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Maintaining a Healthy and Loving Relationship
by Michele Germain, LCSW
Most of us want to fall in love, be in love and stay in love and magically live happily ever after… as the story goes. We merge placing our soul in the hands of the other expecting that the relationship will provide all our happiness. We even expect our partner to know exactly what, when and how to provide this.
But fulfilling relationships do not happen automatically and they don’t happen when the relationship is driven by a need rather than caring. If the relationship is going to grow we must give it our time and attention. We must each give to the other and not just be focused on what it is that we need. But often the relationship gets puts aside as the daily task of life take over. We barely have time for ourselves with our life schedule, work schedule or kid’s schedules, let alone making time to focus on and give to our partner. We become distracted and tension builds up each person feeling that his/her needs for intimacy are not getting met. Each partner is waiting for the other to do something about it.
When a long time has gone by without intimacy, neither one wants to make the first move toward the other. (I call this the big stand off) Reaching out by either person does not take place. I see this so often in my psychotherapy office with couples who have not taken responsibility and brought to the relationship what was needed. What happens then is that there is a great deal to clean up that has been swept under the rug. I have to work at pealing away minor and major conflicts, disagreements, hurts, before I can get to the core problem which is that each person’s core need to be loved and cared for is not getting met.
We all recognize that we need to tune up our cars, but we do not think of tuning up our relationships. We take more time with our homes, painting, fixing, redecorating, reconstructing etc. but we do not take the time with our relationships. Tensions then build up.
As with anything we aspire to, the more we put in the more we will get back. Look, for example, at a plant’s life. Plants need care in order to survive and grow. They need water, fertilizer, light and air. If we do not give them these essential elements they will wither and die. Relationships are no different, they need certain essential elements in order for them to grow and proper or they too may die on the vine.
Couples need romantic time and fun together, they need a sense of security and commitment, and they need meaningful communication. This will keep the spirit in the relationship and allow each to open to the other to the point where intimacy can occur.
Here are some ways to achieve these essential elements so you can maintain a healthy and loving relationship. Integrate them into your daily life as best you can, but start today.
1) Developing romantic and fun time together. Set up your schedule to include time together. Be realistic with the amount of time your set aside. It is very important to be consistent. If you only have one hour a week, than do not plan a full day. Consistency built trust and connection lays the foundation of a healthy relationship. Both of you need to participate in deciding how and when to spend time together.
2) Developing a sense of security and commitment. Security is assurance we feel when we know someone is committed to love and values us. It’s a sense that whatever conflicts or problems we have we will be fully committed to finding the solution and working together in partnership. We show our affection in little ways throughout the day with a phone call from the office or a hug when our partner returns home, or leaving a loving note on his/her car. Giving complements and expressing gratitude when your partner does something for you as simple as taking the dishes out of the dishwasher goes a long way.
3) Establishing meaningful communication. We do this by being open and honest with who we are and what we feel. We make request instead of demands, we watch our tone, and listen carefully to our partner. We share our hopes and dreams. We do this hopefully from a place of peace rather than a place of fear or blame. We express our ideas and goals for the relationship and our individual goals. We help to empower each other to fulfill our full potential and we work together to fulfill the potential of the relationship. Empowering means that we give encouragement support and believe in the other, maybe before they believe in themselves
Changing your relationship will take discipline, intention and courage. Be patient with yourself, praise yourself for all your efforts and listen to your soul sing. As we love others we are connecting with our true essence and being who we really are. If relationships are based on getting our needs met instead of by caring they are not likely to bring happiness.
Michele Germain, LCSW, is a psychotherapist and certified bioenergetic analyst with over twenty-five years of experience. As a specialist in divorce recovery for the last decade, she has written articles and conducted workshops on the topic, and has been interviewed on television and radio programs. More information on her work can be found at www.michelegermain.com.