It literally took me two decades to decode the mystery of happy relationships. I am in a relationship that is working for the first time in my life at age 43. I now believe in resilient love – one that withstands the test of time and the tyranny of egos. It is not a Hollywood romance. It is what they call a spiritual relationship. There are bumps that come up but much like working out at the gym, the sweat equity we willingly put into it pays off.
I couldn’t help but recognize what I am doing differently now to have what I have. I am excited about sharing these with you.
1) Protecting the relationship from our own egos
A deep connection that goes beyond physical attraction is not an everyday occurrence. It is easy to forget this. We can unknowingly and unintentionally erode the quality of the connection by putting our egos first. I have never come out of the “my ego vs yours battle” happy and fulfilled. Ever.
Our egos like to be right. We realize that we can’t both be right and not mess up the relationship we cherish and want to be in. Even though it doesn’t always come easy, we practice expressing what we need in a way that supports the relationship. When we don’t, we both suffer. Think of the relationship as if it is an innocent baby. The needs of the relationship (the baby) come first.
We all come into a relationship with our unhealthy patterns and wounding. There is no escaping that. In fact, there is so much gift in that. As the relationship progresses, these patterns reveal themselves. This is good news and it is how it should be. The key is to recognize that the same pattern will come up no matter who we are with. It brings a couple closer when they can act as a team and tackle the patterns that get in the way of a joyfully connected moment. Then we are not at opposing sides, we can be on the side of the relationship. This is extremely important to recognize.
2) Being willing to understand where your partner is coming from
We are all running our own versions of reality. My reality is true for me, even if he can’t see it. Yet, when I don’t communicate this reality is to him, he will respond to my reactions based on his own perception and wounding. I can’t change his perception – it is not my job. But I can facilitate it. I can help him see my side without making him wrong. Making it safe for him to share where he is coming from gives him the freedom to show up as who he is. It also gives me a chance to act with compassion and with a cooperative spirit. Doing the opposite pulls us apart and blocks our intimacy big time. This has been one of my hardest relationship lessons.
3) Supporting our healing by knowing each others’ vulnerabilities
As a relationship evolves, we become keenly aware of the other person’s vulnerabilities and wounding. To me, being tender with your partner’s delicate spots is true love. He knows my wounding and to be gentle with it. He makes a genuine effort to not pour salt over them while not making it his responsibility to heal me. He does it right 75% of the time. I let the rest go because one can be there for us 100% of the time. Expecting that is putting them in the role of the perfect parent, which actually does not exist. Giving your partner that responsibility and punishing them for not doing it is a death sentence. I learned this the hard way. If I get triggered into a younger emotional state, I own it, communicate it and leave it up to him to decide how to comfort me. We learn to adapt as we go and continue learning not to expect perfection.
4) Making sure to have time to play without discussing relationship topics
This was one of my biggest mistakes in my past relationships. I couldn’t help but be in process mode all the time. It was as if the relationship was a project that had a deadline to turn it in. In my past relationships, I had experienced firsthand how detrimental “all work no play” approach can be. Innocently, I believed that working on the relationship constantly could help us break these patterns faster. I was wrong. Dead wrong. It is the same on our personal growth journey. I learned that we heal with play and joy just as much as giving focused attention to our inner workings.
5) Remembering to offer our best selves to each other
Let’s get this straight: We are not perfect and never will be. At best, we are humans making a conscious effort to grow and become better version of ourselves. Recognizing this as a fact, we feel that offering our best self possible to each other is our responsibility in any given moment. I figure, if I am the only woman in his life who he has an exclusive intimate relationship with, then he deserves to have the best woman I can bring to the table. Again, we cannot expect perfection but celebrate progress as we see it come about.
All good relationships require work, intimate attention and personal responsibility. The challenges we face as we walk the path together become part of the beauty and joy of the relationship. Especially when we do it consciously and willingly. For this to happen, we must choose partners who are willing to recognize this reality. This is a great criterion to look for when choosing a partner. Most importantly, being a willing partner without waiting for the other to do it first is the key to a happy, growing, lasting relationship. I personally wouldn’t want it any other way.
Image courtesy of Savs.