The essential lessons learned from the tough loveI believe that we enter our romantic relationships because 1.it’s a natural part of life, but also 2.an essential part of our human evolution and development on the individual level.
And so we choose (often subconsciously and magnetically) partners that mirror us in some ways and it is through them that we either learn more about ourselves, become stronger selves or go even deeper and find the ways to finally understand and heal our deepest past wounds (usually going all the way to our childhood) opening of which they trigger within us through the relationship dynamics.
From my own experience, there are generally 3 categories of relationships;
- Easygoing and romantic love (college sweethearts kind of a thing)
- Deep soul level connections (going beyond the romantic and heartfelt ones)
- The tough ones — transformational or as others called it, karmic bonds.
I experienced all 3 of them and each of these loves and connections feel very different.
All of them are powerful in their own way and a beautiful instrument for us to learn a lot about ourselves and grow. I (luckily) started my love experience with an easygoing and romantic love that lasted a few years and was a great intro into how it feels to connect to another human on such a deep emotional level.
Then, there were a few deep soul-level connections and then, finally, the one I always seemed to be avoiding consciously, and the one I’ve so far learned the most from, the tough love.
It’s been a relatively long relationship of for about 5 years, although it had its ups and downs — such as living together, a few breakups along the way as well as a proposal and reverted engagement. And then, it finished. To give you the why’s, here’s the list to come — the 10 worst-things my ex and I have done to our relationship, that explains it quite well.
So sit down, make yourself comfortable in your seat and relax your muscles as this list will most probably not relax your mind.
I, intentionally, do not mention who’s done what because this article is not about blaming or shaming somebody, but sharing awareness with you. So I hope you can appreciate and respect that.
We were not honest with each other most of the time, not regarding the most important stuff for any relationship (like our position, situation, feelings, true emotions etc.), and that from the very beginning.
We got together for all the wrong reasons. Not because we felt whole and were ready to contribute to each other’s lives, but because each of us felt somewhat empty (or miserable) and wanted someone else to fill their blank space.
None of us was in the first place ready for this connection, and we never really addressed this, only wrapped it in something which looked pretty and cool on the outside but was slowly rotting inside. On top of that, we were moving ahead really fast, although we didn’t have the foundation checked.
With a lot of lies, concealment, hidden truths hoping they’d never need to be revealed since the very beginning, clearly, this was not meant to last. And these dynamics continued throughout as it must have become some kind of a twisted habit and pattern for us.
We didn’t learn how to communicate with each other in the first place and within the whole relationship. Meaning, we didn’t accept (and respect) our differences and unique viewpoints, which also reveals that our world-view, approach, even values and communication styles differed.
One always kept pushing the other to what felt like the edge of the cliff by imposing their approach or way of working. There was even a discussion about ‘how we should discuss a topic,’ so it was comfortable for one but where the other felt limited, with no place to speak freely, contribute, nor to feel truly heard.
On top of this, we were the same star sign, a fire sign — meaning, there was a lot of heat and a massive ego problem in both of us. And none of us was ready to accept their part on it.
What we were experiencing was our ego getting broken over and over again, which was not a bad thing for us, but the ego. And that ego was not ready to give up and near its defeat. So it tried everything (projection, manipulation, bouncing back and blaming), just so it doesn’t lose.
This made the conversations turn into misunderstandings full of pointing fingers and long-and-nasty arguments. More than often ended by door slams and good-byes. Saying that we can’t do this anymore, communicate or be together, which repeatedly threatened the relationship, our mental health and inner peace, and weakened (to eventually breaking) our connection.
It seemed to be some kind of a twisted game of the universe as I know for both of us, that we tried, a lot, to work on our egos. But eventually, we lost to it anyway. The same way we lose our only 5 lives in a computer game, and once chance is gone, it’s gone. The damage was done and the damage was huge.
As a consequence of this hurt ego game, we ended up avoiding and withdrawing from each other — for days, both physically and emotionally. Even ignoring each other when the other person initiated a fresh new conversation with good intentions. Would that have been face-to-face or online, and lying (often to ourselves) about why we do it.
Also an interesting symbolic and poetic bit. His name means ‘the truth’ and mine denotes as ‘the light.’ Our relationship actually was supposed to be about shining the light to our darkest spaces as well as bringing truths to the surface, so we can both grow personally, but the development we triggered in each other wasn’t something pleasant to enjoy.
It required a hell lot of inner work and although that was for our best, we were doing the opposite — avoiding it and manifesting our connection as ‘the deceiving darkness.’
To the extent of expecting the other person for whom this was usually super-sensitive to having to keep bringing it up again and again, otherwise, it’d never be discussed which was very painful. But it was equally hurtful or uncomfortable to raise the issue especially if you don’t feel any support from your partner.
And the longer it’s pending the bigger the pile. And then, you can’t even see yourself across the accumulated trash. As well as, you can not move anywhere unless it’s all sorted out.
We didn’t move much ahead as a couple since we got together. There was no tangible progress to observe (in terms of becoming stronger, more stable and rooted) apart from the fact that we started living together. As for that also, most of the time, one of us anyway felt like leaving and being alone.
But, instead of dealing with the real underlying issues, we took this one to another level.
Curious about what did we do?!
This one was really creepy. Imagine that you start building a roof and selecting window frames or decorations for your new house, only that you don’t even have planning permission to build yet, and no foundation laid what-so-ever.
So what was our solution for having serious issues we didn’t have solutions for? Like we have a massive fight about something very serious, and then the issue is never closed upon properly?
Do you know what broke that silence?
This sentence: ‘I think we’re ready to have babies now.’ I am not even kidding.
We discussed (and made actual steps to approach) our future together, like the wedding, buying houses, having kids, but we were always missing the most important thing, the actual foundation of the relationship.
The points above already introduce this one quite well. If we respected one another as humans and accepted our differences — of approach, life choices, values, opinions, then we’d not be lying to each other, fighting hard and mean, leaving one another to feel miserable after (almost) every argument.
And we’d look to resolve the issues there were, and not allow them to pile up like a ball of fresh snow rolling down the swiss mountain.
Maybe the respect was missing because our tough love made us lose trust in each other eventually, while the passion that held us together and inability to let go, separate and move on was still very much there.
Respect also shows in terms of support and acceptance of the other person as they are. And is nowhere near shaming, ridiculing or making fun of your partner’s weaknesses and sensitive attributes they are themselves somewhat aware of. And are making steps within their means to rise above them.
And trust me, if respect, support and acceptance is not there, then there’s nothing worth fighting for or keeping alive.
We both experienced some very difficult moments in our lives while being together, such as a loss of our loved ones which was a very painful experience for both of us. But apart from that, we also faced the organic downsize phases when we needed real support, such as when one of us fell sick or was truly drained mentally or emotionally.
Looking back, I feel we were not there for each other as we could have. I remember a few instances which feel very sad now, and where the best reaction of either of us would have just been to hug our partner, offer a shoulder they could lean on, and just be there.
But not only that we’ve not been there, and didn’t offer a shoulder. We left each other at the worst moments. And, as if that was not enough, even slammed the door.
I really can’t wrap my head around this now, how we managed to do this so wrong every time. That we were giving aloofness instead of support and that created even more distance, loneliness, and suffering for a person who’s already been suffering.
In the end, I think it was our big egos coupled with a lack of understanding. And even, a lack of love. The actual love. (But more on that below.)
If you reached till here, it should not surprise you that there was not an equilibrium in our roles or in who was contributing how much to this relationship. I would say that the gap which was there was pretty high. It was a give or take, not share and receive, 50–50 relationship. Meaning where one person spends about 90% of their effort (time and energy) on the relationship (by doing, proactively giving, caring, worrying and over-occupying themselves with it), the other does for about 10% of the same.
And although there are many functioning relationships all around the world that work through this principle of imbalance (such as that of a mother and their baby but also the romantic ones), it didn’t work for us.
The other word to describe this kind of relationship would be a co-dependent partnership which thrives on the principle of inequality based on one’s dominance and the other’s person’s submission. Only that it’s not about, as some may want to suggest, one person’s victimhood and other’s oppression.
Both the partners are equally at fault, one for treating the other as inferior, and the other for accepting their inferiority.
This dynamic requires one to do a hell lot of inner work to understand. And that, however familiar it feels, it does them no good. And that familiarity of this connection and accepting one or the other position does not necessarily equal love and healthy loving relationship.
Another on the list. When there’s not a balance in roles, giving and receiving, not enough trust, acceptance or respect, even commitment that’s questionable, guess what’s going to fall next?
Yup. Your values and self-respect are going to fall flat.
Because you’d find yourself constantly falling back to the same (well-known) beginning. And then, the only way ahead would be to lose yourself in it.
We were like two young Fenixes constantly burning ourselves in flames and then re-birthing from the ashes. Only that the fire and the ashes were a bit too much for one lifetime.
Every time we’d build ourselves from those ashes again, we were left with less of our selves — our values, self-respect, even peace.
To compromise our own selves for what we thought was ‘the benefit of the relationship’ was the only way to hold the whole thing together. And it was just too much. The only way, although impossible to maintain over time.
Betrayal doesn’t only involve having an affair, and having an affair doesn’t only entails having a physically intimate connection. Even an emotional bond with someone outside your relationship. And it goes far beyond this.
‘’Betrayal is when someone you trust lies to you, cheats on you, abuses you, or hurts you by putting their own self-interest first. Betrayal is probably the most devastating loss a person can experience.’’
The explanation is given by the famous Clinical Psychologist, Monica A. Frank, Ph.D., who’s got over 30 years of experience with cognitive-behavioural therapy. Monica is great with her insights so I’ll further paraphrase her.
‘’Notice that I am using the term “loss” to describe the consequences of betrayal. In our society, we have trouble understanding the concepts of loss and grief. We understand that when someone dies we experience loss and grief, but frequently we don’t recognize the other forms of loss that we may experience in life. Loss can be losing a person through death. However, it can also be losing a part of that person such as through illness.’’
‘’Loss can also involve things that are less tangible such as trust. When an individual is betrayed by someone, they lose trust in that person. In trusting another person, we believe that they won’t hurt us; when they do hurt us, we then have the awareness that this other person has the capacity to hurt us. Therefore, we have lost something very important to the relationship.’’
‘’The reason that betrayal is the most devastating kind of loss is because most often it is a loss that didn’t have to occur. It only occurs because of someone’s deliberately hurtful behavior, or their carelessness, or their own personal weakness. Unlike a loss such as death or illness, there is usually some sort of choice involved.’’
I highly recommend some of Monica’s documented clinical work and research for your better understanding of the psychology behind this phenomenon.
I believe that emotional betrayal is equal if not worse to the physical one. It’s an act of withdrawing. Love. Withdrawing your presence and commitment.
Imagine that you try holding onto the relationship after the betrayal. It’s like putting a broken vase together and then pouring water to it despite it coming out at all the broken places. And so you end up working even more to fill the cracks. And as the water keeps refilling, the cracks develop again and as you fix them, the other cracks open and this goes on and on until you realize that it is an impossible job to do. And then you have to allow the vase to crack open and burst in pieces.
To be honest, now I can truthfully say that my ex and I didn’t truly love each other. We had a strong attachment and some sort of unbreakable obsession with each other. But the real essence of love was missing. As we missed out on the very aspects any loving connection should have such as being honest, accepting, respectful, caring, nurturing, supportive with each other etc.
Another essential part of love which I understand now is admiration. I don’t think it makes sense to end up with someone who doesn’t truly admire you as a human being to be with. And who you do not admire the same way.
I find this one aspect crucial for any relationship to last, and frankly don’t know any that functions long-term without it. A relationship based on a true sense of looking up to our partner is what makes the bond incredibly solid, stimulating and full of long-term stream of love and commitment to the partnership. It surely links with seeing a bigger picture behind being with this person as they represent someone you admire.
If the relationship is not caring, nurturing, supportive, or adding to your life, then you may be stuck in something that is doing the opposite — taking your life away. And I am sure that’s not a position anyone should be in.
After reading this all, maybe you find yourself asking how could someone even be in a relationship like this? And in a way, I hope that you do ask yourself that. Which means, you understood my point.
But as I said at the very beginning, we end up in certain relationships because we have to. We have a lot to learn about love, the essence of love, relationship as a commitment and, most importantly, about ourselves. And I’d not be writing any of this if I’d not have learned my part of the lesson in this one.
So I hope this piece helps you to see how not to do it and learn from my mistakes shared. And I truly wish you to have a beautiful lasting relationship!
Peace and Love,
I am a Transformation and Life Purpose Coach and this is what I do when I am not contemplating relationships or writing.