Sunday, January 27, 2013

Are You Stuck In The "Comfort Zone?"

Are You Stuck In The Comfort Zone - bored couple
My friend is stuck in this comfort zone where she expects disappointment because that is what is familiar to her. It is easier for her to stay in a terrible relationship than it is to go out in the world and open up to new, unfamiliar people.

The greatest threat to relationship potential is your comfort zone. 

Comfort zones are deceptive. On one hand they’re comfy, relaxing, and secure. On the other hand, they keep you from moving on, moving forward, or just moving in general. 

Your comfort zone encompasses whatever you’re most familiar with – your friends, job, family, living situation, etc. You know what to expect from your comfort zone. It’s always there for you and keeps you content. There are no surprises in your comfort zone.

Your relationship comfort zone is no different. Many people will either stay in a relationship, or pursue the same types of relationships, because it keeps them within the familiar relationship realm. It is easier to do what we know and pursue what is common to us, than to expose ourselves to the vulnerability that accompanies the unfamiliar. 

The relationship comfort zone comes in several shapes and sizes. Some comfort zones speak to relationship patterns that are seemingly harmless, while other comfort zones can have severe, and even abusive, outcomes. Here are a few examples of relationship comfort zones:

The “Bad Boy” Comfort Zone
Some women proclaim that they are only attracted to the “Bad Boy” types. My question is: are you really attracted to them as partners, or are the “Bad Boys” your comfort zone? 

Are you used to relationships where your boyfriend doesn’t call, doesn’t remember your birthday, and isn’t supportive (or is a complete jerk!)? The disappointment. the heartbreak. What’s new, right? You’re used to it. This is your comfort zone. 

What if you were in a relationship with someone who was emotionally, mentally, and physically there for you? Someone who wanted to help you grow? Someone who actually gets to know you? For many, this concept is so terrifying that it is easier to stay in a relationship where your needs and wants are ignored because you know exactly what to expect from your significant other.

Virtual Relationship Comfort Zone
New waves in technology and social media have carved a new comfort zone that is the Virtual Relationship. Text messages, emails, Facebook, Skype, Twitter and the plethora of other social outlets have created an opportunity for people to pursue relationships that are only validated electronically. 

I have a close friend who has been stuck in a virtual relationship comfort zone for years with the same guy. They share text messages, emails, and the occasional phone call, and that’s as far as the relationship goes. She does not receive any support, emotional or otherwise, from him and he often blatantly ignores her. It’s painful to watch, but she insists on maintaining this virtual relationship and swears that this guy has “sweet moments” – but sweet moments do not constitute a lifetime together. My friend is stuck in this comfort zone where she expects disappointment because that is what is familiar to her. It is easier for her to stay in a relationship of generic text messages than it is to go out in the world and open up to new, unfamiliar people. 

If you were with someone who actually got to know you, the real you (the good, the bad, and everything else), then you set yourself up for potential rejection. The fear of rejection or facing the idea that you’re not “good enough” by others is what keeps people in loveless and superficial relationships.

Routine Of Coupledom
Don’t call your comfort zone a “routine” and pretend it’s not an issue. If you’re unhappy with the routine of your relationship but are too scared/nervous/anxious to talk to your partner and do something about it, then you’re resistant to leaving your comfort zone. 

Not sure if this fits your relationship? Here are some comfort zone assessment questions:

-Do you and your partner spend more nights in your pajamas watching TV and less nights having sex than you used to? 

-Has your significant other lost interest in you? No more just-because flowers or surprise date nights? 

-Has the level of respect gone down and the level of attitude gone up?

-Is one person always the sex-initiator? 

-Is one person always the caretaker? 

If any of these questions strike a nerve, you’re at high risk of being stuck in the comfort zone. 

For many couples, it’s easier to avoid a problem than it is to fix it. The same is true for leaving the comfort zone. It’s easier to look-the-other-way and sweep it under the rug than it is to have a conversation that can challenge feeling and confront your “comfort.” 

To leave the relationship comfort zone, you first have to identify the problem(s) and why you need to step away from the familiar. Once you have identified the issue, whether it’s your routine, your lack of personal fulfillment, etc., accept that you’re going to feel anxious and uncomfortable challenging it. Know that fighting for what you want in life isn’t easy. Recruit your family and friends as a support system. Let them know of the changes you want to make and ask them to be there for you. 

The next step is to talk with your significant other, or seek relationship counseling, or secure a plan to leave the relationship (whatever your situation is). You must persevere to successfully leave your comfort zone and ensure that you are living the life that you want to live. Don’t let your comfort zone prevent you from experiencing a healthy, fulfilling relationship. 

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