All right, friends. This week, I’m getting personal: I’m going to be talking about some of the things I’ve learned since I’ve gotten in my relationship.
I’ve been in my relationship for about a year and two months at this time, so it’s definitely been a minute. Plenty of time for me to learn a lot of things, but if I typed all of them out, you’d need to throw it on your Kindle to read it. So I’m going to stick to five—five relationship lessons I’ve learned over this past year that I think you all can learn from, whether you’re single or in a relationship yourself!
The first relationship lesson I’ve learned: leaning into your triggers can actually build connection in relationships. Big time.
I hosted a free masterclass recently, and in that masterclass, someone in the chat box mentioned that they’re in a relationship and expressed shame over the fact that they still get triggered.
Listen very closely: if you’re in a relationship right now, you get triggered about things, and you feel bad about that—or if you’re single and you think once you enter a relationship, that’s it for the triggers—I want you to know something. Consider it Part B of this relationship lesson:
Your relationship is going to trigger you.
Please, please use discernment when you take in that statement. When I say that, I’m not speaking in the context of abuse. I’m not saying that your life should be miserable because you’re being triggered every couple minutes.
What I am saying is that triggers can be educational if we let them be.
They let us know where our edges are. They let us know what we don’t allow ourselves to experience…and what we don’t allow other people to experience.
I look at triggers as really good information for us. To me, they are an opportunity to build connection, because one of three things can happen when you’re triggered:
1. You end up so uncomfortable that you project this onto your partner, because you don’t know how to handle it. Internally, you are battling with resentment or anger or whatever it might be, and you end up blowing up because your partner does something really small, like leaving a towel on the floor instead of the hamper, or not using a towel when they get out of the shower at all and getting water everywhere. You end up putting whatever you’re feeling inside onto something very small and unrelated to the actual trigger.
2. You might turn inward and drown in shame over your response instead.
3. You could sit down and have an open, honest conversation with your partner about your triggers.
There are a lot of different ways people respond to triggers, but many times, people don’t actually take responsibility for what they’re feeling and have a conversation about it with their partner.
I do this frequently. If I am feeling triggered, even if it has nothing to do with my boyfriend, here’s what I do:
I feel it.
I notice it.
I observe it.
And I share what’s going on in my mind.
Just like that.
A relationship is going to trigger you. It just is, because you’re now frequently in close proximity with someone who might live a different lifestyle than you, do certain things differently than you, or value different things than you.
That’s going to trigger the parts of you that see or do things differently. And you can respond to it from a place of separation and projection on your partner, or you can realize that this is just a really good opportunity to build connection.
If there’s something you’re scared or fearful about, and you think you can’t share it with your partner because they’re going to reject you…why? This is your partner. This is a person you’ve chosen to spend your time and share your life with. If you open up, you might be able to see that they have something really incredible to offer you. They might have even been in your shoes at one time or another, or they might be able to help normalize something that you want to keep hidden.
In fact, this can actually help you feel more regulated, because being triggered tends to put people in a state of dysregulation, and a lot of it has to do with the urge to hide what you’re experiencing. But when you open up, there’s a chance for you and your partner to co-regulate together and for you to actually build some acceptance toward yourself.
The second relationship lesson I learned: I used to have this idea that no one could be as deep as me, so I would never find a guy who would go to the depths the way I would in terms of personal development and shadow work and ego work and all of that.
There was a time where I thought that would be impossible to find, but when I looked back at it, I realized that belief was just an avoidance tactic.
As long as I had that belief, I didn’t actually have to try to form friendships or form connections with people and discover their own depth.
But in my relationship with my boyfriend, I discovered that was wrong. He loves to find the origins of things, just like I do. He’s into personal development as well, and we just have really deep conversations.
So the relationship lesson here is, you’re always going to be able to find someone similar to you out there. Don’t let your avoidant tendencies tell you otherwise.
The third relationship lesson is to remember and respect your partner’s conflict resolution style, even when you’re upset. This will take you very, very far, trust me.
I’m not of the belief that you have to have the same conflict resolution style as your partner to have a successful relationship. But if you have different resolution styles and there’s no conversation about what each person needs or how to meet each other in your differences, that can be really tough.
Me and my partner have different conflict resolution styles. We both like to resolve things quickly, but in the moment, we have different ways of approaching it.
For me, I need time to cool down. I need time to reflect and think, whereas he wants to talk it out right in the moment. But because I respect him and his conflict resolution style, I communicate to him that I need to take a breather instead of snapping. I let him know what’s going on with me, even when it’s tough. And our conflicts usually end up resolved by the end of the night.
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Relationship lesson number four is that when you’re both committed to honesty and both willing to receive honesty, trust is a natural byproduct.
One of the things I really, really love about our relationship is that we deeply trust each other. I trust that he means what he says and he says what he means, and this goes for everything, from me asking if my outfit looks good to when he goes out to hang out with friends. I don’t bat an eyelash. I just completely trust whatever he is saying.
This works really well because if he says something looks good, I can trust that he really means it, because he’s also going to tell me if it doesn’t.
We’re both committed to being honest on so many levels, even down to how we’re feeling. If I ask him how he’s doing, he’ll tell me he’s not fine if he isn’t fine. And I do the same. I am not going to be the type of person that says, “Yeah, everything’s fine. I’m fine,” and then start slamming cabinets and huffing and puffing like a toddler.
I can use my words. I can share what’s actually happening for me. I’m not going to shy away from anything, and he’s not either.
I love that we can do that. I love that we can ask each other things, hear what the other is saying, drop our ego, and listen to understand. I think that’s one of the coolest things about our relationship, and I just wish for everyone to be able to experience that.
That’s how you get to experience honesty and trust: trust is when you can open up and say things without having to filter for fear of being rejected. We recently had a conversation about how we both felt when the honeymoon period ended for us, and neither of us got triggered. Neither of us got defensive. And the biggest part of that is that we both knew that there was no hidden agenda behind the question; it was pure curiosity, nothing else.
Can you imagine being able to have that level of honesty and safety in a relationship where you can ask someone a question and that person trusts that you don’t have an ulterior motive?
I think if more people normalized actually talking about what they were feeling with their partners instead of stuffing it down and feeling ashamed about it, they could constantly be upgrading their level of communication with their partners.
Lastly, my greatest relationship lesson I have learned is that your relationship itself is an entity.
As much as you’re caring for yourself and for your partner in a relationship, you also need to be caring for the relationship as an entity itself. This is something I learned along the way. You can’t think your relationship is going to figure itself out just because you and your partner are relating; you actually have to prioritize it as something you have to nourish.
So for us, we’re both in it, but there’s also the greater picture of it all, which is the relationship itself.
When it comes to relationship goals you might have for yourself—as in, where you see your relationship in a couple of years or a couple of months—who says you have to wait until the point when you think that milestone will occur to have conversations that need to happen prior to the event?
Let’s use moving in together as an example. Who says you have to wait until you start trying to find a place to start talking about things like finances, where you want to move, etcetera?
There are lots of details that go into moving in with someone, and the sooner you get them worked out, the less stress you’ll have later. You can actually make things easier for yourself by prioritizing conversations around what you both need in order for the relationship to continue moving forward in the context of living together. And this applies to all areas of the relationship—whether you want to have kids in the future, for instance. (That’s a good thing to bring up in the dating phase, by the way. That can be a deal-breaker for some people.)
So, a quick review of these relationship lessons:
Relationship Lesson 1: Leaning into triggers can actually help build connection.
Relationship Lesson 2: There are people out there that can match your level of depth and connect to you on a deep level.
Relationship Lesson 3: Remember and respect your partner’s conflict resolution style, even when you are upset.
Relationship Lesson 4: When you’re both committed to honesty and willing to receive honesty, trust will become a natural byproduct of your relationship.
Relationship Lesson 5: Your relationship itself is an entity. Make sure to treat it like one, nourish it like one, and be there for it like one.
And there you have it: my top five relationship lessons I’ve learned over the past year. I hope these are really valuable to you as you either continue navigating the arena of relationships, or continue seeking one!
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