“Relationships are complicated, but happiness in a relationship isn’t: It’s just wanting exactly what you have.” Then the writer adds, “Wanting something else is dispiriting.”
Carolyn Hax’ advice in this morning’s Washington Post struck a nerve: utterly simple, profoundly true, and very, very hard to live by. See http://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/style/does-nfl-have-to-mean-not-for-long-in-this-relationship/2013/01/20/a1104cca-5a76-11e2-beee-6e38f5215402_story.html
You can’t be happy in a relationship if you’re always wishing for something different.
Hax was speaking to a woman in a “perfect” relationship except for the boyfriend’s love of football and her inability to share it.
We know the feeling. It may be sports, it may be something else that’s hard to accept, let alone “want.” There’s a crack in a lovely relationship that threatens to keep growing until it brings everything down: a wonderful husband with an obnoxious mother he loves; a parent with a serious illness that threatens to consume all one’s time and energy; a loss that friends grieve in different ways.
When a relationship is problematic I can do one of three things: change myself, try to change the other (or the situation), or walk away.
Let’s assume I’ve tried and failed to change the other person’s behavior and I don’t want to (or can’t) walk away. But I’m unhappy. That leaves working on myself: how do I give up wanting something else?
I don’t have all the answers, but here are some thoughts.
1. Relinquish your idea of “how it’s supposed to be.” There has never been a perfect family, a perfect spouse, a perfect child. Quit chasing perfection. Let it go. You have your own flaws.
2. Focus on what’s working, what’s good, and be grateful. Carolyn Hax’s correspondent said her boyfriend had offered to give up a ticket to the Super Bowl playoffs, and she had told him to go ahead. That said a lot about the good in their relationship. At the Inauguration today Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee quoted Alex Haley, author of “Roots.” He said his life was guided by six words: “Find the good and praise it.”
3. Talk about your feelings without blaming the other or yourself. The situation is what it is. If you’ve tried and failed to talk to the other person directly (or the other can’t change, for instance a parent with Alzheimer’s), find a friend or counselor who will listen. This may not change anything but it should help you clarify what your options really are.
4. Nurture your own spirit. The crack in the relationship may be where the light gets in (to quote Leonard Cohen). The light may be hard to see at first; talking to someone you trust can help. So can prayer, meditation, or a long walk in the woods.
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