There’s an element to my current relationship that almost feels like it shouldn’t be there. It’s the element of discomfort, and it’s one of the best things to enter my life recently.

The most valuable things we can offer our partners are the things they struggle to generate as naturally as we do. In my case, I can provide stability and comfort which, by both my healthy family dynamic and my own nature, come very easily to me. In return my partner gives me chaos—of the good kind. It’s a playful energy that brightens even the tiniest, most mundane parts of our day. He reminds me that nothing is to be taken too seriously, but to cherish it all at the same time. Wistful ideas that come out of my mouth are spun into things we can do today, right now. Some sharks need to always keep moving so their gills can filter enough oxygen to avoid death—it’s as though he is built in the same way.

In the early months of my relationship I told my roommate that there was an intimidating quality to him that drew me in. It was nothing to do with how he treated me or the things he said, but the fact that he was such a go-getter that even standing near him whipped my ass collaterally. “Isn’t it a good thing, to feel a little bit uneasy?” I asked without much confidence. She didn’t think so.

I now know that for my own well-being, it isn’t stability I need from my relationships; I am good at providing that for myself. I need that fire, that energy that is triggered from outside of me because I grow too soft with anything less. Softer than I already am, I suppose. Coming out of a stagnant six-year relationship had felt like emerging from quicksand. The similarities I shared with my ex were pleasant, but ultimately for the worse—they absolutely killed any triggers for self-growth.

Since then, I’ve done more active self-growth in this past year and a half than I had done three years prior, if not more. And being around someone with a completely different drive than me has been a major push. When we went hiking this month, my partner pushed for us to scale a bit more even though my short legs struggled to climb the boulder. I said “you might need to give me an extra hand with this” to which he jokingly replied over his shoulder “nah, this is every man for himself”. But there was an honesty in his reply. Being so close to another person can inspire enormous self-growth due to the degree of insight and perspective it offers. I enjoy life, and feel it grows even bigger when there’s someone by my side.

We are who we are, and that’s fine, but we also need to remind ourselves how that limits us. Some people need stability and comfort from their relationships in order to grow, but can some of us need the opposite? Perhaps not necessarily dysfunction and insanity, but something more dynamic than stability? I am beginning to think so.

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