We aren't taught how to have great relationships in school, and it would be great if we were. We model our relationships on our parent's attempts, sometimes successful, sometimes not. We are in reaction to our own childhood experiences, unconsciously allowing these to dominate our behaviour, and we follow what the culture influences us to believe is the right way to be…all together a formula for chaos and disaster trying to make sense of all of that! No wonder it seems so hard at times.
Once we enter into a partnership without due diligence, without awareness of why we are doing what we are doing, we then need to find ways to adapt to the less than ideal situation we find ourselves in, to review and re-invent our connection. This is the situation most of us get into, as being in love is a state of intoxication that can lead us into permanent relationships without an objective perspective. Or we get together when we don't have the maturity to assess if the potential for a good relationship is there. For some of you, this is why relationships may have failed previously or why you are looking to find solutions to unhappy current unions. Many times partners just dissociate, becoming more and more distant and less engaged as the space between grows irreparably large and then finally breaks completely.
So what do you want?? Because once you know, you can initiate what you want, not anticipate what will happen to you. You may have more of a chance to take control and have power in how your relationship develops by understanding what works.
Relationships need work; by getting involved with another person, you are automatically getting involved with a set of their problems. We all have them, there is no such thing as a baggage-free relationship. We need to invest in our partnerships, and it really helps if there are external structures like extended family, friendships, and community to support.
Recent research shows that actively working on your relationship is a major factor in a long-lasting happy union. This requires commitment as the fundamental glue…a commitment to staying in the relationship, not just physically but emotionally. And to ensure your partner knows you are committed, it isn't just a given; there will be little clues or signs like saying 'I love you', gestures of affection, genuine compliments. Paying attention to their needs and preferences, making plans for the future, and sharing the burden of life together.
Avoid some key behaviours. Don't be a constant critic, and don't point fingers at their personality or character. You can discuss their behaviour and how this affects you, but people are who they are, and unless we want to change ourselves, partners are not going to be able to do this for us. Trying to stay open when our partner throws light on our troubling behaviour can be very painful, avoiding bolting behind our protective walls is really hard to do. We built these walls for a reason. It is so much easier to hide behind the wall or to fight back, act superior or become the victim-blaming the other for 'hurting' us when in fact, something individual to us, something about our childhood or previous experiences, is being triggered. This is where knowing yourself is so important to being able to work out the fuel behind the triggers and reactions you are having.
Much relationship research indicates that a positive attitude is what keeps relationships alive—so having the belief that you are in a positive relationship full of love and support, emphasising what you have and not what you don't. Allowing your partner to feel they are good enough and not lacking and fundamentally being there when they need you at all times.
Communication can sometimes be so hard, especially when we are navigating our way through our unconscious motives and unknowable fears. To think we humans have vocal cords and mouths, big brains, and a huge vocabulary at our disposal, and yet finding the right words at the right time feels like an impossible juggling task worthy of the greatest circus act.
Before we move on, you may want to reflect on your typical reactions to conflict. Are you a blamer, a criticiser, a stonewaller, or do you do the I'm better than you act?
On a more positive note, what gestures of love do you most commonly use, making cups of tea, little kisses, and hugs, thoughtful presents, initiating romantic adventures, or none of the above?
So now let's look at improving our communication in more detail in the next lesson.