Why Being Ghosted Hurts

Why Being Ghosted Hurts

The term “ghosting” refers to when someone you believe cares about or is at least interested in you, suddenly stops contacting you or responding to your efforts to reach out to them. It could be someone you’ve been on a few dates with, talked to everyday for the last couple of weeks through texting or even someone you considered to be a potential serious partner.

Ghosting can happen gradually, such as messages and phone calls becoming less and less frequent, or most commonly ghosting can happen suddenly with the person appearing to have simply dropped off the face of the Earth and vanished as the term implies.

Although the term may be new, ghosting itself is definitely not. People have been getting ghosted probably since the beginning of time, but with more people meeting and connecting online, it’s become easier to ghost other people, therefore, increasing the odds that you will get ghosted.

With more people meeting online and more people caring out a large part of their relationships online and through messaging, ghosting people today doesn’t have the same social consequences it used to have. If you ghost someone today, it’s less likely that you share a lot of the same friends and social connections, so disappearing on them doesn’t impact other parts of your world.

Being Ghosted Usually Isn’t About you

When have invested your time, energy and emotions into another person and then they suddenly drop out of your life, it can be very puzzling and even devastating, especially to those who already have self-esteem problems.

However, people tend to ghost other people because of their own emotional discomfort, lack of emotional intelligence and inability to communicate. They rarely think about how it will make the other person feel which is why ghosting can come off as a very selfish, cold and narcissistic act.

People often ghost when they don’t know how to say what they want so they just disappear because to them that is easier than having the conversation. Many times people get scared in a relationship so they leave or they may not think it is that serious so they don’t feel like they owe the other person anything, especially an explanation to why they are no longer interested. Definitely as I stated before, the online dating culture where we have less real life social connections, makes it easier to just stop communicating without giving any type of closure to the other person.

Men are notorious for ghosting, but it happens to us to. The more someone has been ghosted, the more likely they are to ghost someone in return. I’ve been ghosted a couple of times and it has always taken me by surprise because I thought the other person and I had a relationship where we would at least be friends, and then they were gone.

How Does it Feel To Be Ghosted?

If you have never been ghosted before, and I hope you never will be, I can tell you from my experience that it initially left me in shock and disbelief. I was angry because I felt like I had a great connection with someone. It was as if they had died, but they hadn’t. It was very painful and made me feel disrespected as if I wasn’t even good enough to have the conversation with. It made me feel disposable, especially the second time it happened. I feel like I could never just disappear on a person I supposedly cared about, so it made me question how could people do that to me? What was it about me that made me not worth even giving closure to? It felt like torture, being unsure of exactly what happened to both the relationship and the person. Of course you get over it and move on, but only after you gather yourself up off the floor.

Why Does Being Ghosted Hurt So Bad?

For some people, being ghosted may not hurt very much. They may be able to let go and move on easier than other people. They may understand that in this day and age, people tend to be less attached and see ghosting as a byproduct of dating.

For most people, being ghosting hurts. It feels disrespectful and creates questions and doubts about themselves and relationships.

Ghosting hurts because it’s a form of social rejection that triggers emotional pain. It hurts because it’s the ultimate silent treatment and in relationships, the silent treatment is considered emotional abuse. It hurts because it’s a passive-aggressive act that is psychologically and emotionally cruel. It hurts because we typically don’t see it common. It’s as if the rug were pulled from under our feet.

As I said in the beginning of this post, being ghosted has nothing to do with you. What it tells you is that the other person is too immature to have a mature healthy relationship and that they don’t know how to deal with their own emotions, or yours… or even worse, are too narcissistic, immature or selfish to care about your feelings. In any case, they are not someone you want to be in a relationship with. Do not allow being ghosted to make you question your worthiness or become jaded when it comes to relationships.It’s not about you, no matter how personal it may feel.

We’re Conditioned to Stay

We’re Conditioned to Stay

The idea for this post came from a client who wanted to understand why it was so hard for her to leave both a bad relationship and a job she nearly hated. As we discussed her family history, I learned that her mother stayed in bad relationships with no good boyfriend after boyfriend.  Her grandmother stayed in a bad marriage for decades.  The answer became clear. It was simple, powerful and complex at the same time. She was conditioned to stay.

Many of us find it painfully hard to leave situations we know are not healthy for us. We find ourselves in relationships for years sometimes with people we should have left a long time ago, or friendships that should have been let go of a long time ago. Unfortunately, many of us are conditioned to stay in these situations that aren’t the best for us and we don’t even realize it which makes it that much harder.

This conditioning could be as subtle as watching or parents stay in a loveless marriage so we stay in an unhappy marriage because we learned that we don’t leave a relationship just because we’re no longer happy, or we stay for the kids or we stay because we vowed “til death do us part”.

Many of us witnessed our parents have terrible fights, sometimes even getting physical, but they always stayed together so subconsciously we learned that even in an abusive relationship, we stay. It can even be that we witnessed our parents blissfully happy and in love for 30 years and we want that same relationship so we stay in our terrible marriage because we don’t want to not have what our parents did or are afraid of disappointing them.

Conditioning comes from many directions. Many families, religions and cultures do not believe in divorce so we may be even more obligated to settle and stay where we are not happy.

Beyond relationships, that conditioning can spill over into the work environment. We tend to copy what we do in personal relationships with what we do on the job. We stay in unsatisfying romantic relationships and end up staying in unsatisfying jobs. We want more, but somehow, somewhere were conditioned to settle.

Just like relationships, different cultures have different views on work. Many cultures believe that a man’s job defines him and that he must do the same type of work his father did, or work on the family form despite his own dreams and aspirations.

Maybe our father taught us that we show up to work every day for 30 years, keep your nose clean, head down and then retire, so even though we are unhappy, that’s what we do.

My mom went to work every day, she retired from two jobs and I never heard her complain so subconsciously I learned to go to work every day and not complain. I also learned to be loyal to a company, sometimes to a fault.

The same things can be said about relationships. I watched my parents stay in a troubled relationship for many years and that helped condition me to stay in toxic relationships longer than most people would.

We are all conditioned in good, bad and neutral ways of thinking, behaving and relating to the world and ourselves. It’s only when we start to examine this conditioning can we break away from what may be holding us back without us realizing it.

What I Learned From Dating Someone With Borderline Personality Disorder

Not too long ago I was madly in love with a beautiful, charismatic and outgoing woman. She was funny, sexy and seemed to be the center of attention wherever we went. She also had Borderline Personality Disorder.

When we first met, this was not something I picked up on right away. She appeared to be everything I was looking for in a girlfriend. She was extroverted, independent and most of all fun. Her laugh and smile were infectious. She was the opposite of my quiet, reserved and introverted self. She was what I thought I needed in my life. Someone different than the women I usually dated. Different from myself.

In The Beginning

Things with us started off fast and intense. We went from getting to know each other, to being intimate, falling in love and living together in just a few weeks. She went out of her way to shower me with love and attention. It made me feel special, especially in comparison to my last relationship where I often felt neglected. She made me feel like no other woman had ever made me feel before or since.

What I didn’t realize was that part of what I was experiencing is what is called love bombing. Love bombing is when someone tries to influence a person with demonstrations of love and affection. They usually do this by going overboard with efforts of love and admiration. It’s a way to quickly leap frog over the getting to know you, courting stage in a relationship and get to the “I love you” stage and it worked.

I had never fallen for someone so intensely so fast, which is why I think I didn’t see some of the red flags I should have or, as a therapist, realize what I was getting into. Love and beauty have a way of blinding us.

As a mental health counselor, I have a habit, good or bad, of always analyzing people and a month into our relationship I started thinking that she might have bipolar disorder. I started recognizing that she had some mood instability and for some reason, that’s where my mind took me, but after awhile I dismissed that altogether because she simply didn’t meet the criteria. Still, I knew there was something I needed to pay close attention to, I just wasn’t sure what it was.

Inappropriate and Intense Anger

I remember the first fight we had, it was over something very trivial and should have just been a conversation, but instead she EXPLODED! I mean her eyes narrowed, face turned red, nostrils flared. She got so angry so quickly that it scared me and I feared for my safety. What shocked me the most was that the intensity of her anger was way out of proportion to the situation.

I don’t like to fight, I don’t like to argue. When I realized how volatile that situation became over something so small, I should have left and never looked back. That was actually my plan, but later that evening she came back and apologized. We made up. I loved her after all and maybe part of my “you can fix her” thinking kicked in and I actually began to feel sorry for her.

I knew she come from a pretty traumatic childhood, that she went through periods of her life where she felt abandoned and I felt that her blow up was a test to see if she could push me away and I would abandon her too. I decided to prove her wrong and to stay and make it work out. I had the rescuer syndrome going on full strength.

Frantic Efforts to Avoid Real or Imagined Abandonment

After that first explosion, many more followed. She began accusing me of wanting or looking at other women. Out of the blue her entire mood would change and I wouldn’t know why until she was ready to blow up at me for looking at someone I usually had no clue who she was talking about.

I got accused of looking at random women all the time like our waitress, some woman across the street that I never even noticed in the first place or another across the room simply because she was there. As beautiful as she was, she was very insecure.

It got so bad that at one point I found myself walking around with my head down just so I wouldn’t accidentally appear to be looking at another women, but even that didn’t work.

So many dates and even a Valentines Day were ruined by her accusing me of looking at other women and her explosive, increasing inappropriate anger.

And yet there were times when she begged me to never leave her. When I told her this wasn’t working for me and I wanted to break up, she simply replied “no” and then clung to me like a frightened child.

Uncontrollable Anger and Physical Violence

As her angry explosions became increasingly unpredictable (yet predictable), she began to get physically violent. It started with her getting so angry that she would slap me and on at least two occasions she punched me in the face with a closed fist, all the time I was trying to calm her down to keep her from getting even more angry and out of control, which only made things worse.

At the same time, I noticed that she was also getting into conflicts with other people when we went out. Men, women, it didn’t matter. It was as if she had two sides to her; this sweet, outgoing, social butterfly that everyone loved and this angry bitch that everyone hated. Still, the most intense anger and rage were reserved for me.

It got so bad that whenever we went out, no matter how happy we were in the beginning of the evening, there was a 90% chance that by the time the night was over, we’d be fighting over something. I started thinking that she was allergic to having a good day. It was like, the more I tried for us to have a great day, the more I did for her, the more intense her anger would be when she decided it was time to ruin our good time.

She could literally pick a fight out of thin air which made it so much more unpredictable. It was literally, as the cliché goes, like walking on eggshells.

I remember one day we went to the beach, swam in the ocean and I painted her toe nails while laying on a beach blanket. Afterwards we went to the pier and had lunch before driving back home, changing and going to a jazz club. Later that night we stopped on our way home to get something to eat and she started yelling at me (out of the blue) because I hadn’t unfriended her best-friend that she accused of wanting me. The same best friend I knew before I knew her. The same best-friend that had introduced us.

I was so hurt and disappointed that we had such a great day ruined in five minutes by some random thought that came into her head.

Alcohol Abuse

I totally ignored and even enabled her substance abuse issues. When we met I knew she smoked, but I didn’t realized she was also a binge drinker and probably an alcoholic.

It seemed ass if she had to constantly be smoking or drinking in order to be marginally happy. She didn’t just drank to get buzzed, she drank to get white girl wasted as they say.

So many weekend nights she drank until she passed out or until she started flirting with everyone or lashing out on everyone with me of course as her favorite target.

One valentines day she drank a whole bottle of wine by her self at dinner and then another at the movie theater and then passed out before the movie even started.

She would promise to stop drinking, but she never did and to be honest, I was usually the one buying her drinks because I knew one or two drinks made her happy, but by the time she got to her fourth drink, she was a loaded gun ready to go off.

It wasn’t uncommon for her to go from happy to infuriated within minutes.

Idealization and Devaluation

Some days she would tell me that I was the best man ever and I would feel like a prince and by the end of the night, she would be enraged over something minor and yelling at me “you’re just like every other man” or telling me how I was the worst person ever.

At first I was really confused. I was either the best man she’d ever been with or the worst man she’d ever been with, but I couldn’t be both. It was starting to give me an identity complex.

I did noticed a pattern however. If she started telling me how I was the love of her life, the best thing that ever happened to her, blah, blah, blah, I needed to hold on tight because by the end of the day, the other shoe was going to drop.

Whenever she started inflating my ego, she would create a fight by the end of the day and tear me back down to scum under her shoes. I remember one night when not too many hours earlier I had been her moon and stars, she yelled at me that she hated and resented me. That really took me aback. In all my life I had never had someone tell me that they resented me. I didn’t even know how to take it, but I never forgot how much it hurt .

Those words were probably the biggest factor in causing me to start emotionally withdrawing and re-evaluating our relationship. Sure this was after we were about three years into this roller-coaster ride, but what can I say, I was in love.

By this time I had known she had borderline personality disorder for over two years. The signs were all there. I even had her take an assessment and she scored perfectly and even agreed with me that she thought she had borderline personality disorder, but she didn’t want to go to therapy.

In The End

My friends, people who knew me and knew us often asked me why did I stay. They didn’t know why I put up with the chaos, the anger, the numerous precarious situations she had put me in.

The answer is love. I really did love her. Being a mental health professional didn’t help. I thought I could help her overcome her issues, helping people is my job. And she really was and is an awesome person. If she was a totally horrible person of course I would have left a long time ago.

Would I have done anything different knowing what I know now? Of course I would. I would have chosen to just be her friend and to keep a safe distance so that I wouldn’t get caught up in the chaos.

I learned a lot through this tumultuous relationship, but mostly about myself. I learned that I was more codependent than I ever realized. I learned that I had a sort of six sense and sort of a curse for spotting people with issues and trying to fix them. I also learned what it was like to be in love with a beautiful woman, to have some of the most fun I’ve ever had in my life, to be adventurous, to feel like I couldn’t live without a person and then learn to live without them.

Dealing With A Breakup

Getting over someone you once or even still love can be very challenging. However, there are scientifically backed ways to help alleviate the heartache and jumping into another relationship is not one of them. Sure it may help take your mind off of your exe, but if there are any unresolved issues within yourself that haven’t been dealt with, you can quickly find yourself living out the same relationship with the same issues, just with a different person. Trust me, I’ve been there.

Time

They say time heals all wounds and science says that is largely true. Give yourself time to get over the relationship. It’s a lot like grieving when someone close to you has died. You wouldn’t expect to get over that very quickly, so why expect any different when it comes to the death of a relationship?

I remember after the end of one of my relationships, I just kept thinking I wanted to get over it and forget about that person right now and for some reason, that only prolonged the process. Don’t stress about it. The day will come when you realize that you haven’t thought about that person in a day, or two or more.

It may feel like it’s taking forever for that day to come, but research suggests that we overestimate the amount of time we think it will take for us to get through the rough patches of a break up.

With that being said, below are some ways to help speed up the recovery process.

Avoid Social Media

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Specifically, avoid checking up on your ex on Facebook, Instagram or what have you. Seeing if he or she seems happy, has moved on or is talking about you, will do nothing to help you move on.

A study in the journal Cyber-psychology found that people who checked up on their exes’ Facebook page are more likely to have negative feelings towards the person, more likely to desire the person and less likely to grow from the break up, which should be one of your main goals.

It can be very tempting to just “see what they’ve been up to” but try by all means to avoid falling into that trap, even if that means unfriending, blocking, unfollowing or just avoiding social media all together until you are strong enough.

Avoid The Halo Effect

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It’s no uncommon that after a breakup, we start to minimize the negative qualities of the person and the relationship, while amplifying the positive. We can start fooling ourselves into thinking that this person was someone that he or she surely was not. Don’t pretend that your ex was perfect.

Instead, dating expert Andrea Syrtash recommends making a list of five ‘must-haves’ and five ‘can’t-stands’ in a potential partner.

Syrtash recommends making a meaningful list and instead of writing down things like, “Must be over six feet tall and have brown eyes”, try “I must find this person attractive”.

Once you’ve completed this exercise, you might be surprised to find out that none of your exes were truly suitable for you.

When I did this exercise I realized that two of my exes I probably never should have dated seriously because they were missing some major qualities on my “must-have” list. Learning that helped me to start looking for more suitable partners while helping me let go of the idea that any of my exes were right for me and that I was somehow missing out on something with them.

Don’t Assume The Breakup Means You Suck

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Your ability to deal with a breakup has a lot to do with the way you see yourself according to a 2016 paper in the journal Personality and Social Psychology.

One of the authors, Lauren Howe, states: “In our research, people reported the most prolonged distress after a romantic rejection when it caused their self-image to change for the worse. People who agreed that the rejection made them question who they really were also reported more often that they were still upset when they thought about the person who had rejected them.”

If however, you have thoughts such as, two people can both be good, descent human-beings and still not workout because they simply don’t belong together, you’re likely to suffer less and move on faster.

Challenge the story you tell yourself regarding what the break up reveals about you.

During one of my breakup I initially told myself that I sucked and didn’t deserve to be happy, but I quickly had to change my narrative by remembering how much of myself I had lost during the relationship (i.e., traveling) and how happier I would be doing those things again and especially if I could find someone to do those things with.

Journal Positively

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Writing down how you feel about the break up can help, but mostly you need to write about the positives of the break up. What did you learn? How did it help you grow?

After one of my breakups, a good friend of mine asked, “What did you learn from her because she was a very good teacher”. At first I was perplexed, but then I realized what she meant. I had put up with and dealt with a lot of toxic issues in that relationship and some of the most powerful things I’ve learned about relationships came from the pain and suffering I went through in that one.

I had to stop telling myself how much I would miss her and start appreciate how much I enjoyed coming home to peace and not having to walk on egg shells.

A study published in 2015 in the journal Social and Personal Relationships found that writing in a redemptive way about how you turned suffering into a positive experience can help you cope better.

Maybe during the break up you learned to follow your gut instincts, to not settle, to not allow someone to make you feel small or that you are stronger than you ever thought you were.

Write a redemption story! Don’t simply journal about how bad you feel. That will only make you feel worse.

Talk About It

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Of course as a therapist I’m going to recommend talking about the breakup, although some people may think that talking about it will only make things worse.

In a study published in 2015 in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science, researchers found that people who participated in research about their break up by filling out surveys and talking to experimenters reported less distress about the breakup and themselves afterwards.

Simply talking about it with a good friend or even a therapist if needed can help you rebound in a healthy way, so don’t avoid talking about it out of fear that it will keep you stuck.

Breakups suck and sometimes they can be devastating, but they don’t have to leave us feeling shattered, empty or lost for long. Like adjusting to anything new, it takes time and that’s okay.

Dysfunctional Relationships: Emotionally Withholding

iStock_000020769810Small_0In romantic relationships, we would like to think that it’s always going to be filled with passion and romance, but typically relationships go through phases where the passion and romance seems to die off.

Some of this is natural which is why relationships take work and both individuals have to work on keeping the fire going, but other times this can be deliberate.

Sometimes in relationships, one person will decide to emotionally withhold and this can border on the line of emotional abuse.

I’m not talking about when your partner is upset with you so he or she may not talk to you for a few days, may not want to be touched or gives you the cold shoulder until they get over whatever upset them. I’m talking about something that is much more long term and damaging to a relationship.

Thomas G. Fiffer, in his blog post  described emotional withholding as:

Coldness replaces warmth. Silence replaces conversation. Turning away replaces turning towards. Dismissiveness replaces receptivity. And contempt replaces respect.Emotional withholding is, I believe, the toughest tactic to deal with when trying to create and maintain a healthy relationship, because it plays on our deepest fears—rejection, unworthiness, shame and guilt, the worry that we’ve done something wrong or failed or worse, that there’s something wrong with us.”

How Can You Tell If Your Partner is Emotionally Withholding?

If you are in a relationship where you often feel alone, there is a good chance your partner may be emotionally withholding.

There is a difference between someone who is emotionally withholding (a deliberate behavior used to control a person/relationship) and someone who is out of touch with their own feelings due to stress, trauma or other issues.

People who emotionally withhold are purposely withholding love, affection, support and attention in order to control a relationship.

The other person in the relationship may find themselves always pursuing their partner in search of the love, affection and attention that they want. They may find themselves always trying to prove that they deserve love.

People who stay in these types of relationships often do so because it is familiar.

Maybe they grew up in a family where they never felt like they deserved love, were always rejected or felt abandoned. To them, it may feel natural to pursue love and affection, even if it’s painful, because they are not used to it being freely given and without conditions.

Holly Brown, a licensed marriage and family therapist suggests:

Ask yourself how generous your partner is. How invested does he/she seem to be in your well-being, in making sure that you feel positively about yourself? Or is it the opposite–that he/she is maintaining the upper hand by ensuring that you continue to seek approval?

The person who is emotionally withholding is always trying to keep the balance of the relationship in their favor. They give you just enough to keep you interested. Just enough to keep you searching for the affection that you want and deserve so that you get stuck in this vicious cycle of searching out for their affection.

Most people are not ALWAYS emotionally satisfied in their relationship 100% of the time, but think about how much you feel emotionally satisfied versus how often you feel emotionally starved.

If you feel like you are continuously starving for love, affection, attention and support, then you may have a partner who is emotionally withholding or at the least, emotionally unavailable.

If your partner is emotionally unavailable, consider if this is because he or she is stressed, depressed, going through their own issues that need to be addressed and dealt with, or if it is more malicious and planned out to achieve a power balance in the relationship that benefits them and not you.

Being in this type of relationship can cause the person who is constantly seeking affection to have multiple issues from low self-esteem to anxiety, depression and even sexual dysfunction.

Outside support from friends, family and even a professional may be needed in order for that person to maintain healthy self-love and self-care. It is crucial that you take care of yourself and surround yourself with people who know your worth and value you.

If you are in a relationship where the other person is emotionally withholding then it’s important to remember that you deserve and are worthy of love and it should come freely.

“I Love You” Versus “Love You”… Is There A Difference?

LoveDo you think there is a difference between someone saying “I love you” and just “love you?” I ask this question because personally I think there is a difference. I tend to say “love you too” when I am responding to someone I don’t really love. I usually tend to say “love you” to someone I don’t love in a romantic way, but in a friend or familial way. I prefer to save the “I love you” for someone I am truly in love with or when I am really expressing admiration to someone.

So is there a difference between the two?

I did a quick internet search and came up with some of these responses:

  • I say it more than “I love you”. I also say “loves”. For me, it’s just the way I say it, and the way my whole family tends to say it. We miss out the “I”. When people say “love YA” though, that bothers me. Again, it could just be the way they say things, but to me it seems insincere. It depends entirely on how they say it to others and any underlying issues with intimacy they may have. I have a lot of emotional issues so mine could well speak for that if only it wasn’t just the way we said it in my family. *shrugs* I guess I’m trying to say it’s entirely a “relative to the individual” thing as far as I see it.
  • Nope. “Love you,” is just something we say when hanging up the phone or closing an email. It’s more casual, but the meaning is still the same. It’s like “hello” versus “good morning”. We say, “I love you,” when hugging each other or being sappy during vacation. The phrase just depends on the circumstance
  • I say ” love you” allot to my husband (we tell each other several times a day, at random times) I don’t see a difference from “I love you” vs “love you” just the way I say it
  • I think there is a difference, The ‘love you’ one is more flippant and almost dismissive IMHO I hate “love you” I also hate “love u” and “ilu” all are dismissive hurried and lazy.
  • Defnitely a difference! While I am fine with “love you” it is nice every now and then to get a truly heart felt “I love you”. Just means more…
  • Well I tell my hubby “I love you” but I tell my best friend “love you” so meh I feel there is a difference but it also depends on the person as well. it may mean something different to them than it does to me or you.
  • I also think that HOW it is said makes a difference, I like to say I love you, and I am in love with you to my man and love you to my children as they walk out the door, I love them, but in a different way
  • The last two guys I was involved with both changed from “I love you” to more flippant responses like “love you” or “love ya” and both relationships went south about the same time.
  • I think it all depends on the context and the relationship of the people saying it. I used to get upset with my ex for saying ‘love you’ a lot, but it was usually because I was annoyed with him for other things and that was just an easy target to nag him about.
  • i tend to say love you alot in a kidding sense so i guess there is a difference.
  • I think the words “I love you” are very powerful, and people have dismissed it and reduced it to almost nothing, like the anoying – I whatever-.
  • Absolutely NOT! I think it’s silly to even think there is a difference. The difference is in the tone, not the words! Feelings are displayed in the tone! Simple as that!

So it looks like people have many different views on the subject, probably depending on their personalities, their relationships and their experiences.  I think however if in a relationship one person uses the words “love you” and their partner feels a certain way about it and would prefer to hear the more personal “I love you”, then that should be communicated. Otherwise, the person that prefers to hear “I love you” will most likely always feel a little sting when you lovingly say “love you”.

So what do you think? Is there a difference between “I love you” and “love you”?

 

Relationship Beliefs: Destiny Belief Versus Growth Belief

Tools-happy-couple-istockWhen it comes to relationships, what we believe about relationships and how they should be plays a major role in how we perceive and behave in them.

We all have preexisting beliefs about how we think relationships should ideally form. Some of those ideals can be very rigid, to the point that they keep us from entering and appreciating otherwise great people because they do not fit into our idealized image.

For example, many people look for that “special someone”, but that “special someone” has to almost perfectly fit into their preexisting beliefs. Maybe he has to be exactly six feett, six inches tall, or she has to have perfect blonde hair or has never been intimate with anyone else.

Even the ideal about the way we meet that “special someone” can influence us.

In college, there were many people I knew who expected to meet their “ideal partner” in school and most didn’t. Many tried hard to make relationships that weren’t compatible work, simply because of their beliefs. Many others left college disappointed, thinking that they will never find true love if it didn’t happen the way they thought it should have, in college so many relationships they entered after school they did so half heartedly and didn’t make much effort in sustaining them, at least initially.

Most of these people subscribed to what is called a destiny belief when it comes to relationships, meaning that they thought people were either meant for each other or not. I too believe in this to some extent, but some people believe in this so much that they believe little to no work has to be done in a relationship because if it were destined to happen, then it would magically just work.

People who have been in successful long term relationships and marriages can tell you that successful relationships take work. They don’t just magically happen. It takes compromising, understanding, negotiating, letting go, determination, love and a host of other tools to make a relationship work.

Most people who understand this and are in happy, long term relationships believe more in a growth belief where relationships have to be cultivated and developed through mutual experiences, which may include conflict. They understand that not everything is always going to be perfect, but even then there are opportunities to communicate, learn and grow with their partner, in their relationship and within themselves.

People who believe more in the destiny belief generally go out of their way to make a good impression during the initial stages of a relationship, and are constantly on the look out for signs that this person may not be “the one” so that they can move on to someone else. This sensitivity to signs that a relationship may not work out very early on can be helpful, but it can also be very detrimental as they often quickly rule out potentially great partners over the smallest of perceived slights or flaws.

For instance, a woman whose ideal mate is always well-kempt, is in a new, promising relationship with someone who is “perfect” so far, notices one day that he has dirty finger nails, may see that as a sign that he is not  the man for her and may end the relationship. They belief it is one “perfect” person out there for them and will reject any other partners that are even slightly flawed.

On the other hand, people who believe in growth belief place less emphasize on initial interactions and feelings, but want to develop understanding and closeness overtime to see how compatible they are with an individual. Even when faced with flaws, they will continue to see if they can live with those flaws as the relationship evolves through challenges, difficulties and resolutions.

For example, an argument might break up a couple if both of the individuals are heavily vested in destiny belief, while if both individuals are heavily vested in growth belief, the same argument can help them grow closer.

Both growth belief and destiny belief are viewed on a scale. People can be either high or low on that scale and I am not saying either belief is better. I for one used to be very high on the destiny belief scale, but as I have grown and had different experiences, I am much higher on the growth belief scale with a little destiny belief still in my heart.

I definitely believe in destiny and that some people and relationships are meant to be for one reason or another, but I also believe that without the willingness to work at and grow in a relationship, it most likely will not work. I do not go into a relationship thinking that this person is “perfect” and I don’t have to do anything to make our relationship successful. I go into a relationship thinking, this person seems worth investing my time and energy in (flaws and all)and if it’s destined, we will work out.

How do you feel when it comes to relationships? Are you more on the destiny side or the growth side, and if so, how high or low are you on those scales?