Anais Nin once wrote that "We don't see things as they are, we see them as we are," and in no area is this truer than in a relationship. From your little annoyance over the fact that your partner can't keep the house clean to that constant, underlying fear that they're going to leave, problems big and small reflect back upon us.
They often reveal more about our own worries, insecurities and obsessions than they do about our partners. That's not to say that anyone's significant other is perfect! You may very well have just cause for wanting to bite your mate's head off, or for worrying that they're seeing someone else. No matter how valid your concern is, every relationship struggle holds the key to positive personal change for you.
So it might be time to address those deep-seated fears, or simply to improve the way you deal with conflict. Here are some examples of hidden lessons in love's conflicts - and how you can turn romantic challenges into growth!
Learn to let go!
Naturally, everybody likes having things their own way. If you're among the easily annoyed, however, you may find that your partner's tiny flaws cause petty arguments, resentment or irritation on a regular basis. If this is the case, the odds are that the real problem isn't their neat freakish-ness, or their proclivity for bad movies - it's your need to control everything. How, you ask?
Simple: most of us see our partners as reflections on us. We worry that how they're viewed influences how others see us, as well. So if you have a partner who doesn't wash their car too often, you fear others see you as lacking standards. Or if your mate doesn't do things as you would, your unconscious concern is that you'll be perceived as following their less-than-perfect path.
The trouble is, our mates do not reflect on us - they reflect at us. Translation: through our differences, we're actually being offered an opportunity to see our behavior in a new light, instead of judging theirs.
The next time you find yourself annoyed and searching for a way to fix your partner's quirks, ask yourself instead why they bother you. Here's a hint: "because my way is the right way" or "that's just how things are supposed to be" are not acceptable answers. Look deep. Is the fact that your lover's coffee cup never makes it to the sink worth arguing about every day? Maybe you can just pick it up and put it there yourself, saving that battle for a better day - and a more worthy topic.
Let love rule
Let's face it, we all have insecurities - but if you find yourself repeating bad patterns in relationship after relationship, you might want to try something new. Instead of cursing Cupid amidst cries of "why me?" ask yourself what the universe is trying to show you. Are you always afraid that your mate is cheating? It's likely your self-esteem could use a boost. And if you're attracted to people who won't commit, it could be that you're actually afraid of commitment yourself.
The answers, in these cases, aren't always going to come easily - and it's possible that your deepest fears about your love have a foundation in reality. Here's the catch: this is not about the universe sending you unfaithful or noncommittal partners- it's that you're attracting them.
If you feel plagued by bad patterns in love, do some self-analysis. What was the same about each relationship? Hint: don't start with your significant others, start with yourself! How were you feeling when you initiated the relationship? When did the concerns begin? How did you react? If you start to see the specifics of a pattern, you can take steps to change it - starting from the inside. And the best part of this process will come in the results. When your motivations and behaviors change, so will the relationships you enter into.
Finally, many of us find it difficult to be vulnerable. Allowing someone else to see our weaknesses, after all, creates the risk that they may not love us anymore. The catch is, if someone can't handle our weaknesses, they don't truly love us - at least not unconditionally. It's natural not to like certain things about each other in a relationship, but lasting love relies upon acceptance of the good, the bad and the ugly.
If you find yourself faced with a partner who puts up a wall, don't assume they don't love you. And - worse still - don't clam up! The best way to affect a change and foster a connection is to be more open and sharing, encouraging the same behavior from them. Conversely, if your struggle is to let your own guard down, don't assume there is something wrong with your mate for wanting a way in.
Instead of shying away from honest conversations and difficult subjects, try admiring their courage when they confide in you. Recognize how hard that actually is. What you'll likely find, in either situation, are shared fears and down-to-earth human insecurities - both of which will actually bring you closer together, and make you stronger as individuals - and as a pair.