Daniel Dowling has identified the reasons why relationships are so hard, and has an approach that will help you overcome the challenges. *Warning: this article makes casual relationships less appealing–read at your own inconvenience
The thing that pulls us into relationships is the same thing that repels us from them. We want to be reminded of how unique and awesome we are, and there is no better mirror to reflect the person we want to be seen as than a lover who knows nothing of our faults. So we feel alive in the first stages of a relationship, we feel fun and we feel free. But the mirror that our partners hold to us has no partiality, and as it reflects our good, so too will it reflect what ill we hold.
This is why entering relationships without a commitment to personal growth and edification is harmful to our wellbeing. It’s harder to remind yourself of the good things in yourself, but ultimately that is what stays with you. If you can make a habit out of seeing the best in yourself and affirming your worth by improving your actions, then there will be no one to pull the rug out from underneath you, as so commonly happens in ordinary relationships.
Doubly hard is reminding yourself of the undesirable traits that you would part with to live freer and love better. But, if you are unwilling to search that out for yourself, no one else can have any hope of showing you. And so those who are not intent on self-sacrifice and personal growth cannot grow in a relationship; though it will be easier to see their flawed actions mirrored by their partner, they won’t recognize the flaws as their own to change.
Bored people make for boring partners
Most people are bored with themselves and want to be reminded of why they are awesome, so relationships are an easy choice. But the mirror of our partners is not selective and it will reflect the good along with the bad. If you have a hard time looking for the good in yourself, you’ll also have a hard time looking for things you can change in order to grow.
If you aren’t trained in seeking out the error of your ways, then when someone reflects your truth, you will not recognize the faults as your own and you will be likely to blame your partner. “He/she just…changed.” Is a common excuse at the end of a relationship, but it isn’t accurate. When we enter relationships without a habit and routine of self-effacement, we will not tolerate any of the negative truth we see in the mirrors of our partners and we will not take ownership. So the faults and flaws of our own behavior will be falsely projected onto the people we relied on to see the best in ourselves. And when that happens, we don’t feel safe in their presence any more, so we become invulnerable and send signals that say, “I can’t grow with you.”
Those signals directly impact the behavior of your partner, and they will either withdraw to escape the pain or assail you with “neediness” and nagging, depending on how emotionally responsive they are. And if you are involved in this self-destructive relationship-seeking mode, chances are your partner will be too. So this corrosive cycle will be playing out from both sides of the partnership and to the same end—splitsville.
It may seem like a cruel twist of fate, but this force of nature in relationships is actually to our highest benefit. If our partners didn’t mirror the flaws that we carry, there would be no way to grow within a relationship. Since the point of living is to learn and grow, it would be cruel if relationships didn’t play out this way for non-growth minded people; there would be absolutely no incentive to change, to humble yourself, and to grow.
Relationships are hard so that we can grow through them
The fact of mirroring is why romantic relationships are not for casual purposes; relationships are designed specifically for growth. In the context of truth seeking and edification, relationships are the ultimate tool to know and appreciate yourself and others better. But arriving at a point where relationships are appropriate for your growth requires a fully developed and growth-based relationship with yourself first.
If you aren’t acknowledging the flaws that you carry and the errors you make by yourself, there is no hope for you in a romantic relationship. If you don’t know yourself intimately, have your own back and encourage your greatest growth, no one can grow with you. If you aren’t disciplined in reminding yourself how special and amazing you are, you’ll give yourself away to someone who hasn’t earned the privilege of caring for your deepest parts, and you will be let down. If you haven’t taken the responsibility of knowing yourself deeply and growing with yourself every day, then you haven’t earned the privilege or capability of growing with another person.
A person’s history in relationships is the ultimate indicator of their personal commitment to themselves. Those who haven’t committed to their highest growth will be putty in the hands of most anyone who will affirm their value; I myself was among that crowd for most of my life. Without self-discipline and sacrifice to grow before the relationship, the relationship will implode. Those who have committed to responsibility and edification will find incredible growth through a relationship, but not without great sacrifice.
The strength and fruitfulness of a relationship is directly related to the sacrifice that goes into it. If you look for a relationship to affirm what you want to see in yourself, you’ll lack the necessary sacrificial component that enables a relationship to flourish. If relationships are used as an escape from the responsibility to see and bring out the best within yourself, then they will crumble, but only for your benefit. A life without growth is no life at all. So, if you’ve had “bad luck” in relationships, be glad that you are still capable of growing. If you could stay in a relationship without your partner mirroring the flaws you carry, you would rot and become nothing of consequence. But the fact that you have crashed and burned in relationships is the ultimate sign that you are destined for something far greater IF you take up the responsibility to make sacrifices and to grow yourself.
The purpose of life is to grow; we are here to learn and to create. But you wouldn’t automatically think that by observing the peculiar behaviors of our species. It seems we have been possessed by the wrong-headed idea that the magical elixir of growth is in the next woman’s vagina, or will come out of that guy’s penis…And so we continue the vain exploration of comfort in other people’s bodies, but outside the context of self sacrifice and edification, we never find it. Then, when everything has topped down on us, as privileges are wont to do without the balance of responsibility, we blame God or our nature for ensuring that we grow, one way or another.
Those who seek personal growth through self-sacrifice and responsibility are masters of themselves; they cannot be lured in by passing pleasures that will ultimately defeat them; they will succeed in relationships beyond measure. Those who lack the discipline of self-sacrifice and sexual responsibility will hand their fate to the inexperienced hands of someone who desires nothing more than they; comfort. But greatness is neither sought nor found in the confines of comfort, and so it is that most relationships dissolve for a lack of growth.
Every living thing grows, and if it refuses to grow then it dies. Your relationships are living things that require growth just as any other, and their primary source of fuel is commitment, humility, vulnerability, courage, responsibility, discipline, respect, faith, wisdom, patience and sacrifice. If you can cultivate those traits in yourself before a relationship, then they can be enhanced by a relationship, and the profitability of your virtue will go to feed the growth of your relationship.
As relationships grow, so too does responsibility, and along with responsibility comes privilege. If you continue a relationship based on the principle of growth, you will be awarded dividends for as long as you commit to sacrifice, discipline, and adventure. There is no limit to the growth in a relationship save for your adventurousness, your imagination, your willingness to sacrifice, and your will to grow. That is to say, there are plenty of limits to your relationship, but none beyond your control; none external.
Traits you can develop before your next relationship
If the idea of hard work, responsibility, sacrifice, unlimited sexual satisfaction, discipline, unlimited growth, and lasting love appeal to you, then you can probably make an excellent relationship with enough commitment. If those ideas don’t appeal to you, or if it seems to hard, then you have two choices:
1- step outside of your comfort zone, embrace the fact that life is not easy, and fight like hell for the things you believe in (hopefully you believe in love). Or
2- accept that you will never be capable effecting joy, security, and fulfillment in your life.
It seems a clear-cut choice, but most people never orient themselves to a position where such a stark choice presents itself. We’ve all been mislead to think that romantic love is anything other than what we make of it, and so sexual irresponsibility has become intertwined the fabric of our culture. If you’ve bought this lie, then join the club! How could anyone be expected to automatically choose the hard and worthy road of sacrifice and responsibility when we’ve been conditioned to the contrary literally from birth?
If you are even remotely interested in a growth based relationship and sexual responsibility, you will be one of the very, very few because that road is narrow and difficult. The toughness of the road is what leads to the fitness that is required for the worthy things in life, like a committed relationship and solvent family. If you believe that there is a better way to approach romance, most people will laugh at you, call you a “shamer”, or ridicule you. They do this because your unlimited ideas threaten their concept of comfort and “good living.” But those who laugh will never know the freedom that you can achieve. They’ll never come close to a relationship that grows in intimacy and value because they haven’t prepared for it; because they do not think it is possible; because they are afraid to acknowledge the faults they carry and grow.
But don’t let other people concern you. If you want something better in a relationship, you have every right. If you didn’t want something better, if you didn’t want to grow, your humanity would be lessened because growth is our nature.
The following is a list of traits and habits that will prevent you from making the sacrifices to attain a growth-based relationship:
- Casual sex
- Lack of personal goals
- An unmotivated and underachieving circle of friends
- An aversion to responsibility
- An aversion to sacrifice
- A desire for an easy life
- A sense of entitlement
- A lack of challenges
- A diminished spirit of adventure
- A fear of trying new things
- A fear of commitment
- Pridefulness; a sense of infallibility
And most of all: a belief that absolute truth does not exist.
The following is a list of traits that will prepare you for unlimited growth and success in your relationships:
- A desire to be challenged
- A willingness to accept fault
- A willingness to improve on faults
- A ferocious desire to learn and to improve
- A willingness to make sacrifices for the things you love.
- A willingness to endure suffering in order to create the life you want to live.
- A habit of constantly improving your actions
- A habit of questioning what is considered normal
- An eagerness to help others through your passions.
- A habit of breaking your comfort zone to experience new things
- A respect for life
And most of all: a burning desire to seek and obtain truth.
Without acknowledging absolute truth, there is no higher standard for which to conform one’s self to, and no impetus to improve. Without acknowledging absolute truth, one commits the fallacy of asserting a truth in denying the concept of truth.
Truth is what brings all people who desire truth together in order to live to a higher standard. Truth is what enables growth because it is infinite, and it can only be accessed through sacrifice. If your relationships have dissolved leaving you with less and you maintain that truth does not exist, please reconsider your stance if you desire a better way.