By Katie & Gay Hendricks
How much does your partner resemble the person you met and fell in love with?
And how easy does your relationship feel now compared to what it was like before?
Really take a moment to think about how things “used to be” between the two of you.
Have things changed?
Do you have the same warm-and-fuzzy feelings about your beloved, or are there more than a few things you wish he or she would work on?
Do the two of you seem to relish just being in each other’s company, or has your time together become littered with bickering, tension, and fighting?
And how secure do you each feel in your relationship? Does one of you get jealous sometimes? Do you argue about how often you should be intimate together, or how much time should be devoted to people and activities outside the relationship?
Whether you’re experiencing one of these scenarios or something similar, you might be asking yourself whether the person you’re with is truly right for you.
After all, why would these problems exist in a healthy relationship? Isn’t there supposed to be mutual acceptance, harmony, and security?
Aren’t you supposed to feel in love?
What if we told you that the very nature of an intimate relationship creates the perfect conditions for you to experience conflict and negative feelings?
In other words, there’s nothing like the vulnerability and intimacy of a close relationship to bring out the very worst in you and your partner!
That’s because the experience of being so closely involved with someone offers the opportunity to be completely known. You’re naked, in every sense of the word.
This person will get to know everything about you.
Everything. And that can be downright scary!
When you’re just getting to know someone, you’re on your best behavior. You’re putting your best foot forward. But you can only keep that going for so long. Sooner or later, your “best foot forward” slips into the real you with all your quirks and patterns. And you know it.
Your partner knows it, too. At the beginning of your relationship, you’re both secretly wondering, “When he or she finds out this about me – when they know the real me – will they still love me and want me?”
As your relationship progresses and you become closer, this fear of being “found out” actually becomes more intense, and it creates an underlying discomfort within you.
Instead of settling into the relationship and feeling secure, your subconscious invokes a series of “tests” to find out if, indeed, your partner really and truly loves you.
Sadly, these tests can actually create the very outcome you don’t want, which is why we say that love often triggers the very actions that destroy a relationship.
Let’s look at some of these actions:
When you first meet your partner, you think to yourself, “Where have you been all my life?”
As time goes on, you start finding little annoying habits and huge character flaws in your mate – and you wonder how you’ll ever be able to live with them.
Did you fall in love with your partner’s spontaneity…but now you can’t stand it that he or she won’t plan anything beyond this weekend?
“Going with the flow was fun then,” you tell yourself, but it’s just not practical over the long haul!
When we’re afraid of not being truly loved for who we are, we often become critical of our partners. Why? Because it’s much easier to pick out what’s wrong in someone else than to own what needs loving attention in ourselves.
Provoking upset is one of the more obvious ways partners test each other. You’re trying to see how far you can push each other and still maintain a connection.
Here’s an example: you’ve spent a great day together – the kind where you felt really in tune with each other – when all of a sudden you catch a glimpse of a dirty spot in the kitchen (he made breakfast for you this morning), and you can’t help but point it out.
From one minute to the next, the entire mood of the day changes. He feels criticized and retreats; you feel as though you’re always doing everything around the house.
The bigger problem is that a relationship can only withstand so much negative interaction.
A pattern of constant fighting and making up inevitably takes its toll, leaving both of you feeling even less secure with each other.
All of us enter into relationships with two opposing fears: the need to be close, and the need to develop and express our individuality.
In a relationship, partners often push each other’s boundaries on both ends of the spectrum: one partner wants more time together, while the other seems to get wrapped up in things outside the relationship. The more one pushes, the more the other pulls away.
In either case, each person is testing to see how far they can go without completely pushing away the other. If they can’t find a comfortable balance, the smothering/distancing behaviors can dangerously drain away positive feelings.
If you’re not aware of how certain fears are operating under the surface for you, you’ll continue to repeat destructive patterns from relationship to relationship. You’ll think you keep choosing the wrong partner or are somehow doomed to remain unhappy in love.
We’ve listed only three ways that partners test each other to see if the love they share is real.
But here’s the interesting truth: there is nothing that any one person can say or do to convince you of their love.
The real test is whether YOU truly love yourself.
When you don’t fully love yourself, it’s impossible to believe that someone else can love all of you, too. When you don’t fully embrace all the qualities and traits that make you who you are, you’ll always be haunted by the worry that the person you’re with will fall out of love with you.
As long as you don’t fully love yourself, you will continue to test and push your partner’s love to the limit – and likely create the unfortunate outcome you don’t want.
That’s why everything we I teach is rooted in the fundamental concept of loving yourself first.