For your relationship to be effective and successful, you must view it as a sanctuary – there is you and your partner and then the rest of the world. Learn to be flexible with one another and coexist as distinct individuals at the same time. Your relationship is like building a bridge together. You start off at one end while your partner is at the other end. Both of your efforts in ensuring that bridge is sturdy, safe, and strong is what constitutes the unbreakable bond.
Most of us would agree that relationships are important to human survival. We need each other for increased support, stability, procreation, and most importantly for emotional wellbeing and emotional intelligence, which are enhanced through the relationships we construct in our lives. We are also wired for love and affection since the growth and development of our brain is boosted by healthy emotional interactions during the early years of our life. We continue creating meaningful relationships by learning how to reciprocate and maintain love and affection, which is traditionally viewed as having successful relationships.
I would like to provide an alternative framework of how we perceive the success or lack thereof of our relationships. There are things in life that are easily measured in terms of how well we do. For instance, we have a system to measure our academic success by receiving grades from our instructors. Similarly, at work, we get paid and if we do well we receive bonuses or salary raises.
But how do we measure success of our relationships? Because it involves more than just us the individual, it gets a bit more complex. Do we ask ourselves how many days during the week we are “happy” being around each other or do we simply base our understanding of whether or not we have a wonderful relationship when we receive feedback from others? These are certainly ways that some satisfy their need for reassurance. But perhaps measuring is not the right approach when it comes to our relationships. In essence, we should not be looking for specific things that can be measured – we simply are and learn to be. We continuously evolve with each other through each other and work towards oneness independently.
In my work with couples, I like to discuss how this concept of ‘growing with the relationship’ really works. We must develop an understanding that in order for two separate and individual minds to be in sync, they need to continuously be in charge of building and strengthening this bridge that connects the two of them together. Below are some key factors in creating and maintaining fervent relationships.
- Create distance from each other. Plan your days and weeks to be apart from each other just as you plan spending time with each other. This planned, temporary separation creates a very healthy and much needed space to be you with your independent self. It’s similar to the notion that you were created to eventually individuate and learn to be away from your primary attachment figures (e.g. your parents). In our initial stages of development, we are very dependent on another human being. However, for us to continue growing into healthy adults and staying healthy we need to learn how to be with ourselves and feel safe by thinking, longing for, and even feeling the person whom we love while they are not with us physically.
- Establish structured time for each other with each other – You have heard of “date nights!” Life gets busy and we get used to brushing our loved ones away when we have to attend to things like work, kids, grocery shopping, and paying bills. Unless we put our loved ones first on our list they may end up at the bottom of the list. In other words, both giving each other space and prioritizing your other half to devote special time with are key in maintaining a healthy balance. For this to work properly, it should be planned ahead of time by the both of you and maybe even written in your calendars in order for it to remain consistent regardless of anything else that might pop up. Think about it this way, when we plan our other important engagements, such as work meetings, our ‘to-do’ list, we inadvertently may not allow other things to come in between. In other words, kids, double dates with others, and other family members can have their separate times, yet keeping your special time with your partner away from everything else you have going for you should be a priority to establish and maintain a healthy relationship.
- Avoid doing things because you have to – How many of us feel the “pressure” to buy a gift for our partner because it is our anniversary or my all-time favorite, the ‘Valentine’s Day commotion’. This creates an unnecessary sense of expectation and obligation (expectation for the receiver and obligation for the giver). I ask the question ‘why?’ and I propose for you to do the same. There is a simple equation to this: if taking material ‘stuff’ out from what you have together as a couple in its pure form makes a difference either positive or negative, then re-evaluating the premises of what your relationship is based on should follow.