When it comes to relationships, there will be reasons to stay and reasons to leave. Before you decide what to do, consider these thoughts from dating and relationship coach Alisa Goodwin Snell.
Everyone wants to feel a secure attachment to someone. When we feel loved, valued, and important, we become more confident, capable, and successful. In the comfort of these relationships, we begin to take risks, express our needs, and become real with our significant others in ways that superficial relationships never allow. Secure attachments help us to fear failure less, see ourselves as more than our experiences, and even heal from past traumas.
Unfortunately, our society has created a throw-away culture, in which we’re encouraged to swipe left, right, up, and down with ease. We do this believing that the perfect fit is just around the corner, on the next page, or about to walk into our singles ward. So, from the comfort of our living rooms, we wait in front of our TVs, computers, and phones for the relationships we’re dreaming of.
In some cases, we abandon relationships before they begin. We silently criticize our potential partner’s appearance, hobbies, spirituality, career, etc. We convince ourselves that our excuses matter, and we feel justified in walking away.
There are valid reasons for ending a relationship, such as major incompatibilities or a lack of empathy, self-control, and personal responsibility between the couple. Often, however, we make quick judgments driven by our desire to avoid vulnerability, loss, or pain. We reject before we can experience rejection. We expect love before we give it. We obsess over what we don’t have, while undervaluing what we do. We fear settling. And we resist working hard for something that isn’t a sure bet. In these ways, we create and maintain patterns of disconnection, rather than patterns of connection.
Patterns of Connection
If we are to break our patterns of disconnection and experience lasting love, we need to move from a fear-based mentality to one of faith-filled love. This kind of love requires that we enjoy and embrace the moment, and all the individuals that are in it, without fear of loss.
Creating a pattern of connection means being available, responsive, and emotionally engaged in the present (not some distant future), with the people we know now (not the ideal ones we may find later). The skills we need to succeed in life and relationships require practice, persistence, and patience.
Before choosing to leave or stay in a current dating situation or relationship, ask yourself these questions:
•Is my desire to leave based on a fear of loss, pain, or failure?
•Am I holding grudges due to unspoken needs or unrealistic expectations?
•Do I spend more time (secretly or openly) criticizing my significant other rather than appreciating him or her?
•Am I being passive instead of actively engaged?
•Do I expect my significant other to make the first move, apologize, or meet a need before I will?
•Do I focus on the past or a feared future issue rather than just enjoying the moment?
•Do I obsess about how my significant other doesn’t understand me, while I too am guilty of not fully listening to or understanding them?
•Do I have the skills to love deeply? How consistently do I maintain these behaviors, even when things are hard?
If after answering these questions you believe you still have more to offer in your relationship, then focus on being more fully engaged. Doing this will open you up to giving and receiving more love, but don’t do these things with expectations. This is less about whether you can get the love and acceptance you want from them. It’s more about whether you can give love freely and with faith that either way you will both be better for the experience.
Alisa Goodwin Snell spent 17 years as a marriage and family therapist before becoming a dating and relationship coach. She’s written several books for singles, been on over 100 TV and radio programs nationwide, and is a sought out public speaker.