Here's a question I've heard before - maybe it's even a question you've asked yourself in the heat of battle...
Is this normal or are we not actually compatible?
Then, for the icing on the cake: Shouldn't I be feeling (insert your choice of feeling word - the one that you've probably said to yourself before)?!
Well, let's talk, shall we?
First, that's a scary question at any point in a relationship. I would say especially when you've invested a certain amount of time and energy into making it work. To feel that sick thud of doubt is terrifying for many people and... it doesn't actually mean anything.
I mean, sure, it means that you're definitely in the middle or something big and that you're definitely reevaluating your relationship (on some level). Feeling that doubt or even questioning your relationship doesn't mean, however, that you're doomed to fail, or that you're with the wrong person, or that you're even doing something wrong as a couple.
Here are three reasons why.
1. Doubt Doesn't Necessarily Mean Don't
Let's be real, here. We've all felt doubt about our relationship at certain points. If you haven't, freaking congratulations!! That's really fantastic and I'm happy to hear. If you have, you are not alone!! It is absolutely not uncommon to question whether the relationship you're in is actually working or if you're forcing it to work or if you'd be better off with someone else or if you're being your true self or why you're staying when you'd rather be trekking off to Europe to meet a passionate, Italian artist who drinks fine wine and sweeps you off your feet. It's all normal.
When you feel that heavy thud of doubt, I want you to lean into it. If anything, it's telling you that something is off. That something doesn't necessarily have anything to do with your partner.
Let me repeat because that piece is especially important.
That "something" doesn't necessarily have anything to do with your partner.
ne of the craziest things I've come to realize (and learn through research and working with clients) is that our stuff that comes up is mostly reflective of us and NOT the person we're with. If you're feeling doubt, don't run from it - question it. Ask yourself what you're feeling doubt about. Ask yourself if what the doubt is trying to tell you. Ask yourself what you can do for yourself that would alleviate the doubt. Some answers might be easy (e.g. "get more sleep") and others might be hard (e.g. "tell him/her I don't want another baby"). It's important to embrace the doubt. Running from it won't make it go away, nor will it make you feel better.
Trust that it's there for a reason and, yet again, that reason may have little, if anything, to do with your partner. So no, doubt doesn't mean you are doomed.
2. Assessment is NORMAL
This may very well be one of my favorite things I've ever learned (and experienced) about relationships. Your tendency to assess whether the relationship is working or not...? You know that tendency I'm talking about, right? Where you question everything (see the section above on doubt), where you wonder if your goals are still the same, where you speculate as to whether you're going to make it through the long haul if you have to pick up one more dirty sock (a slight exaggeration here) - guess what? Also normal.
Yes, you heard me right, normal.
Relationships go through phases. There's that first stage, what we like to call commitment. This is where we agree to commit to one another and thus begin our loving union. Immediately following, we have that accommodation stage. I'm sure you can guess this one - it's where negotiate being together. This can be tricky, at times, but it's par for the course. The third little gem is that assessment stage!! Once we make adjustments and go on committing, we begin to question whether it's worth it. Again, we begin to question whether the relationship is worth it. We weigh the pros and cons, so to speak. If so, we recommit (yay) and if not, we break things off (*cue sad music).
The other fun (is fun the right word?) fact about this is that it goes on consistently (with less frequency) throughout relationships. It's not as thought you go through that cycle once and then you're done. Nope, you go through multiple times, over and over.
The point of me writing this is to say that when you're questioning compatibility and those annoying quirks that your partner has (that you used to think were super cute), trust that this is a normal process, even if it doesn't necessarily feel very good.
3. Fighting Feels Shitty
Ahhh, the last piece. I'm just going to cut to the chase here. Fighting sucks.
There. I said it. It's not fun, it raises blood pressure and heart rates, it's uncomfortable to feel tension, and it sucks to be butting heads with a partner (or partners, if you're poly) when all you want to do is get along.
With that said, some people like conflict. So, for you, this section might feel totally irrelevant. Huzzah, I say! Enjoy you're fighting and I hope the first two points resonated with you!
For my other friends, fighting still sucks. And here's some good news. ALL COUPLES ARGUE AND ARGUING IS NOT A SIGN OF ANYTHING WRONG.
As a caveat, there are good and bad ways to argue. Good and bad are not value judgments. What I mean by "good" is that they are not related to divorce. What I mean by "bad" is that they are highly related to divorce. In other words, good fighting is okay and bad fighting can be predictive (long-term) of divorce.
Back to my point. When you're in the throes of a heated argument and you begin to question everything about your partner - just leave it there. That questioning piece, the one asking if you're even compatible or if you were with somebody else they would just agree with you, it's highly likely more a function of being in the middle of an argument, rather than being a core issue in your relationship. I'm a highly emotional person (and totally fine with that), which means that I sometimes jump to the worst possible scenario when my husband is about three years behind me. I'll get to a place of being 70 and breaking my hip when I bend over to pick up his sock and he's just thinking about why his sock on the ground is that big of a deal. Again, exaggeration, but you get my gist.
When we fight, for those of us who don't enjoy it, it's uncomfortable and can easily lead to questioning whether things are "right" or whether you are "compatible." No, in that moment, things aren't right because you're not feeling good about your interaction. And no, in that moment, you're not compatible because you're disagreeing! Neither of those things means that, ultimately, you're incompatible and that, ultimately, things are wrong.
Let the fight be what it is - a fight.
All of this to say that doubt is okay, assessing your relationship is okay, and fighting is okay (when done right). It's all good, baby. Ride the wave of discontent and follow it up with a splash of ocean breeze. Ebb and flow - that's the way it works.
Are you still not sure whether what you're experiencing is normal? No problem - contact me today (firstname.lastname@example.org) and straight through the contact form and we can chat.
For the rest of you who have successfully navigated this terrain - what has worked for you?! How have you succeeded through those times?! I'd love to hear your thoughts and comments.
*Disclaimer: In no way am I supporting any sort of abusive, coercive, or violent situations. If you aren't sure whether you're in the situation, read more here and here and here.