The truth is relationships are rarely perfect and are often rocky. Julie de Azevedo Hanks, LCSW, a professional therapist for 20+ years and married for 26 years says, “We have this unrealistic expectation about what love is – it’s bliss, it’s happiness. It’s really about growth. We have to ask, ‘Am I still growing in this relationship?’ Cause you’re not always going to be happy. Clients come in thinking something’s wrong because they’re not happy.
But, no, this is a chance to grow. The painful moments are a chance to grow. Even in family relationships, not necessarily intimate love relationships, there are always opportunities to grow but there are things we don’t want to look at.”
The things we’re defensive about are clues as to where we are being called to grow.
“For a seed to achieve its greatest expression, it must become completely undone. The shell cracks, its insides come out and everything changes. To someone who doesn’t understand growth, it would look like complete destruction.” – Cynthia Occelli
Hanks continues, “I think that happens in relationships too. Sometimes it falls apart to grow and come back together as something that’s even more beautiful.” As individuals and as a couple we should be progressing. “We learn about ourselves and grow in relation to other people. Isolated we don’t grow. We need each other. That doesn’t mean you have to be married to grow. We need relationships. We need to bump up against people to smooth off our edges.”
What To Do When Things Get Rocky
She also brings out that we pick partners who will force us to grow and heal past wounds. Julie says, “If things are rocky instead of asking, ‘Should we get divorced or not?’ ask ‘What do we need to learn?’ If you’re still growing, stay in it.”
I really appreciated this last statement because what I told my first husband as I finally admitted I wanted a divorce was, “I die a little every day I stay in this marriage.” I had grown so much in that relationship, addressed so many things in me, but it got to the point where I was no longer growing. I was dying. My well was dry, I had been completely depleted by the dynamic.
After making the decision, I went to a marriage and family therapist (who happened to be very pro-marriage). He helped me see my spouse was never going to grow as long as he was with me. It was too easy for him to be co-dependent upon me and allow me to carry the load. Odds were, he would never grow further as long as he was with me because of the dynamic.
In my opinion, there’s a time to stay and grow, and there’s a time to go. You have to judge for yourself whether you’re growing or dying in a relationship.
Watch the full interview with Julie de Azevedo Hanks. Lots more good stuff here: