Relationships are tough. But connection is vital to our existence as cohabiting creatures on this planet.
Most recently, I have reflected on relationships that did not necessarily go how I had hoped. I tried to illuminate the common thread amongst these relationships, and it came down to being an addition or an extension…
Consider the word “addition”. What comes to your mind? A room someone built on the back of a house that is not original to the house or the plus sign in math? What I picture is a path where another lane merges into a larger path. You are simply running along the path and are met by another runner when the paths converge. So, you begin to run together.
An addition alludes to a partnership where two people are in equal contribution, and the intention is growth both collectively and individually.
Healthy relationships look like additions. One person is living their life and then decides to invite another person to enjoy life alongside them. Each person has forward momentum ignited by their passion and contributing to their growth– passions and growth that began prior to the partnership. This partnership allows for both individuals to reach further distances through support and new perspectives.
This does not mean that you or your passions or your life course cannot mold or change while in an “addition” relationship. In fact, this is likely to happen. Also, this does not mean that all addition relationships last forever. Partnerships, even healthy ones, can be temporary. Sometimes there is a lesson to be learned or an awakening to be had, of which relationships sometimes are the best teacher or facilitator.
This is what I found most of my “failed” relationships (relationships that did not go as I had hoped) had in common. When I think of an extension, I think of a water puddle that has begun to trickle out from one spot to become attached to another puddle. One puddle is feeding into and filling up the other puddle.
An extension is a relationship where one or both partners attempt to merge with the other in order create their identity by fulfilling another’s gaps.
An extension relationship is sometimes masked with good intention. Maybe someone wants support through a tough transition. Maybe someone feels insecure and craves reassurance. Maybe someone doesn’t know their next career move and is looking for inspiration. Maybe someone did you a favor, and you feel indebted to them. Maybe someone is alone or sick, and you feel capable and available.
I resonate with all of those examples. Every time though, I have lost myself. I pour myself endlessly into a relationship and invest wholeheartedly from a place of love. But because the other person has no stake in the relationship and no investment, they can so easily leave. Then, the pain feels so deep and personal, because I am empty and alone and exhausted.
Be an Addition, not an Extension
Easier said than done, right? I had to seriously evaluate the relationships in my life. I was able to decipher whether I was an addition or extension when I looked at the exchange of investment. The relationships where there is a mutual investment means that I am more than just an extension of that person. I am not just filling a gap in their life. I am an addition to their life, and they are a contribution to my life.
It is important to acknowledge here that everyone is a contribution. I used to think that I was unworthy of connection, so I found myself in a lot of relationships where I was an extension. I didn’t allow people to support me.
I subconsciously wanted to prove that I was abandon-able by creating my own abandonment- how crazy is that! I grasped onto this idea that I deserved abandonment from a young age and spent a majority of my life subconsciously trying to prove that negative, unproductive belief. That’s what our mind does- it involuntarily seeks information to prove our fundamental beliefs. It wasn’t until recently that I became aware of this thought pattern to which I am now trying to deconstruct. I would pour myself into a relationship and not allow the person to support me out of fear that they would leave. Support requires vulnerability, but I was not willing to commit to being vulnerable (although I craved authentic connection which requires some form of vulnerability). Because I did not allow them to support me, they did not feel invested and easily left.
My fear of abandonment led to abandonment, because what you resist persists. You must allow people to support you. This is a very humbly yet essential part of being in a healthy, addition relationship. I have found that support is the common denominator amongst all of my healthy relationships– where I am both a giver and a receiver of support.