relationship-stressI’ve been reminiscing. Now in my 50s, it’s fair to say that I’ve had a number of relationships in my life. As one might expect, it hasn’t always been pleasant. There is one thing that has been a feature of all my relationships, though, both good and bad: Growth.

What triggered this article was sitting here and thinking how I’ve taken pieces of every relationship I’ve ever been in forward with me through life. Sometimes these pieces are mannerisms. Other times they manifest as expressions or idioms. They could be likes. Even beliefs.

As I look at this collage of experiences, it’s easy to see how each of these individual experiences changed me forever. Whether it be a double Whopper with cheese, anything CCR, Ayurvedic toothpaste and any number of other things that define who I am in this moment, most of it can be attributed to the relationships I’ve had with friends, family and lovers.

When these relationships are bad, it can be extremely painful. In fact, we may want the pain to stop in such an intense way that we wish we could erase that person from our thoughts. The movie, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, explores exactly that theme. It’s a wonderful movie and well worth watching.

Without going into the the plot of the movie, I’ll just say that I think we should strive to embrace all the aspects of our relationships. Our pain is a reflection of our inability to recognize that the actions of others speak about them and not about us. It is us taking things personally, taking on the emotional baggage of others as our own. In making their stuff about us, we create a very difficult and painful emotional experience.

That experience, however, will change us. In most cases, it will ultimately make us stronger. And in any case, it will leave us forever changed. By embracing the change and accepting how those changes were brought into our life, we can come to appreciate things that may have otherwise been too painful to address. This is a good thing.

I try not to take my relationships too seriously these days. When I experience a flashback to an unresolved issue that brings up uncomfortable feelings, I embrace the experience as an opportunity to understand what made us both tick in that moment. I revel in the chance to understand why he/she may have done whatever and why I reacted in the way I did. We may seldom have control over the actions of others, but we always have control over our actions and reactions.

There have been times in my life when I’ve thought, “I wish we’d never met”. That, however, would have robbed us of the opportunity to learn that our patterns of thought and behaviour created all that we experienced. They always do. So, I’m grateful for all my relationships, especially those that failed. All these years later, I’m still learning from them.

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