Self-awareness can affect relationship health


*This is a work of nonfiction based on actual events I experienced firsthand; used with permission.

Not long ago, I received this text from my lover, “Happy One Year Milestone.” His message took me by surprise because remembering dates is not his strong suit. He’s even forgotten his own birthday. But this time, he scheduled a reminder on his calendar so that we could commemorate our anniversary.

Super sweet, right?

We are in a good space, closer and more intimate than ever. Like all relationships, we have had our challenges. But we have an unspoken pact never to take the chicken exit when problems arise. And I must say that we have gotten pretty good at hard conversations. To date, we’ve never argued, but we respectfully disagree — all the time.

This is, by far, one of my healthiest relationships — ever. Yet, I recently observed myself wanting to mess it up.

Yes, you read that right.

This is something that my partner is unaware of — at least until he read that last paragraph. One of the many ways that he supports me is by reading every single thing that I write. I know, he’s a total sweetheart. But now he knows that I have been on the verge of sabotaging our relationship, except I didn’t. But I did think about it — a lot.

Let me explain.

A few short weeks ago, I noticed an uncomfortable sensation arising in my body. It was more like nervousness that would start in the pit of my belly, and then move up toward my heart. This prickliness showed up whenever I was perfectly still or at the close of the day, right before I’d drift off to sleep.

I sat with it for several days, feeling into the discomfort. Eventually, I recognized that my malaise was related to the spaciousness that I am currently experiencing in my relationships. For the first time in my adult life, I am entirely free of chaos.

My home life is beautifully harmonious. I have no active beef with distant relatives. My friendships are peaceful. My romantic life is steady. By all accounts, life is good. And apparently, that scares the bejeezus out of me.

So there I was, with everything going my way, acknowledging my desire to create mayhem. But here’s the kicker, I didn’t want to wreak havoc in general; I felt a specific impulse to start some shit with my lover.

Why? Because not long ago, I made a conscious choice to lean in and wholly open my heart to him, which profoundly shifted the energy in our connection.

A part of me had been waiting for the other shoe to drop. I did not realize that I’d been holding my metaphorical breath, which caused my nervous system to hover in flight mode. And of course, starting a fight would be a great excuse to lace up my sneakers and run away.

But rather than acting on the impulse, I got curious. I began asking questions aloud to myself and talking things out with my therapist. I journaled and cried. And cried. And cried some more. I permitted myself to be uncomfortable. I didn’t judge or berate myself for remembering the comfort of chaos. More importantly, I didn’t make myself wrong for wanting to recreate what was familiar to me.

I do not like dysfunction, but I know it. I am intimate with dis-ease. Me and bullshit go way back. And I’ve been conditioned to seek solace in discontentment. My past conditioning often dictates my present experience. When new things show up, I tend to react how I always have.

The mind is good at remembering pain.

Survival mode is my brain’s default setting, which is why it’s so much easier to latch onto hurt and to tolerate bad behavior.

Of course, in the big scheme of things, humans are a young species. And so we are inexperienced at things like contentment, joy, and fulfillment.

We are predisposed to be repetitive. Just as the Kalahari elephants follow ancient migration routes, humans tend to move toward what we know, rather than what’s healthy. Habitual behavior provides the illusion of certainty, which we find comforting, even when it hurts.

The good news is that I have a choice, we all do. Rather than doing what we’ve always done and getting what we’ve always got, we can choose to create a different reality.

Self-awareness can be a bridge for deeper connection.

Several of my previous relationships were turbulent. Rife with miscommunication, resentment, and lack of intimacy. And for a long time, I blamed those things on being with the wrong person. I convinced myself that my picker was broken. But the truth is, I wasn’t self-aware enough to be a right-fit partner — for anyone.

My relationships began to improve when I started getting intimate with myself. I now know that when I’m out of balance, I am more likely to find fault in others.

Self-awareness makes room for love.

Self-awareness is a process. I have been at this for over 15 years, and let me tell you — there are no shortcuts. But this journey is the best thing I’ve ever gifted myself and everyone in my life reaps the benefits.

It would have been easy for me to pick a fight with my lover. But blaming him for my inner turmoil isn’t just wrong, it’s unfair — to both of us. Self-awareness put a stop to the chaos before it started. And my lover was none-the-wiser — until now.

When you do your inner work, new behaviors emerge, vulnerability is easier, and authenticity becomes the new norm. Self-awareness gives you the tools to feel and name your emotions. So that you can be accountable for how those feelings are expressed. That means less fighting and more loving.

And we can all use a lot more love, don’t you agree?

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Intimacy & Relationship coach, writer, and creator of The Sensuality Project. I specialize in Relationship-ing (it's a verb).

Los Angeles County, CA

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