Are Your Relationship Goals Controlling You?
It’s common for ambitious couples to be focused on the future and to have high expectations of themselves and each other. Honestly, we love that energy! The problem occurs when those expectations become a condition for love.
A common situation is when one partner holds an expectation above the head of another partner in exchange for their love or attention (e.g.. “I will love you if... you learn to love my parents”; “I will love you when you… get your career in order.”). This is not about love, it’s about control.
Another common situation is when an individual holds themselves hostage to their own expectation, which can put a strain on their relationship without the partner even knowing (e.g. self-criticism). This is not about self-love, it’s about punishment.
Yet another common situation is when a couple shares conditional expectations for loving themselves (e.g. “we’re only worthy of our own love if we/when we… [insert whatever ideal you’re working towards]”) and then punishes themselves or obsesses over the goal without ever stopping to smell the roses.
These situations are meant to illustrate when relationships can be destabilized due to unhealthy conditions for love. In these situations, what may have started off as a healthy, motivating and loving relationship goal, has become a condition which can cause feelings of paralysis, blame, shame, anxiety, etc.
Left unchecked, these feelings can wreak havoc in any relationship (your relationship with yourself and others).
Based on our experience, these situations call for a dose of awareness, compassion and perspective by using practices that we all have available to us: gratitude, reflection, and celebration.
Gratitude, reflection, and celebration are helpful because they fortify our ability to ground ourselves, feel what’s really going on, and understand why. In turn, this allows us to choose more of what we want for the future for ourselves and for our relationship.
This strategy has been really helpful to tame our natural tendency to be future-obsessed and any moments when we may feel stuck in the past. In fact, David is naturally very future-oriented. In a healthy state, this tendency is super helpful for building momentum towards our goals and aspirations. In an unconscious state, however, it could slip into control and keep him from feeling present and at peace.
Here’s an example from our relationship:
We’ve been investing a lot of energy into building a relationship e-course through Relationship Zen. As you can imagine, this can take a LOT of work and future-planning on top of nurturing our lives and relationship (it’s all interconnected!).
We were supposed to launch part of this e-course for you by the end of last month, but we didn’t end up meeting that goal. We were a bit hard on ourselves and got stuck… Until we recognized that we were playing the blame and shame game.
Step 1: Recognize and acknowledge
To shift from the blame and shame mindset, Lindsey offered the idea of focusing back on all the things that had been accomplished so far (the little wins), despite not getting to launch. It’s about recognizing the emotions, the thoughts, and sensations related to your relationship goals. This tactic helped us switch from a fight, flight, freeze mode to a more open state. It allows us to feel less stress and less overwhelm.
Step 2: Gratitude, celebration and reflection
One of the first things she noticed (thanks to her Happiness Project Journal , that we highly recommend you check out) is that we launched our Relationship Strategy Sessions exactly one year ago. This was something to remember and celebrate. We then listed how far we’ve come since then (many little wins and obstacles).
So as our minds were beginning to spiral into self-judgment about not being able to launch our new services for you, we chose instead to review how far we’ve come in a year.
The point is that celebrating and being grateful for the stepping stones or past wins can be an important first step to regain perspective when expectations feel like they’re taking over in life and in relationships.
Step 3: Investigate and release
Steps 1 and 2 are the beginning of change. To transform your expectations into productive ones, we recommend using self-investigation tools and techniques (coming soon!) to figure out why you have them and where they come from.
This is important to get to a place where you can become fully conscious of them and eventually release or replace them with beliefs that serve you better.
For now, we want to help you with steps 1 and 2!
Key questions to spark reflection, gratitude, and celebration:
What do you appreciate about yourself, your partner, and your relationship?
What’s one thing you appreciate about your partner that helps you grow as an individual and in your relationship each day?
What was something that was hard at the beginning or middle of your relationship that you feel is more natural now?
How did you overcome your last difficult situation together? What steps did you take?
What were all the obstacles you’ve overcome or all the wins that you’ve had personally and together to be where you are today?
Where do your expectations (for you and your relationship) come from?
If you have a relationship goal, is it enhancing your life or is it a source of pain?
Depending on your circumstance, any one of these questions may help you see your attachment to a certain outcome/goal differently.
We hope you were able to generate some good vibes to help you step into the relationship you want to create through these steps and questions. If anything, it might have given you space to bring something new to light about yourself.
Be sure to download our free relationship guide via our home page to help you develop the mindset of conscious relationships!
And, if you want more, head to our work with us page and set up a discovery call, so that we can maximize your relationship and elevate your life together!
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Sending you love and light,