Okay, ladies and gentlemen, I have an axe to grind. I see it all the time around me, every day – without fail.
I know that it's the natural self-preservation instinct to protect yourself. Survival is, after all, the goal of natural selection – and scientifically speaking – life itself.
It isn't however, all that there is
What I'm not so transparently talking about here is the dynamic that I see in relationships and love in general where people want to have a partner and a satisfying relationship, but aren't willing to get hurt. Or make mistakes, or be honest with each other. They expect to receive all the emotional benefits and rewards of confiding in other people, but do not reciprocate, or render themselves vulnerable. They aren't willing to have difficult or awkward conversations.
The reality is that all relationships face two pieces of advice in response to these problems. One – you communicate honestly and talk things through.
Or, somewhat sombrely, failing that – you can only break up
There's no point entering into or continuing a relationship that implicitly isn't going anywhere. If you aren't willing to commit to each other or power through the hard times, then what are you even doing? Maybe you don't know what you want out of a relationship, and that's fine. But the other person might, and you have to respect that you might not be compatible at the moment. If they're in it for the long haul and are ready to get hurt and open their hearts to you, you have to either do the same in return or break it off. It's just wasting everyone's time if not.
If you aren't making mistakes in relationships, you aren't really in one. Not a proper, mature, two-way, adult relationship. Often, the biggest tell of a secure relationship is arguing. I know it sounds counterintuitive, but honestly, if you are willing to bicker and complain about each other – with the goal of learning from this and not making the other person uncomfortable anymore – then that's the golden standard. If you don't tell your Person when you aren't feeling great, or if you feel neglected, how can they improve? How can you resolve that if you don't communicate it?
Answer: you can't
Therefore, a good tester is to reflect on your relationship and wonder what your arguments are like. If you're still in the honeymoon phase and everything is perfect, then maybe wait it out a little until your first argument naturally arises. I'm obviously not suggesting here that you go out of your way to pick a fight. That would be emotionally masochistic and self-destructive. But if you're in a long-term relationship and never argue, that's not because there aren't problems.
It might just mean that neither of you is sufficiently invested in the relationship to get to the root of the problems. To make things right, you have to talk them through and do some solid soul searching. No one immediately knows what they want in this life. But you have to do some of the wrong things to realise what then feels right. You have to make mistakes to realise what you want. And finally, you have to look your mistakes in the eye to be a better partner.
This means getting vulnerable
Opening your heart. Accept the fact that it will probably break.
But it will mend over time. And it'll be stronger and more resilient and more known when going into another relationship.
Make the grand gesture – accept that it might not work out how you think.
Ask them out, knowing full well they could say no
Go to the singles mixer, aware that you might be disheartened.
In short – you have to screw up to build up again.
If you do nothing, you will end up with nothing.
If you don't let your heart out to play for a bit, you might forget how to use it when the time comes.