I used to think that relationships were all about having amazing chemistry with someone. You should always want to be touching and flirting with each other. People should be jealous of that obvious spark between you two. I still believe that chemistry matters. If you don’t have that mutual attraction you’re eventually going to end up becoming more like friends or roommates than anything else. But I recently read some blog posts from a relationship coach named Marc Evan Katz about how important consistency is in a strong relationship. Katz’s posts really got me thinking about a past relationship of mine. I had always just chalked the whole thing up to a failure, but never really understood why. Then two days ago it hit me.
You can think the other person is hilarious. You can want to rip each other’s clothes off always. You can love the time you spend together. But if you always feel uncertain about your future together or never really know where you stand as a couple, eventually your connection is going to crumble.
Here’s how it happened for me, and maybe you’ve had a similar experience or can learn from mine: Towards the end of this past relationship, I could never fully relax and take comfort in our connection. The weird part was that on the surface things were fine. If you had asked my friends, they would have thought we would be the next ones to get married. But at my core I always felt this deep insecurity about the two of us. I realized that we were each planning our lives as individuals, but weren’t making plans as a couple. We were two separate people who had been in a relationship for a long time. But that long amount of time didn’t equate to a shared life together at all, really.
When I would try to bring up the future, my boyfriend would get upset and say he wasn’t sure what he saw happening down the road. He wasn’t ready to take that next step. This made me panicked. It wasn’t even that I wanted to get married soon, I just wanted to know that we were progressing, and I had no reassurance of this. Instead of having a dialogue about my needs versus what he felt comfortable with, we would fight and then drop the issue entirely. He continued to feel pressure and I continued to feel totally unclear about everything, and also increasingly crazed. As a result, I began to try to exercise control in other ways. I didn’t even realize I was doing it.
I started to nag my boyfriend about his busy work and travel schedule. I would freak out if a business dinner ran late and he didn’t text me or call me to give me a status update. I would lose it when he had to travel for long stretches of time and would beg him not to go. I suffered from stress-related acid reflux and migraines. I was becoming the kind of insane girlfriend who ends up being the villain on TV shows, and I had no idea why.
Now I realize why I was acting like this. I needed more consistency and stability out of my relationship. I felt uncertain about our future as a couple and his feelings toward me. It was making me lash out as I became desperate for reassurance. To compensate for my constant feelings of uncertainty, I went overboard and tried to control every aspect of the relationship I could. I may have felt totally unclear about what the future held for us, but I knew that I could get him to call me every night at 7 when he was on his work trip, and that had to count for something, right? No. Actually it just made me seem crazy and our relationship tense. Eventually it made us turn on each other. We were enemies instead of partners.
This is what I’ve realized: you can take the most glamorous vacations and laugh at each other’s jokes and post the cutest pictures on social media. That’s wonderful. Go for it. But ultimately your relationship has to be built on a foundation where you both feel cared for and secure. You should have a shared vision about where things are going. Even if you’re ready to take the next step and he’s not, you should be able to discuss this. You have to find a way to meet in the middle so you’re both comfortable. There shouldn’t be questions about levels of commitment or trust. Concerns should be able to be addressed out in the open, not fought about and then swept under the rug. No amount of chemistry or cuddling or sexual tension can replace those elements. It’s like building a really beautiful house without laying a solid foundation. It will look pretty while it lasts, but you know it’s going to crumble pretty quickly.
I wish I could have come to this realization in time to save my relationship, but it makes me glad that I have this insight to take with me into a future one.
Have you dealt with stability/consistency issues in relationships?