What It Takes to Stay

by | 41 comments

I’ve been thinking lately about how there is a lot of interest in “finding” in our culture: finding the right mate, finding the right job, finding the right pair of shoes. There are endless articles, techniques, and ideas about how to find that right thing.

Much less attention is paid to staying, how to sustain the goodness of what you’ve found. How do we help good things continue to be good, over the long haul?

Staying with lots of resentments, with the feeling that you’ve settled, with a litany of complaints…all of that is easy, and it’s common.

Staying with continued feelings of gratitude and joy, navigating challenges in a way that creates even more love for what you’ve chosen; that takes serious strength and skill.

Don’t get me wrong—I’m not an absolutist about staying. As a coach, every day I help people leave jobs and relocate and let go of what’s not working for them. But just as often, I help people see the possibilities for how they can work within their current situation to get what they want.

Here’s what I think it takes to stay with a good relationship—whether that relationship is with a workplace, a friend, or a life partner:

1. Be Willing to Look at Your Crazy

No matter how perfect that thing or person you’ve chosen, you (yes, you) are going to start doing your crazy stuff as you move deeper into relationship. Your fears, limiting beliefs, and patterns from childhood will start showing up. To stay, you’ll need to be willing to look at those crazy spots in you. You’ll need to be willing to take the ego hit of being honest about them. You’ll need to be willing to do your own personal growth work to mitigate their effects.

2. Know That This Too Shall Pass

Some days you are going to be dancing over moonbeams with joy about your relationship. Some days you are going to cranky and hopeless. Some days your connection will feel incredible, some days you may be wondering, “who is this person, and how did I get here?” Staying comes from knowing that this too shall pass and from not taking the mood of any particular day too seriously. I’ve become fond of the term “mental weather.” Some days I’ve got rain, some days sun, but quite often, I need to do nothing more than wait, and the poor weather clears.

3. Have a Full Life

Don’t ask your spouse to be your primary source of emotional sustenance. Don’t ask any one friend to be your source for all friend-needs. Let your job be your job. Have a full, rich life where your needs get met in lots of different ways. This allows you to liberate each person and relationship in your life to be just what it is, and nothing other than that.

4. Bring It All Back In To The Relationship, Again and Again

When we feel hurt or disappointed in a relationship, the natural reaction is to retreat and to make up a negative narrative about the way that person “just is.” The hard thing to do is to bring our feelings back into the relationship by talking about them with the other person. This means trusting that your relationship—and the other person—are not static, but able to evolve.

5. Contribute Good Ingredients to the Stew

Imagine that every day, there’s an empty pot on the stove—and you and the other person in your relationship are going to create a soup together. Your business, on a daily basis, is to worry about what ingredients you put in. How are you contributing to the deliciousness of the soup today?

6. Take Responsibility for Your Experience

Nobody, nobody, nobody can give you the relationship you want. You can be well-matched, but even then, you’ll have to play an active part in co-creating the relationship you want. That requires knowing what is important to you, articulating it, and making requests. That’s what it means to take responsibility for the quality of your experience in your relationships.

I’m curious to hear your thoughts: Do you agree that we in the personal growth world need more talk about staying, and less about finding? And what do you think it takes to stay?

Photo by Sean McGrath