Heading back home today after a wonderful time in England. What stood out for me this trip is the ease with which Angus and I got along. The typical challenges of jet lag, nerves before speaking, driving on the other side of the road, navigating from A to B, getting to the airport on time, and other daily challenges didn’t result in conflict or bickering. This was not because we were trying harder to get along, working on our relationship, or have achieved superhuman status.
It really is the by-product of each of us being connected with our wellbeing independent of our fatigue level and what our mood was doing.
This is key for relationships!
When a relationship gets difficult the first places we tend to look are:
What is wrong with my partner?
What is wrong with me?
What is wrong with us?
And because of how the mind works, when we ask those questions we are always going to be given answers. There is always going to be something we can find wrong in each of those three areas. The problem, however, is that answers to those three questions have nothing to do with getting along with each other.
Getting along is a reflection of our level of internal security and nothing else.
There is a cockney phrase, “How are you in yourself?"
When things get hard in your relationship that is the direction to look. Instead of seeing relationship trouble as meaning something is wrong, recognize it is a warning signal that one or both of you are feeling insecure. There is nothing wrong with insecurity. It is a normal part of human life. Everyone feels insecure from time to time. Trying to not feel insecure is where we get ourselves into trouble.
Relationship challenges result from trying to fix our insecurity by managing our partner.
So if I am in a low mood and feeling insecure, I might try to stabilize myself by managing Angus. I will find something going on with him and hone in on it thinking if that were different then I would feel less insecure and my life would be better. None of this is usually thought out. So I might start telling Angus how to drive differently, or try to fix his feeling state thinking that his feeling state is responsible for my feeling state.
This is usually experienced by him as criticism and if he is not feeling good in himself, he might end up feeling destabilized like me.
The paradox is that trying to fix insecurity only makes it worse. The more you make your insecurity wrong or a problem the worse you will feel. And as a result, life, including relationships, becomes less enjoyable not more.
So the learning is simply to see insecurity for what it is, a normal and temporary state of mind. As such there is nothing needed to be done to fix our experience when we have it. This is what avoids many of the problems in a relationship. When we don’t manage our partner to try and get out of feeling insecure the relationship doesn’t suffer.
So the best thing you can do for your relationship is, get comfortable with your feelings of anxiety and insecurity so you don’t react to them in ways that have you trying to solve for feeling better using your partner as the fall guy.
There is no magic or special fix. What makes relationships fun and easy is being comfortable with your own emotional experience and letting it move through you. Recognizing that your experience is created within and not the product of who you are with and how they are behaving.
Not only is it personally liberating to see that your experience is created from within, but it is also a blessing for your partner. They can no longer be held responsible for how you feel. And rather than this freedom creating mayhem and drawing out all of their worst qualities, the lack of pressure brings out the best in them.
When people are given room to be themselves and are free from pressure to be different their best qualities come to the surface. All of the attributes that drew you to them in the first place become visible and amplified. Their negative qualities are most present when they are feeling insecure. When this is understood, it becomes much easier to not take their behavior personally and see their negative behavior as a manifestation of insecurity. When this is seen, compassion is a natural response instead of judgment and criticism.
The beauty of this is as we recognize the fluid nature of our human emotional experience and identify with it less as all of who we are, we experience more of what is behind our thoughts and feelings. We see beyond our psychology to what is unchanging behind it, and that experience is beautiful and life-affirming. Ultimately, that is what fills us up and gives us everything that we need as we navigate our human experience. And that becomes a far more interesting direction to look in and be open to than the vagaries of our personal psychology.
Understanding what was behind Angus and I having such a nice trip makes it more likely that this will become our new normal rather than a random lucky experience. Relationships are a learning curve. Not a learning curve on how to be with each other, but a learning curve on how to be with ourselves.
Rohini Ross is co-founder of “The Rewilders.” Listen to her podcast, with her partner Angus Ross, Rewilding Love. They believe too many good relationships fall apart because couples give up thinking their relationship problems can’t be solved. In this season of the Rewilding Love Podcast, Rohini and Angus help a couple on the brink of divorce due to conflict. Angus and Rohini also co-facilitate private couples' intensives that rewild relationships back to their natural state of love. Rohini is also the author of the ebook Marriage, and she and Angus are co-founders of The 29-Day Rewilding Experience and The Rewilding Community. You can follow Rohini on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. To learn more about her work and subscribe to her blog visit: TheRewilders.org.