How is it possible that someone can be a star performer at work—confident, self-aware and successful–yet in intimate relationships they seeming turn into a hopeless, voiceless sack of mush?
Over and over again, I encounter incredibly successful business owners and professionals who can lead and manage big teams and projects, yet, when it comes to leading their household or building meaningful, intimate relationships they stumble and turn into cowering puppies.
I’m talking about veteran service men and women who could melt you with an intense, icy glare yet keep secrets from their spouses because they can’t handle any semblance of conflict.
I’m talking about wonder women executives who sit on the board with the big boys yet stress out if their partners haven’t returned their texts.
I’m talking about the leader who is scared to go home because he feels like he has no authority in his household.
And of the bright, intelligent and beautiful woman who appears to have it all yet has a wall around her heart so thick, it would take special forces to penetrate it.
Here’s why we can be successful at work yet feel stuck in relationships
WORK is safe, it’s great fuel for our ego and provides us a nice mask to greet the world. Who you are at work is a facade that you want others to perceive you as.
Your “project management acumen” or “great inter-personal skills” allows you to create a false identity that holds the world at bay and keeps them from seeing who you really are…the problem occurs when you begin to believe this identity is who you actually are.
It’s socially encouraged to be successful at work.
Work and career are topics we can openly discuss and share with others. We get immediate feedback at work and we can clearly gauge our success by metrics such as quarterly reviews, benchmarks, salary, compensation, etc.
Most people have realistic expectations about their career and their work. There is a clear system, if you’re failing at work–someone is going to let you know what you’re doing wrong or you’re not gonna have a job or company much longer.
Work is a relatively safe playground for personal growth–there is a structure that carries us if we have issues that we can’t get over–it’s easy, and acceptable, for us to get help from mentors, advisers, coaches, professional development workshops, etc.
RELATIONSHIPS, on the other hand, derobe us of our carefully constructed, successful exteriors and strip us naked. They are uncomfortable and messy and test the facade that we’ve tricked ourselves into believing. Who we are in relationships may not be so pretty and, at times, it may look like a scared and frustrated 5 year old child.
Relationships bring to the surface all the unhealed elements of ourselves and reflects it in the form of another human being. While you can fake an interview or a sales call–you can’t fake actual personal growth in an intimate relationship–the results speak for themselves.
Very rarely do people have a safe and productive space to deeply share relationship issues in a constructive way. More often than not, there is no clear metric for “success” and, more importantly, there is no system of handling issues as they arise which leads to compounded frustration.
Our perspective shapes our understanding of the world–and this is especially true in relationships. One of my coaches realized, after 12 years of marriage, that she never actually truly heard a word her husband said–it was always what she wanted to hear so she could blame him for not saying exactly what she wanted him to say.
Surprisingly, most people think they have realistic romantic expectations–but usually their expectations are completely removed from the person in front of them. Yet that doesn’t stop them from forcing the other person into the mold that inevitably doesn’t fit.
The three most popular outlets for relationship issues: divorce, therapy and cats.
Relationships are true reflections of our unhealed selves. The wounds and frustrations you face in a relationship are unintegrated parts of yourself that you can’t ignore when someone is reflecting them back directly at you.
Relationships melt the ego so it hurts, a lot. And sometimes people lose themselves.
Also, not surprisingly, most people pour the energy they would’ve invested in working on intimate relationships into building their careers instead.
This can lead to an immense amount of success though it does not substitute for the journey of true intimacy with the self.
So what do you do if you are reading this and going “oh crap, that’s me?”
Firstly, be honest with yourself and where you are in your life.
Then, please give yourself some great love and acknowledgement because you’ve done SO WELL with all that you’ve been given.
And, if you’re desiring to change your relationship lot in life, you must look deeply within and address what is keeping you from having the relationship of your dreams. Look for patterns, look for areas where your insecurities sabotaged your happiness. Ask your friends, family, exes!
It’s difficult work to see your blind spots and, of course, almost impossible to do alone. Find someone who can be impartial and support you in the process. Likely, you are going to hit a lot of resistance within yourself when you uncover ways in which YOU have sabotaged YOUR relationship and it’s ok. Acknowledging who you are is the first step to personal growth.
More on this in the next blog about self-fulfillment.
I’m having a Relationship Healing Intensive in March. It’s a curated group program and a safe and constructive space to identify and actively transform your relationship patterns. If you are interested, please email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will personally make sure you are on the e-mail list.
Also, sign up for an Activation Session or for my newsletter so you can be informed of new and valuable relationship updates 🙂