Knowledge is Power, even in relationships

Knowledge is power.

Sir Francis Bacon said it in 1597, and it’s still damn true a half century and change later.

Especially in your relationships.

If I seem vague in this, it’s because I want to focus on the process, not the particulars. And as always, my privacy policy applies. (For what it’s worth, I’m combining elements of three relationships in this story to make my point, so…)

So there I was, dating a woman. I thought, for certain, that though we were not on the relationship escalator, we were definitely walking up the relationship stairs together. Maybe it was going to be slow, maybe even decades, but that was the path we were on.

Maybe I was right in the beginning. But eventually, I was completely wrong.

Don’t focus on the particulars. Think back to any relationship you’ve had. Where you thought it was going a particular direction. Maybe you thought there was an understanding about something – what constitutes cheating, whether or not you wanted kids, what faith you’d end up following. And then you found out your partner, the person you trusted, had a completely different idea about what your relationship was about.

It’s jarring, especially if it’s a relationship you’ve invested a lot of time and energy into. You thought it was one thing, and then, suddenly, you’re faced with someone who isn’t who you thought they were, who doesn’t want what you thought you both wanted.

But the problem wasn’t that I was wrong about where the relationship was headed.

The problem was that I wasn’t aware that things had changed.

Everybody changes over time. Maybe you change with that person. Maybe you don’t.

In this case, the hopes and dreams I’d had for several years crashed and burned.

There wasn’t any compromise possible. Those dreams died.

And that was okay.

That’s the part that can be hard to understand. When my dreams and hopes for that relationship were smashed, it hurt. Absolutely. I’d be a fool to deny that.

But I had spent a couple of months getting shredded by those same hopes and dreams.

See, when the people in a relationship have different ideas about where it’s going, they have different expectations about how that relationship should function. Those things can be small, large, and every size inbetween. But even if they’re tiny expectations, they can still feel like massive betrayals when the expectations are violated.

So it was a relief when I finally sat down with them and realized that the structure of the relationship had changed.

Sure, it hurt. Quite a lot.

But it hurt so much less than thinking I was being betrayed and hurt on a regular basis by a person that I loved and trusted.

Once I knew that our goals for the relationship had changed, it made things a lot easier. I was no longer bashing my head against percieved violations. They were no longer wondering why I was upset about something stupid.

Once our expectations were aligned and we were on the same page, we could move on with our relationship and enjoy each other’s company.

We could begin healing the damage that had been created by that lack of communication.

And we could begin loving again.

This is why it’s important to communicate with your partner(s), even if it’s a big thing, even if it’s something that you are sure will hurt them.

It will come out in your behavior. It will come out in your expectations, in your communication.

But without actually communicating it, all that will happen is conflict. Avoiding the sharp pain of telling those you love about what’s going on inside your head will only cause them long stretches of self-doubt and hurt.

I know this because I’ve been on the other side. I’ve been the fearful one, the one trying to be “kind”. And I know the pain and hurt that I caused.

Don’t be that person.

Communicate with those you love. Tell them the truth about where you are, even if it’s a truth they don’t want to hear.

It will be better for everyone.

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