Stuck on the Challenge

Posted on November 16, 2010

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No one can figure her out. She’s the kind of woman who just doesn’t give clear signals. Flirty one minute, aloof the next, she’s the kind of person who cancels potential dates at the last minute and doesn’t seem to feel the need to apologize for it.

He’s a hard nut to crack. He’s emotionally distant and often seems distracted by something else in his life-an ex-girlfriend or a consuming work project-and he rarely gives you the time of day. He exudes very important and doesn’t have a lot of time to get to know anyone.

Or maybe it’s not their personality. Maybe it’s something else all together.

A dramatic (and yet not complete) divorce, a long distance between their home city and yours or a time-consuming career. Whatever it is, it makes them very challenging to be with, nearly impossible actually, but you love that.

Why? Because you’re stuck on the challenge.

You eat challenges for breakfast and that habit of yours has served you well in other areas. You’re willingness to take on challenges has landed you deals no one else could pull off, awesome promotions, high-paying executive jobs, and admiration from your friends and colleagues.

It’s given you the stamina and strength to deal with difficult people and to push yourself farther physically than most people (When’s that next marathon?) Your love of challenges has given you a lot. And in relationships, it’s given you an abundance of disappointment.

The problem here is not your love of challenges. Look at the great things that have happened in your life because you weren’t afraid to face difficult things and people. Loving challenges is not what’s keeping you stuck.

You are stuck because you don’t know when to stop loving challenges.

Challenges at work can be excellent avenues for professional growth. Challenging physical activities can kick your butt into the best shape of your life. Challenging classes and degrees can transform your intellectual landscape.

But challenging romantic partners? Not so great. Awful, actually. Because big, challenging people don’t work in healthy, romantic relationships.

Healthy partnerships serve as a sanctuary from the stress of the world. Healthy relationships are a place where you feel like you can let down your guard, and be yourself, and receive support because you’re facing a challenging world. They are the place where you can rest and be restored from the inevitable difficulties of life.

If you’re drawn to challenging romantic partners, then of course your romantic relationships will be challenging. And if your romantic relationships are just one more challenge in your challenging world, when will you get a chance to just be?

Exactly. You won’t. You’ll be too busy dealing with all of your challenges to ever really get a chance to enjoy your life.

For years, I was stuck on challenging relationships. I loved challenging jobs, challenging adventures and yes, unfortunately, challenging people as well. This resulted in years and years of being in challenging relationships. It was almost as if I sought them out. The more challenging someone was, the more I wanted to be with him.

As I was complaining to a girlfriend one day about my newest romantic challenge, she asked me something I’ve never quite forgotten: If you’re the one who has to fight the challenges in your relationships, when do you get a chance to rely on someone else? Who’s fighting for you?

Answering this question helped me make a much-needed paradigm shift. If you answer this question, you may discover an interesting shift happens as well.

The people who help us with our challenges and our problems are the people with whom we have sacred relationships. The people who give us more challenges and problems may be inevitable fixtures in our lives, but they certainly don’t deserve to be part of our romantic ones.

In my next post, I’ll discuss some ways you can stop attracting challenging partners into your love life.

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Posted in: Feeling Stuck