Do Not Base Your Relationship on Pain! Eeks!

Dear readers, I often hear of people joining up together or bonding together as a couple because they have experienced similar pains/trials or have similar baggage.  They feel they understand what each other has gone through, which is oh-so-comfortable.  This negative part of their lives can easily become the main reason they feel connected and is often the topic of their conversations.

Doesn’t that sound familiar???

OK – this is not always necessarily a bad thing.

BUUUT may I kindly suggest that if PAIN & NEGATIVITY are the main reason two people are attracted together and the main reason two people feel comfortable with each other, that it might not be the best foundation for a relationship.

I learned this when I met Danny.  SO many people said to us, “Oh – how perfect that you both have been married before – – you guys will just be able to understand each other because of all that you have been through.”

Yes.  But that is not at all the reason we bonded.  That is not the reason we felt comfortable with each other.  Thankfully that is not the reason we were perfect for each other.

We felt attracted to each other because of the POSITIVE PATH we both were on, the lives we were living and wanted to continue living, and the respect and admiration we had for each other’s character.  The foundation of our relationship was not based on bonding over and rehashing the negative pain we had experienced.  In fact, we rarely even talked about that part or made it a focus of our conversations.  Instead, we talked about the wisdom we had gained and the love and positivity we were trying to cultivate in our lives.  And let me tell you – bonding over positive things makes for one beautiful foundation in a relationship. 🙂

Do you agree, disagree?  Would love to hear your thoughts!  

[Both on the post, and on Vans. 🙂 I’ve always kind of wanted a pair of Vans.]


Twitter @ablogaboutlove 
 (We so appreciate all the “likes”!  thank you.)
ABAL Book Club 
Babble Voices & The Equals Record

Get The About Love Experience


  1. Michelle Bunt April 24, 2013 at 11:53 am - Reply

    Hi Mara,
    I agree. I would take it one step further though (and many people will strongly disagree with what I say next I suspect) and say that if pain and/or negativity is the predominant focus in anyone's life, then they should not be in a romantic relationship until they work through that.
    I feel like starting or being in a relationship from a reactive place of victimhood, pain or negativity will only bring those issues into the relationship and cause pain to another person and ultimately to oneself.
    I feel like a relationship is a divine opportunity for two people to help each other grow to their fullest potential and become their best selves. But how can anyone be helping their partner get to that place if they live in a very different place? Cultivating love for ones self and learning how to choose one's emotions should therefore be the highest priority of any individual and once someone has achieved this then they are really are in a position to honour their mate.
    Talking about choosing one's emotions, Elizabeth Gilbert (author of Eat, Pray, Love) has a brilliant quote which says: "You need to learn to select your thoughts, just the same way you select your clothes every day." I just love that.
    Just think what amazing, sustainable, healthy relationships we could create if we all took responsibility for our own pain, and took time to do the healing work prior to entering a relationship. Just think how much hurt and anger and frustrations we could save people.
    Of course obviously we never reach a place where we are perfect. We are always going to come to a relationship with some imperfections. We can never be totally healed, totally positive. But I think when you have invested enough time and energy into yourself and your happiness, self-love and taking responsibility for yourself you do reach a point where you aware that most of the time you are sending positive love and positive energy into the world, and that you really know what it means and what it looks like to truly love someone.

    • Anonymous April 29, 2013 at 5:50 am - Reply

      Agree one hundred percent! The best time to seek out a relationship is when you feel you don't need one, meaning you aren't seeking out someone to fill where you are lacking! Amazing insight.

  2. Anonymous April 24, 2013 at 12:23 pm - Reply

    I 100% agree! I had a lot hard trials from growing up (think family members with addiction, family member in jail and crazy stuff like that) and once I was old enough to move out I knew I just wanted to separate myself from that as much as I could and move on! My husband has a wonderful, supportive family and didn't go through anything remotely like what I did. I'm not saying we never talk about it or interact with the people in my family with those problems, but I love that our relationship is based on positive and happy ideas and that we are more focused on the future rather than stuck in the past. I think the dangerous part of bonding over common trials is that you could get stuck in the past rather than living in the present or looking to the future.

  3. Anonymous April 24, 2013 at 1:36 pm - Reply

    Oh my gosh! Thanks for posting this today! This is so spot on in my life … even this morning! Thank you! Thanks again for a healthy perspective. :)- Amy

  4. Whitney Shepard April 24, 2013 at 2:24 pm - Reply

    Vans are the best. Get a pair ASAP.

  5. jessica renae April 24, 2013 at 3:38 pm - Reply

    I want to start by saying a really do love and appreciate so much of what you post on the blog. I practice some of the principles you teach and I believe a lot of them! However, every once in a while (and with this post), I often think there's just too much black and white. Saying a relationship where people are drawn to each other because of their struggles isn't as solid as a relationship where two people come together because of their good experience is just too narrow a view. Everyone has a different story. Some people come to life and positively alone, some come with their spouse and partner of many years (and oh the joy of that shared journey!), some come young and some old. Literally everyone has a different story and path and I believe that everyone's journey is equally important and worthy. I think this narrow view leaves out our agency a little bit. If two people are drawn together because of similar struggle, who's to say they can't CHOOSE to support each other and learn to grow from it together? Shared sorrow doesn't always equal a foundation on sorrow. Does that make sense?

    Again, love your blog. And sometimes I'm afraid a narrow view like this is isolating to people who are with their partner because of struggle. I believe they are just as worthy as those that enter relationships based on positive experience. The difference is what they choose to DO with their experience and relationship.

  6. heidikins April 24, 2013 at 4:14 pm - Reply

    This is exactly the reason why I hate the idea of Peeta and Katniss being together in the Hunger Games. #StillTeamGale


  7. Camille April 24, 2013 at 4:41 pm - Reply

    I couldn't agree more! I dated a guy shortly after my divorce based on the fact we were both divorced. Luckily I was mentally healthy enough to see that was where we were bonding and not so great in other ways. I'm thankful to be married to a man without those issues who supports me and my pain, but doesn't bond with me or allow me to wallow in the sadness!

  8. Miggy April 24, 2013 at 7:00 pm - Reply

    I like the overall idea here. After one particularly horrible break-up I was pretty emotionally raw. The first couple of dates I went on afterwards I ended up sharing my recent experiences on the first dates. It was still so fresh and such a part of my recent life experiences that I'm not sure I could have NOT shared it. But I think that was also a sign that I wasn't ready to move on yet. When I met my now husband it was a while before I shared that experience–due to what I had endured I felt it was important I share it, but I was also in a completely different, positive, the-world-is-my-oyster place in my life. It's basically this experience and the similarities to your story that draws me to your blog so much. I remember that crushing pain so well, but also great and wonderful strides I was making in my life personally. It was really a beautiful time in my life. I will say, that I think 2 people who bond over pain can go on to have a great relationship, if they are able to move past that pain and find new things they love together.

    Also, I love my old skool vans. I was going through my closet a couple months ago and getting rid of some stuff. I drove the box to goodwill, but at the last second I grabbed my vans out before I handed it over… Just couldn't let go yet. They were from my college years and I honestly haven't worn them in years but I still love 'em.

  9. Anonymous April 24, 2013 at 10:13 pm - Reply

    umm Yes. My sister married a guy who after a few months told her not to bother to come back. For some reason she felt the need to only date divorced men/ seemed drawn to them thinking that was what was best. Has Dated three divorced guys since and almost married one and they were all no good.

  10. Virginia April 25, 2013 at 5:04 am - Reply

    I agree with the general idea. A solid relationship should absolutely be founded on attraction and positivity and not just a common pain. That said, being able to share a common pain/struggle with your partner and bond through shared vulnerability and comfort is SO crucial to a healthy relationship. And haven't we all experienced much pain?! Whether we can even acknowledge our pain or not, it's there for most of us: feeling unworthy, lacking confidence, struggling with emotional intimacy. I think maybe what you're getting at is that perhaps the feeling of being able to talk to a person with a similar pain–serving as something more similar to therapy than as a romantic partnership–can temporarily overpower the realization that the relationship is lacking attraction and shared values. Or perhaps if pain is the main emphasis, the two people have yet to do the personal work needed to be ready for intimacy. But, relationships can also be quite healing and transformational! The flip side is true as well: a relationship ONLY founded on positivity that ignores the ability of the partners to communicate negative feelings (anger, sadness), struggles, and pain will be detrimental as well.

  11. patrick johnson April 25, 2013 at 7:40 am - Reply you inspred me to start my own here….thanks

  12. Melissa Leo April 25, 2013 at 11:44 am - Reply

    Agreed. The pain associated with relationships has more to do with fear, than love, if there was love there wouldnt be a need for pain, only understanding. The pain comes from the fear of being misunderstood, the fear that your arent doing something right, the fear that they lose interest, the fear they never cared, the fear that they might hurt them, and worst: the fear that they were never loved. And nice shoes by the way;)


  13. Anonymous April 25, 2013 at 1:45 pm - Reply

    I agree that a relationship should not be be focused on pain but pain can certainly be a (small) part of a meaningful relationship ~~ many romantic and friendship relationships bud and blossom because of a shared commonality. I think choosing to NOT acknowledge the pain or sadness would be worse to the relationship. Every relationship is unique and that's the great thing about LOVE ~~ it's amazing to see what is transforming to some would never work for others. It's important for all of us to be OPEN and accepting. I think your intentions were well but just would not want someone's heart to be hurt with the "right and wrongness" of this message. ~~ If that makes sense ~~

  14. Anonymous April 25, 2013 at 2:53 pm - Reply

    Mara, I'm wondering if you could do a post demonstrating a dialogue/thought process that someone who chooses happiness would have when they are in a marriage where their spouse is critical. What do you do if your spouse tells you they will be happy with you if you just do X,Y,Z. Those are things you have tried to change, but can't seem to quite get. For me, it's a clean house. The deal is, our house is not a pigsty. But it's also not Martha Stewart's house. I have small children, and I think I do a decent job. But my husband is never satisfied. The criticisms really tear me down, drain me emotionally. I have struggled with this for years. I want to change, but I also believe that will not make him happy. What if it is something you can't change (for example, for some people it could be appearance). If you are trying to love them to help them, do you try to change for them? Do you just love them, and blow off their criticisms? Thank you.

    • LuAnn April 29, 2013 at 5:35 pm - Reply

      A great book to read about this is Hold Me Tight, by Sue Johnson.

  15. ginger from the style of being April 25, 2013 at 5:53 pm - Reply

    I don't have much to say on relationships, my experience being shockingly limited. But I love your focus on sharing positives. It's a good way to go about any human interaction and I was inspired today by the reminder.

    Oh…and I want a pair of vans too. Seriously, if my closet were full to brimming with vans, chucks and keds, I would be a very happy woman.

  16. scgrits April 25, 2013 at 7:00 pm - Reply

    Oh, I am a Vans girl. I had 13 pairs at one time. I blame it on being Filipino.

  17. LuAnn April 29, 2013 at 5:40 pm - Reply

    Yes, it is so important that we deal with pain in a healthy way, especially in relationships. And so powerful to draw strength from each other. I think the tricky thing is that we can't always control when we'll meet someone special. I think you can feel pain, healing, joy, bonding, and strength all at the same time. Great discussion!

  18. Kristen April 30, 2013 at 10:16 pm - Reply

    Caroline Myss refers to bonding over our pain as speaking "wound-ology." We do better in relationships when we learn to speak another language.

Leave A Comment