A new frontier for relationships and happiness?

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A few nights ago, I attended a fantastic workshop called “Dating Your Species” by the amazing and fabulous Reid Mihalko and Monique Darling. I had selfish reasons for attending. Reid is a master at workshop facilitation when it comes to relationships and sex, and I wanted to observe him in his natural habitat.

But beyond that, the content of the workshop was phenomenal, as well.

I don’t want to give away all of Reid’s secrets, and I actually have a different system for finding great partners to date, but the main point I took away from last night is something I’ve been trying to find the words for and Reid said it perfectly:

The way we measure the success of a relationship is no longer duration, but instead, depth and honesty.

For the past several generations, the length of a relationship was all that mattered. Reid pointed out that being married 70 years even if you were miserable was considered a win.

But times are changing.

We all prize happiness in our lives more than ever. Ending a relationship that no longer makes us happy makes sense.

Reid asked how many of us had been to a divorce celebration. I raised my hand. A dear friend of mine threw a huge party on the day her divorce was final. But he then asked, how many of us had been to a divorce party where BOTH parties were in attendance and happy about it. All hands, including mine, went down.

What if, when a relationship no longer made us happy, we had the maturity and the courage to say, “I love you. This seems to have run its course. So before we start hating each other and before we get totally miserable, can we part ways while there’s still love?” Wouldn’t that be cause for a huge celebration?

This concept is something I’ve brought up over the past year or two to some friends, and I always get strange looks. I suspect it’s because I hadn’t found a way to articulate it so that it made sense.

But I don’t have to. Because Reid did it for me.

What if we stay together for as long as we’re both happy and agree going in to have the integrity to speak up when things aren’t working anymore?

How many of your exes are still in your life? How many would you consider your friend? Someone you care about and can rely on?

Wouldn’t it be extraordinary if we chose more wisely going in and behaved more maturely on the way out?

What if instead of breaking up, we called it transitioning?

Just because we decide our intimate relationship has run its course, who’s to say we can’t transition our connection into that of a dear friend? After all, you thought this person was special enough to date, mate, or partner with… wouldn’t they be special enough to be called a friend?

But here’s where it gets scary…

In order to do this, you have to show up, be seen, be honest, and have scary conversations.

I’m a HUGE advocate for saying the scary stuff. So much so that I’m developing an entire program around it.

Because when you say the scary stuff, you get your needs met.

When you say the scary stuff, you release resentment and offer each other the opportunity to step up.

When you say the scary stuff, you know once and for all whether this person is capable or willing to meet you where you need to be met.

And the sooner you know the answer to that question, the sooner you can move towards happiness – either together or on your own.

Life is too short for staying together out of sheer determination.

You deserve more than getting by, hanging in there, making it work, muscling through, gritting your teeth, or doing the best that you can.

You deserve bliss and passion and a “hell yes!” from your partner, and from yourself.

This isn’t about running away, either.

Relationships take work. Sometimes things suck. Sometimes it takes years to work through problems or to reach the place you want to be in.

But there is a difference between deeply loving someone and wanting to put in the work versus trying to put band-aids on a gaping wound out of a fear of being alone or of hurting someone’s feelings.

So, I propose a new frontier for relationships and happiness:

  • Instead of using relationships to fix us or work through our crap, we do the work on ourselves before we enter a relationship to ensure we know what we want, what we need, why it’s important to us, and how to communicate it well.
  • Instead of trying to fix someone or “seeing potential” in someone, we only enter into a relationship with someone who has done the work and has the basic skills to communicate openly and truthfully.
  • Instead of sticking it out because that’s what you’re supposed to do and instead of ignoring that little voice that says you’re not really very happy, we respect ourselves and the other person enough to mindfully enter into a relationship or end things as soon as you realize it’s not working.
  • Instead of assuming what worked then still works now and coasting/ignoring/denying issues, we find the courage to check in regularly, to have scary conversations, to address issues as they arise in a loving and open way, and to keep doing this over and over and over again throughout the lifetime of the relationship.
  • Instead of blaming and hiding and judging our partners when they do something we don’t like, we take responsibility for asking for what we want, create a safe space to say the tough stuff, and focus on creating joy together as often as possible.
  • Instead of waiting until everyone is miserable and it’s nothing but passive aggressive digs and fights and deception, we agree to respectfully transition the relationship into something else when you find you’re no longer happy or meeting each other’s needs, and doing so like grown-ups (yes it will hurt and yes it will suck and feeling bad is OK – creating unnecessary drama is not).
  • Instead of manipulation and codependence, we do it all from a place of respect, honesty, vulnerability, and integrity.
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Imagine a world where we all embrace this new paradigm.

No more senseless drama. No more manipulation or lying. No more cheating. No more waiting for someone to read your mind. No more wondering why relationships are so damn hard but never putting in the work to show up.

Because you can be you AND you can be happy.

When you step back and consider this new world order, what scares you most?

Wouldn’t you rather be happy and living a big, bold life on your terms than feeling trapped inside a relationship that makes you feel small and unappreciated?

The worst thing in life is not being alone. It’s being in a relationship with someone and feeling utterly lonely.

What would you like to change in order to find that happiness in this new frontier of relationship success?

Would you rather look back and say “I had several deep, profound loves in my life, all of which taught me something incredible and we’re all still friends” or “we were married 65 years and we couldn’t stand each other for the last 30″?

I invite you to share this post with your partner, if you have one, and have a conversation about it.

No pressure to change anything. No expectations. Just use it as a way to start having new conversations about what you want and what that might look like.

Be patient with each other. Change doesn’t happen overnight, but giving yourself permission to explore new thoughts and ideas is a powerful practice for keeping you both happy and connected.

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  • Kaira Boston

    Way to capture the current landscape of self-discovery and being able to speak up and share that which is important for happiness. Your examples of duration were spot on and definitely would prefer many good loves! Thank you Dawn for bringing this topic to the surface.

    • I love what you said, Kaira! “Love begins with happiness inside yourself so you can share it with another.” So much yes!

  • Kelley

    You’re a breath of fresh air! As someone who’s been a long relationship and intends to stay in it, I love the ideas of creating a safe place to express needs and trying to create joy as we change and age as people. Will be sharing with my husband!

    • YES! You said something SO SO important:

      “as we change”

      So many people don’t realize how significantly they’ll change as a person over the years, and having a way to talk to your partner about changing needs so that you can grow together is so important if you do want to build that life together. Go you!

  • Jackie

    You’re awesome! This is a great article. I’m not sure how I feel about all of it, but I love the idea of talking about the scary stuff and coming into a relationship after doing my own work. Both ideas are spot on and things I hope to do when I find my next relationship. Kudos to you!!!

    • Thanks, Jackie. I hear you on not being sure about all of it. Even though I thoroughly believe and subscribe to this thinking, in the quiet moments when I’m feeling a little insecure or when I really miss my partner, it gets scarier to think about not holding so tight. Good stuff to roll around in, isn’t it?

  • I just love this – your insight and advice here is wonderful. You’ve made me feel empowered and hopeful – thank you so much for sharing this.

    • Thank you so much, Samantha! I love empowered and hopeful. We all deserve that. Thanks for stopping by.