can get back to the good part of the relationship.  You may, therefore, be constantly alert to what is pleasing to the other so you can make them happy.

If there is gaslighting or abuse in a relationship, it is unhealthy.   In those relationships, you may be finding yourself constantly working hard to mend and be good enough and keep the relationship moving positively out of fear that it will become painful or upsetting again. 

All of the described unhealthy relationships can be an opportunity for you to be the one working very hard to keep the relationship together or to keep your partner happy or to keep peace.  In all of those situations, you need to stop working so hard and accept the reality of the relationship.  It is no longer serving you.  It is time to ask why you might be fearful of moving on.

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Kristen Bomas, PA
398 Camino Gardens Blvd., Suite 104
Boca Raton, Fl 33432


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