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The One Question You Should Ask in Your Relationship

Smiling couple hugging.

Getty/YakobchukOlena

Most of us want to be in love. We see committed partnership as a good in and of itself, and many of us fear being single. But how often do we actually ask ourselves why partnership is so desirable to us? When it comes to love, what is our intention?

Most of us want to be in love. We see committed partnership as a good in and of itself, and many of us fear being single. But how often do we actually ask ourselves why partnership is so desirable to us? When it comes to love, what is our intention?

For many people on the seeking path, the intention of a love relationship is growth. Intimate partnership is one of the most powerful places to evolve as people. We are forced to learn about and communicate across our boundaries, our values, our needs, and our desires. We also are given a mirror: the sometimes confrontational intimacy of sharing space with someone day after day.

When we share an intention to learn about ourselves and each other and allow for the sometimes painful process of change, the difficult moments in a relationship become its gems and riches. There’s nothing wrong with wanting a relationship to be smooth and easy all the time, but it’s unlikely that relationship is going to be the one that will allow you to learn anything about yourself.

When both partners have growth as a shared intention, communication and support are key. We are able to talk about how we feel and what we want, and when we see our partner changing in positive ways, like succeeding at a new job or making new friends, we celebrate that success, and our partner does the same for us.

On the other hand, when change—especially success—becomes a problem in the relationship, then it’s likely that the intention in the relationship is something other than evolution. Change isn’t always easy to hold in a relationship, because for so many of us, we expect partnership to complement who we already are. We don’t imagine ourselves changing, and we certainly don’t want the person we chose to change. (At least, not in ways that we’re not in control of!) We don’t want to have those moments where our values or preferences clash.

If our partner wants to hold us back, prevent us from connecting with others, or we are so busy taking care of them and their problems we never have a chance to think about ourselves, then that relationship might be about being needed, playing out some old wound, controlling the other, and so on—it certainly isn’t about growth.

For me, a big part of my daily practice is about doing my best to be present with who the people in my life actually are at the moment that I’m with them. In an intimate partnership, that means not expecting that everything is going to always be the way I want it to be. This isn’t an easy practice, but I can learn a lot in the process. If my partner shares that intention to stay present and let me change, we will have something that will get us through all the fights and rough patches: As long as we have communication and support, those difficult moments can become the gems of our relationship. This will be true even if a relationship doesn’t last—it will become clear that our evolution can only happen if we separate. 

So if you are trying to decide whether to stay or go in a relationship, ask yourself what your intention is for intimate partnership, and perhaps have that conversation with your other. If it’s clear that you share an intention to grow together, then there is a lot of possibility for success in this relationship, despite its inevitable imperfections. But if growth is not on the menu and you know that’s something you want, it’s time to let the relationship go so you can do that on your own until you find someone who is willing to grow with you.

Want more on relationships? Read “Growing Apart: How Couples Can Revive Their Emotional Connection.”


By Julie Peters. Click here for more!

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