The Challenge of a Fulfilled Relationship

You have to find peace within yourself, inner peace. Feel satisfied and fulfilled - before you are able to be open for someone else - for a fulfilled relationship. Everything begins within us.

Above is a common belief which is widespread and probably everyone has come across, heard from our parents or through some media.  These are sentences which initially can sound like an empty phrase but, in reality, are very wise advice.

Thinking about relationships and all the difficulties that could arise on a journey between a couple during their relationship can be very challenging.

Arguments and misunderstandings between people are inevitable. When two people cross each other’s path and decide to consider their lives together, it can lead to happiness but also daunting feelings of disappointment.

Wieland Stolzenburg, a psychologist who is also a very well-known best-selling author of more than ten books with his main focus on “fulfilled relationships” shared his opinion about relationships.

When asked what leads to problem in a relationship, Stolzenburg replies:

“It is often our own unresolved life-story that leads to relationship problems. On one hand, in a partnership, we would look for what we did not get in the past- in our childhood through mostly our parents- and on the other hand, our partner could easily hurt us precisely at these sore points. Someone could symbolise this with two backpacks that everyone carries around with them: one containing our skills and resources; and in the other, our weaknesses and wounds. Dealing with the backpack of injuries and processing experiences of our childhood is the best basis for a long-term fulfilling partnership. If both do this independently, then this is the road to success. This means that we have to get away from the accusations and wishes for change in our partner, towards looking at ourselves and the question: what am I willing to invest and what topics do I bring from my life into the relationship?” 

So once again,  Stolzenburg proves with this statement that everything truly begins within ourselves. Everyone has been inevitably hurt throughout their life, has had to face challenges which might have left signs of sadness or lack-of-trust issues. Nevertheless, depending on how much we are able to be true to ourselves, our wishes, our needs and our past - we will be able to embrace life as a couple in the future.

However, what can be considered as a normal challenge to overcome in a relationship and what can be the reason to end a partnership? We all know the feeling after the first glow and enthusiasm in a new relationship has passed, namely, when we begin to feel frustrated about the issues which we previously might have been able to overlook but now lead to increased arguments.   Stolzenburg explains that this is considered as a normal process. After the first period of falling in love ends, the hormone level drops. The idealization towards each other is slowly fading and both partners are recognizing aspects of the other that they like less. There are many reasons why a relationship can be troubled: too high expectations towards each other, too little time for each other due to work or their own children’s commitments, lack of common field of interest, lack of future plans, unsatisfied needs or an unsatisfied sexuality.

However, the main issue can be when there is no real interest anymore in the other partner.  This can lead to the most common reason why a relationship can fail.

Although, if this appears right at the beginning of a relationship, it can also be  positive when both partners feel free to be themselves and show their less glamorous side. Perhaps this can be done by showing their vulnerable side, their weaknesses, or their fears.

Stolzenburg recommends that partners should always question themselves whether they can solve the problems or they cannot deal with the pressure and therefore will suffer because of this.

He explains that sometimes, even after years, frequently the same issues arise in a relationship which can lead to arguments between the couple. One can wonder if this is simply a light issue in their relationship or if it is a serious conflict to which they are exposed.

Stolzenburg advises to be guided by two standards if someone is not sure about the answer: 1. Is it a recurring topic that does not change despite communication, exchange and interest in my partner? 2. Can I let go of the topic internally at some point, or do I carry within me resentment or even hate which is directed towards my partner?

However, if someone is ready from their side to let go of something that leads to an argument and perhaps accept their partner’s view, it is always also a challenging topic for ourselves. We have to question ourselves, i.e., whether we are still true to ourselves, our needs and life values or if we are just “letting go” of something in order to avoid a recurrent argument.

According to Stolzenburg, every problem in a relationship, even if it seems unsurmountable, can be solved. This may happen if both partners work on themselves and do not expect the solution from their partner.

But I wonder, when is the point reached in a relationship which cannot be solved anymore and when does a separation seem the only alternative? Stolzenburg opines that it is very difficult to find a universal answer. However, someone should be able to answer for themselves the following questions in a most honest way:

1.        Does my partner know about my dissatisfaction and that I am considering separation?

2.        Did I give myself 100% in order to improve the relationship?

3.        Are the difficult topics similar to those in my previous relationship?

Stolzenburg explains that if someone answers “yes” to the third question, it means that it is an unresolved issue. It is therefore most important that those people work on themselves prior to beginning a new relationship as they would simply import a similar relationship pattern into the next partnership.

This is once again proof of how essential is the work on ourselves and how vital it is to resolve our own “injuries” acquired during life, prior to opening our heart for someone.

We all need to accept that there will be conflicts when dealing with other people. As Stolzenburg says: “Life means change. This always inevitably leads to different opinion, needs and wishes.”

Life is a continuing challenge. We are all in a constant flow. Life changes as do our needs and wishes. It is how someone responds and finds coping strategies that accept their partner the way she/he is, that leads to a fulfilled life together. Finding a common path that leads through life together, overcoming difficulties and living joyful happiness together. Growing together as a union - that’s where the strengths lie. Accepting each other for who we have been, are and will become. Love as a challenge - but a worthwhile one.