I am on the threshold of turning 30 and my Saturn Return was a whirlwind of self discovery, of proving to myself that I know how to commit, I know how to love, I know how to change and transform, and I know how to resolve conflict. It has been exhilarating. It has been liberating. And above all else, I feel completely capable of continuing to create the life I've always imagined.
That said, each partner over the years has brought profound life lessons with them. And the endings served me in ways I have yet to articulate. So I definitely owe countless thank-yous and well wishes to those who have helped me to become a better version of myself through the years.
That said, this is, by far, one of the best articles I have read on the topic of romantic relationships and how to gauge whether or not you're in a beneficial one. It has changed the way I see myself and my partner/s:
It is phenomenal. Do yourself a favor and read her work, not just the excerpts I list in this article.
And remember, it applies to any gender, pronouns are interchangeable.
Not only is this an excellent way to check-in with yourself to better understand whether you and your partner are compatible or not, it’s also a great self-reflective activity to identify and explore the qualities necessary for building lifelong partnerships. The following excerpts are from Sabrina Alexis' book Everything You Need To Know If You Want Love That Lasts (you can purchase it here).
"A big mistake I see women making is blaming themselves when a relationship falls apart. They torture themselves with could haves and should haves. I should have been less needy, I should have been more agreeable, I could have been more supportive, etc. Yeah, you could have done all that, but it wouldn’t have mattered if he wasn’t committed to making it work."
"If a guy leaves when things get a little rocky, it means he is lacking in the most important quality you need in a partner, and that is a man who is committed not only to you, but to making it work. It’s easy to be in a relationship when everything is all sunshine and roses. The truth comes out after time goes on, when you let your guard down, when you can be more of yourselves instead of the absolute best version of yourselves. Even the best couples don’t seamlessly fit together. There is always a certain degree of work involved in order to create that deep and meaningful connection, and it has to come from both people."
"I remember the exact moment I knew my husband was the one. After about a month of everything being perfect (as they usually are in the beginning), we had our first conflict. It was nothing major; we just started experiencing areas where our personalities clashed and seeing how we process things differently. I tend to be more intellectual and straightforward in my thinking, while he’s more emotional and dynamic in his thinking. I would get impatient with this, and my impatience was hurtful to him. The details don’t really matter, what matters is that I remember the way he brought the issue up and how sincere he was about working through things and getting to a place of better understanding." Sabrina Alexis
The above quote mentions my communication style, emotional and dynamic. Dating someone who has a different communication style can be challenging, but workable. Remember this in the future. Your differences do not dictate the fate of your relationships, your choices and flexibility do.
The following excerpt really hit home for me also...I had a gut reaction, a visceral aha! moment:
"When a guy is ready to settle down, he wants to make it work. He wants to overcome the differences, to get to a place of better understanding. My husband and I are so different. The way we think and feel is different, and the way we communicate is different. In the beginning of our relationship this definitely caused problems, but now, after really committing to working on it, we have hit this amazing place of understanding and are so much more in sync. The differences still exist, but we were able to meet in the middle. Even when things got difficult, I wasn’t any less sure he was the guy for me because of how deeply committed he was to making it work."
A relationship isn’t about finding the perfect match, it’s about finding someone you can form a meaningful, lasting partnership with. Notice the word form. It’s an active process; it doesn’t just exist. It’s about working together, being a team, and overcoming the challenges.
It's not enough to just WANT to be with someone, you have to have the skills necessary to make it work - to compromise when necessary, to respect boundaries, to love unconditionally.
There is a big difference between wants and needs when it comes to relationships, but it’s not always easy to make the distinction. You might want a guy who is tall and strapping and charismatic and a CEO of a major company, but a guy with those credentials might have a host of other qualities that aren’t good for you and don’t fulfill your fundamental emotional needs. My husband is the opposite of the “ideal man” I had envisioned for myself, but even though he doesn’t have certain qualities I used to consider requirements, he is exactly what I need. That was clear to me and everyone around me very early into our relationship.
"Whether you’re single, dating, or in a serious relationship, these are the most essential qualities you need to look for in a partner:
1) He loves your good qualities and accepts and embraces the bad without making you feel guilty for having flaws. You don’t need to hide your true self from him and put on a front in order to be what you think he wants. You can share your true self and be vulnerable and feel safe doing so, knowing that if anything it will make him feel even closer to you.
2) He is there for you when you need him, even if it’s inconvenient for him. A partnership will sometimes require sacrifice and compromise. Life is unpredictable and unexpected. You can’t predict what will happen and nothing can possibly go as planned 100% of the time. A guy who is husband material will be there for you when you need him. He will be in it with you; he will be your partner in whatever happens and will weather the storm with you, even though he might prefer to stay in the sunshine.
3) He considers you when making decisions, both big and small. A relationship is a partnership, not a dictatorship. Factoring you in shows that he respects you and that he wants to create a life with you, not simply envelope you in his world. Our worlds can be comfortable when we don’t have to compromise, so it’s not always easy taking someone else into account and factoring in their wants and needs and preferences, but that’s what a relationship is.
4) He is growth-oriented. No one is perfect; we all have flaws. And these flaws aren’t black and white—usually a person’s greatest strength is linked to his greatest weakness. In a relationship, his behavior affects you (and vice versa) and sometimes his less developed traits will have a negative impact on you. A growth-oriented guy will want to work to strengthen his character. A guy who isn’t growth oriented will say it’s your problem and that this is just the way he is and you need to deal with it.
◦ For example, let’s say you’re dating a guy who can be insensitive at times. Maybe he doesn’t give you emotional support when you’ve had a rough day and instead just gives you matter of fact advice in a direct way. His no-nonsense approach to solving problems might be useful to him in the workplace, but it might be hurtful to you sometimes when he doesn’t empathize with what you’re going through and instead just tells you what to do about it, or gets impatient by the fact that you’re upset over something he doesn’t consider to be that big of a deal. You want a guy who will accept that his tone can come across as harsh and hurtful to you and who actually tries to work on it, not one who says it’s your problem and you need to deal with it. He probably won’t get it right every time, but if he’s growth oriented he will at least try.
5) He has similar beliefs and values. This one seems so obvious yet it’s so often overlooked. Love does not in fact conquer all. If you are not fundamentally compatible, you will face major hurdles ahead. If he is going to be your life partner, you have to make sure you are both on the same page when it comes to issues that matter. And if you aren’t on the same page, then make sure he respects where you stand (and vice versa) and that you’re both willing to work together to reach a mutually fulfilling understanding about your differences.
6) He views you as his partner. The relationship is something more than each of you individually … together, you and he are a team. And as that team, you are both individually stronger than you could be on your own. He sees you as his equal, as a person of great value, someone he can grow with. Not someone who is there to feed his ego, give him validation, be his emotional crutch, or be there solely to satisfy his needs.
◦ He respects everything about you—your thoughts, ambitions, opinions, the things you say, the company you keep, your job. He doesn’t make you feel bad about your life circumstances and he appreciates the person you are and the choices you have made.
7) He wants to make you happy. One of a man’s most fundamental needs in a relationship is to make his girl happy. It may not always feel like it or look like it, but it’s true. In order to truly bond with a woman, a man needs to feel like he can make her happy. And when a man truly cares for a woman, he wants to do whatever it takes to make her happy. Love is a selfless thing. If you love people because they make you feel great about yourself, then it isn’t real love. When a man shows he genuinely cares about you and your happiness, even if it sometimes comes at the expense of his own happiness, then you know his feelings are for real.
8) He communicates with you, even about tough issues and even if one of you is upset with the other. With the right guy, you won’t be afraid of bringing up certain things for fear of rocking the boat. You know he respects you and will see what you have to say as valid and important. Every relationship will face its share of obstacles. There will be fights, miscommunications, arguments, and also times when one partner isn’t feeling loved. The only way to emerge from the tough times better and stronger is to work through them together, and this starts with open communication.
9) He wants the same kind of commitment you want.
But the Most Important Quality of All Is …
He wants to make it work. He’s willing to put in any amount of effort. If there is a problem, he wants to find a way to solve it. He wants to work harder, to be better, to be his best self."
The information above is what changed my entire perspective overnight. It sealed the deal for me. Suddenly things became inescapably clear - no more denial, no more anxiety, no more analyzing. Knowing I am a supportive and loving partner capable of self-improvement, active listening and committing longterm changed everything for me. Lacking the skillset to resolve conflict, or even the knowledge of how to invest in a real relationship is going to create massive waves in any relationship.
Literally at the snap of a finger, after reading Sabrina's piece, my entire perception of commitment changed. Do not blame yourself for other's shortcomings. Do not waste time or energy investing in someone who is not equally invested in you. No more making excuses for their behavior; do not love and support them without pause if they are incapable of doing the same for you. An equal balance of power is incredibly important in healthy, working relationships.
I am a firm believer in karma. Karmic relationships have been the catalyst for my internal growth over the years. If you’re not familiar with the concept, definitely look into it. Even if you’re not into New Age-y explanations for things, the idea of karmic relationships still makes significant psychological points for why we pursue the relationships we do, and why we struggle to let go of them once they’ve reached completion. When we know we cannot fix another human, when we know we are all perfectly imperfect, all we are left with is loving fully and unconditionally.
Oh, and for those in relationships: If you want a deeper relationship, ask your partner these 10 questions.