In this lesson, we will explore how your development as an individual within the couple is so important.
In this modern world, we seem to have less time and more to do. If you are a parent, you will know how big are the demands of your children, their schoolwork, their social life, their outside activities, etc. And we also have the recent COVID challenges on top of everything else. The landscape has changed for our children in terms of how safe the world is.
We need to be able to rely on our partners to support us and us them, but we also need to be strong within ourselves, and if we have a life outside of our families or our relationship is essential. Adding emotional demands to an already stressed partner will not benefit the marriage. This is why having good friendships and family relationships alongside marriage is so important.
When we first fall in love or enter a partnership, there is a process where our focus is almost entirely on the new lover. As time goes by, we slowly begin to integrate them into our lives, introduce them to our families, our friends, our interests, etc. This can be a trying process as this is where some deal breakers may come up. Relinquishing the territory of friendship, learning to share yourself with your partner and your friends and for them to share you is a typical area of potential conflict. Do not fall into the typical trap of giving up your friends to please your partner. Work towards having both, a partner may feel threatened by the closeness you have with your friends, but you can work on making them feel safe in this area. Make it a priority.
Similarly with your family. Your support system will serve the marriage and provide the sanctuary and the nurturing that will be a major contribution to your time together. Don't kill your life for the sake of the relationship; this will not work in the long term, unless you are a rare creature that can be satisfied long term through sacrificing yourself to others. Stay alive or Come alive as an individual, deepen your personal journey, bring the fruits of that journey into your love life. Negotiate for your space, negotiate for you.
Develop yourself. Happiness is about self-fulfillment; relationships are part of that, not the complete focus of that. Your partner cannot be fully responsible for your happiness, that is your job only. And of course, it is essential to encourage your partner to pursue their own development and not limit them or make them feel guilty. Give space and take space.
Your long term relationship may be the centre of your life, but how far out your life extends is up to you. And the more fulfillment, the happier you both will be.
But it is important to prioritise, to avoid being criticised as your relationship is primary, particularly if you are a parent. How you prioritise time together, shared interests, etc., is to be negotiated, not to be enforced. Everyone likes to feel important. There is room here for compromise when each other's preferences are taken into consideration.
I do want to mention mindfulness at this stage. I called this lesson stay awake, stay alive. Stay alive to your life, your needs as an individual, but how do you do that? One of the ways is mindfulness, and mindfulness helps across the board. McGill, , Adler-Baeder, & Rodriguez, .in (2016). In their study, 'Mindfully in love' showed that a relationship benefits when the people within it practice mindfulness. Mindfulness brings us into the moment. Takes our thoughts from the multitude of mind games, does he love me, do I look ok, what are we having for dinner tonight.
Having a practise of mindfulness can be as simple as taking five mins a day to stay in the moment, actively pay attention to what is happening right now. Relax into your breathing, focus on each breath, and seeing what you are feeling in your body, the sounds around you, etc. There are many mindfulness meditations available free on the internet to help you. This isn't anything weird or wacky this is basic science it is like a brain reboot. It's a brief pause in your day, and those few minutes will pay huge dividends, way more valuable than five minutes checking Facebook. There is really no comparison. With mindfulness practice, you will be able to pay better active attention to your partner, you will be more aware of how they are reacting: early responding to their concerns, you will be more present with your children, at work, and with friends. Mindfulness, free and quick pays, is really worth looking at.
We cannot discuss relationships without considering sex and intimacy and how to keep love alive, which we will look at next.