"It's fine," we say. But is it really?
Updated: Jan 27
That’s what we all say. It’s our default.
How are you? “I’m fine”.
How are the kids? “They’re fine’
How is your job? “It’s fine.”
How is your relationship. “It’s fine.”
Whether it’s “fine”, “OK”, or “good”, we think responding with a short answer is a way of keeping it simple.
But when we actually hear ourselves say that, whether out loud or in our heads, do we REALLY believe it’s fine?
What does ‘fine’ actually, really mean, especially when it comes to our relationship?
Most of us can acknowledge when feelings toward our relationship are on either extreme – either extremely wonderful or extremely terrible. But let’s talk about “fine”.
I’m going to assert that “fine” is simply a way to manage our expectations, to keep emotions at arm’s length and to down-play our own wants, needs and desires. And I’m going to assert that because that was me.
During my second marriage, I realized I used “fine” a lot to describe it. (My first marriage was that extreme of awful right from the get-go, so that one didn’t even make it to “fine”).
“Fine” was my way of coping with disappointment by managing my expectations. It was my way of justifying that it was “good enough”. It was my way of acquiescing that I had settled for how it was going in my relationship.
Truth be told, I was scared of true intimacy in my marriage, both emotionally and physically. I was afraid of bearing my heart, my soul and my body to him, for fear of judgement of being too sensitive, too emotional, too silly for having those dreams, those thoughts, those feelings. We were great roommates, good teammates, but soulmates we were not. I often felt lonely, even when we were together. I didn’t feel understood or supported. For several reasons, I truly felt that this was all that I deserved and this was the best I was gonna ever get, so I’d better be “fine” with it. In other words, I settled.
I want to challenge you to really look at your relationship and how you classify it. If you use a term such as “fine”, I’m going to assert that in most cases, it’s really NOT fine. My guess is that you are lacking one or more of these things: Connection beyond sharing a house; conversation beyond the kids & dinner that addresses things like fears and dreams and goals; strong physical intimacy, that goes beyond intercourse; play and adventure that goes beyond a local restaurant and Netflix.
From what I have experienced and witnessed, we are either in a relationship we love, or we aren’t. We are either in a great relationship or we aren’t. And if we are in anything other than a great relationship, we’ve settled.
So first, how do you know if you’re in a great relationship?
Ask yourself these questions: “What is missing in this relationship?” or conversely, “What do I want more of in this relationship to feel loved, supported and satisfied?”
If you find either or both of these questions difficult to answer, then you’re in a great relationship. Now, we may ALWAYS want more of good things, but it’s really about feeling content in the moment.
And if you realize you’re not in a great relationship, how DO you answer those questions? What is missing for you? What do you want and need more of to feel supported, loved and satisfied? Here’s the cool part: You have the power and capability to create those in your relationship!
IMPORTANT NOTE: If you find yourself saying to yourself “Damn it, I’ve settled.”, please don’t take this to mean you have to run off and find a new partner. You’ve settled in your relationship, not necessarily with your partner.
All relationships require energy. In a great relationship, it might be energy spent talking about the deep, heavy and meaningful stuff. It might be energy spent on doing something special for your partner – whether planning a date night or doing a project you know they’d appreciate having done. It might be energy spent honoring a commitment to them when you’d really like to take a nap. But in the end, the positive energy you’ve put in is an INVESTMENT into your relationship and it will not only come back to you, but will help grow and strengthen your relationship. It might be in the form of additional affection, of your partner understanding you more deeply, of working toward a mutual goal of taking that dream vacation.
In a “fine” relationship, the energy is spent wishing your partner would help more around the house or rub your feet or just be a space to listen and hold you when you had a rough day. The energy is spent managing your emotions and expectations. It’s spent resenting that you have to always handle the kids and never get a break, or justifying that it’s normal that he/she doesn’t “really” kiss you any more when he comes home from work because he/she is just too tired. That energy doesn’t move us forward. It just keeps us feeling small, powerless and exhuasted.
The first way that you get an opportunity to create a great relationship is simply to CHOOSE IT! We often feel stuck and powerless, but in reality, we get to choose just about everything for ourselves! It may be tempting to blame it all on your partner, but quite honestly, that’s probably not true. And even if it is, is blaming him/her getting you what you want?
Once you choose ‘A Great Relationship’ for yourself, then you commit to creating it. Go back to the list of the things that are missing and the things you’d like more of. Pick one of those things and then make a list of 3 ways you can make it happen.
Perhaps you said that you’d like more affection. Three ways to make that happen might be:
1. Cuddle with him/her on the couch during TV or movie time.
2. Hold his/her hand while out for a walk, in the car, running errands.
3. Take 30 seconds to really give them a sweet and meaningful hug and/or kiss.
Yup, I hear you saying, “But I’m doing all the work.” Mmmm….you’re taking the initiative. True. But aren’t you also getting affection? Do you really think that if you cuddled up to your partner on the couch that he/she would move away from you or that because you took the initiative, you wouldn’t get the benefit of cuddling? Or if you took his/her hand, that they wouldn’t smile and give it a squeeze and that the warmth of his/her hand wouldn’t feel just as good because you initiated it? Just as you want to know you’re loved and adored, so do they.
This article is meant to get you thinking about what you’d like for yourself in your relationship. Our romantic relationship is one of, if not THE, most impactful relationships in our lives. It affects every other aspect of our life and every one of us is deserving of having and being in a relationship we love! If you’d like some support in figuring out what that looks like for you and ways to create it your life, I’d love to be that support! I invite you to schedule a Get-Acquainted-Call to learn more about each other and how best I might be able to serve you! Fill out the 'Connect with Me' form on my page or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org