Why do some relationships seem to flow so naturally, while others need so much work? I am recently dating again after ending a 2 year relationship, and I don’t understand why I have (once again) found myself single. Looking back over the 2 years, it seems as if we were always struggling. When I look at my friends’ marriages, some of them seem to always get along, never seem to be “working on” an issue, and never seem to be threatening to break up. I’ve never had that. Is it me? Is it the people I am choosing? Right now, I’m losing hope for even dating again, I mean, why should I keep going through this?
Always feeling like work
Dear Always Feeling Like Work,
To answer your first two questions: Yes, it is you, and yes, it is the people you are choosing. And to answer your third, yes, you should keep dating and keep looking for your life partner because it sounds like a secure, meaningful relationship is the desire of your heart.
Of course I can’t know from an email exactly why you are struggling with relationships. It may be a great thing that your last relationship did not continue onto marriage. I can suggest a few general ideas for helping you find the relationship you want. Let’s start with part one: you. You may be settling for someone who is less then compatible, because it’s easier to be with someone then it is to wait for someone better. You may attract or even enjoy the arguing at some level, it may feel like a way to connect if it’s a pattern you experienced from your own family. Or, things may seem easy and perfect in the beginning of a relationship, only to fall apart as the relationship continues. If that’s the case, you may be ignoring some warning signs, or the people you are choosing may be hiding parts of themselves from you just to be in relationship with you.
Which leads us to part two: the people you are choosing. You may be attracted to people who seem mysterious, or too good to be true. If so, you may be excited about being in a relationship, but fail to see the red flags of who the other person truly is. You may be attracted to “players,” who purposely lead you on or tell you lies. Or, you might enjoy the challenge of winning over someone else’s heart when that person was never really into you. Other people enjoy the challenge of rescuing another person from themselves (addictions, financial struggle, getting away from a previous relationship, winning someone over for Christ or to become Catholic). None of these options bode well for a healthy relationship. You should be able to accept another person for who he or she is, flaws included, in order to love them. Love cannot be conditional on someone else changing. If so, he or she may not be the person you want to commit your life to loving.
And finally, yes, you should keep dating and keep going through this. Because you have an opportunity to learn how to be a better date, and how to choose better dates. Start by lining your dating life up with your spiritual life. Being on this site is a good first step, and then be sure your interactions with dates are based on truth, authenticity, and integrity. Second, spend some time in self-reflection, asking God for discernment on what you may not see in yourself. A spiritual mentor or Catholic counselor may be able to help you on that part of the journey, or a good honest friend. Talk to the married couples you admire, and consider talking to your priest or deacon. It’s likely any one of those people may have insight to share with you.
Don’t loose hope, and don’t give up holding out for the relationship that feels easy and secure to you. Put your hope and trust into your relationship with Christ and His Church, to bear the burden of this journey with you.
Michele Fleming, M.A.