Is Patience and Presence the Key to Understanding in a Relationship?

Photo by Genevra Siciliano

“In order to be in a successful relationship, you have to understand yourself, and you have to understand the other person.”

My dad said that to me once, after I mentioned that I was reading about relationships in the book, The Road Less Travelled.

I realised that it was the first time that he’d managed to sum up all of his relationship advice into one phrase — like if that were all he could ever say on the topic of relationships, that bold statement would be it.

Perhaps you’re thinking . . . I’m doomed because I can’t even begin to understand where my partner is coming from most of the time.

The way I see it, if you’re doing your best to communicate, and you’re willing to compromise, and you’re giving your partner the space they need, and you’re patient, but above all, if you are there for them, then you’ve got a solid foundation for beginning to understand them.

It does sound like a tall order when you read that criteria, but to boil it down, if the other person feels that they can count on you, then the chances of that relationship surviving are high.

It can take a lifetime to work out the person you’re having a relationship with. Sometimes you have worked them out, but then life changes them. Sometimes they’ll claim they don’t understand themselves or they’ll play games to throw you off. Sometimes you have worked out the other person but you don’t want to admit the truths you have unearthed. And sometimes you’re somewhat blocked from understanding them because you’re still trying to understand yourself.

If you’re stuck on one of the above scenarios, it doesn’t mean that it’s time to give up. As a starting point, just continue to be there.

By presence, not only do I mean in a physical sense, but to be self-aware, too. What I struggle with the most is patience. It’s especially difficult when there are kids on the scene. I have two children. My patience is spread thin, believe me. It’s my lack of patience that can stop me from being and feeling present.

It’s common for relationship problems to stem from fear. When you have recognised that fear is involved, the first step to being on a path of improvement is admitting that you are afraid. Acknowledge it and keep moving forward . . .

If you attune yourself to where love can be found, and make this the base of your decisions, then it’s easy to turn your back on those fears.

Sometimes that doesn’t seem possible.

If you are really struggling with trying to improve a relationship, ask yourself what you’re afraid of. If you believe that you’re not the barrier, then ask the other person in the relationship what they’re afraid of.

Does that bring you to a dead-end? If you really feel that you can’t work out the other person, then turn inwards. It’s a great place to start and an excellent place to be.

What do I mean by turning inwards? Feel love and acceptance for yourself, first. Let love lead the way; let the love you have for you help you find the patience and presence you need to work on any relationship that needs to grow. Including the one that you have with yourself.

Furthermore, let love — particularly self-love — help you see the relationship for what it really is, and why you have been tasked with trying to work through it with the other person. Only then are you able to decide whether it’s worth your while.

The more you know yourself, the more you know what you need, and what you need out of life. You’ll be able to realise who brings you up and who holds you down — who is deserving and appreciative of your energy?

Or, if you feel the space you once had for another person is now clamping down on you, and the path of improvement only has room for one set of footprints, then perhaps you are better off focussing more on you…

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