Jane grew up in a family in which her parents fought constantly. Father was successful, narcissistic and dominating and mother was kind, compassionate but mostly played the role of ‘doormat.’
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Jane’s position was the middle child and she grew up seeing fighting between her mother and father as the norm. She knew when she grew up she would never have such an antagonistic and abusive relationship with her partner
In her mid-thirties when Jane found the man she ended up marrying, within the first couple of years she had her first child and found herself fighting with her husband in ways that seemed all too familiar. Except rather than being the doormat, she played the role of aggressor and she didn’t like the person she had become.
As the fighting became more frequent and intense, they finally sought couples therapy/coaching and discovered new ways to begin connecting with each other. They learned that conflict was okay and a necessary part of any relationship but the way they resolved their differences needed to change.
Building more love into your intimate relationships
Love is one of the most powerful human emotions and drivers of behavior. While there are many kinds of love, intimate or romantic relationships are typically the most meaningful.
Being able to sustain healthy, loving relationships does not come naturally to most of us. The ability to have a strong and stable relationship begins in infancy with the child’s basic needs for food, protection, care, stimulation, comfort and social support.
This early life experience is when our patterns of relating to others becomes embedded in the brain. Disappointments and failed relationships often happened even under the most well-intended circumstances.
Even coming from a disturbing childhood does not condemn one to unhealthy relationships and an inability to find intimacy. The truth is that most of us need to commit to learn and consciously master the skills necessary to make our intimate connections with our partner thrive.
6 Keys to building a more loving partnership:
1. Mutual Respect.
Mutual respect is key to sustaining a healthy relationship. This does not mean that you and your partner agree with each other on everything, but that you are on each other’s side.
Dr. John Gottman, a pioneer in studying couples and marriage can predict with more than 90% accuracy whether or not a couple will make it for the long haul. His predictions were based on observing the way couples treated one another.
Gottman’s research reveals that a high degree of criticism, contempt, stonewalling and defensiveness leads to the demise of a partnership.
2. Slow down.
Mindfulness or meditation practice is a way to slow down what we are feeling inside especially when we feel triggered in the relationship.
Meditation gives us some distance on the triggered emotion and allow us to find some equanimity in relation to difficult or scary emotions.
Once we get a grip on our emotions, we can treat ourselves with more kindness and compassion. We’re better positioned to connect with our partner rather than push him or her away. We can also share what we’re truly experiencing rather than lashing out with rage, blame or withdrawal.
3. What lies beneath the disconnect?
The tendency to act out, criticize, attack or express discontent in any one of a number of ways often tells us more about ourselves than our partner.
Once you develop the ability to slow down you can ask yourself, “What am I really feeling?” “Why am I so provoked by his/her behavior?”
Many of us say that we want intimacy but in fact we’re terrified by it. It could be that anger, disappointment, or criticism is our way of creating a wedge between us and our partner so that we don’t have to expose our vulnerability. We protect ourselves from not being hurt by staying distant for one reason or another.
4. Common goals and values
Couples from different cultural backgrounds or religions can certainly have healthy relationship. Sharing basic values and core beliefs is what makes for a healthy relationship.
The values and beliefs ideally while not the same have a general alignment that mean you are a team in the way you approach your extended family, community, child rearing, finances, etc. Working together towards something bigger than the two of you strengthens your bond.
5. Stand in your courage
It often take great courage to tolerate certain feelings even the ones we think we want. We want to feel loved and to express love yet this means risking being hurt or disappointed.
There are no guarantees that when we love someone we will be met by the same feelings. Yet when we stand in our truth and act courageously we tap into a higher consciousness that makes us stronger and more authentic.
Loving relationships require a leap of faith on both sides. While scary, this is where we find the ‘keys to the kingdom’—in our vulnerability and in our willingness to risk being hurt.
6. Fun and laughter
Making the time to laugh and have fun together is deeply bonding. It’s an important way to take the seriousness out of everyday life.
It is inevitable that we will all experience pain, loss and challenges in our lives. Developing the capacity to play and lighten up allows us to become more resilient, hopeful and to love more freely.
What do you do to strengthen your partnership, your relationship or your friendships.
As always, I’d love to hear your comments and feedback.