My husband and I recently celebrated 21 years together, yes 21 years since our very first kiss. Some hear this and are immediately appalled, “21 years with the same person?” While others are in awe, “21 years with the same person?” Same words, very different tone and meaning!
I think its pretty safe to say that everyone, whether in a relationship or not is in agreement that relationships are challenging, you have to consider another human being in everything, make allowances, create space and accommodate the needs of someone other than yourself.
Based on some recent learning, what ultimately decides the fate of a relationship (and by this I don’t simply mean will it survive or not, I also mean will it be a healthy, fulfilling, thriving relationship) is determined by how you both show up in the relationship for example if one person is doing all of the above and the other isn’t… you might still get ‘forever after’ but ‘happily’ is highly unlikely.
There are a few key factors that need to be addressed if a relationship is going to stand the test of time and they are really not that complicated, in fact the first one is super simple – eradicate the idea of perfection in a relationship, it is unattainable and super dysfunction to strive for!
The second thing is we need to get real with ourselves and what we bring to the relationship, yes we are pretty great but that’s not enough for someone to want to be with us forever is it? However if we focus on our partner, on how we can make their lives more meaningful and enriched for having us in it then that just might.
Of course like most things in a relationship reciprocity is key, by this I do not mean a score keeping tactic of, ‘if I do this for you then you do that for me’, reciprocity in the relationship context means, ‘I will show you love, compassion and respect in a way you need to feel safe/secure in our relationship and you in return will show me in a way I need to feel safe/secure in our relationship’.
Obviously for a couple to successfully engage relationship reciprocity first you need to know what the hell each other needs in the first place, which brings us to the classic relationship advice of communication… easy for some while others would opt for pins under their nails! Communication in order to maintain a healthy relationship doesn’t have to be scary.
Some simple tips to get you started:
Identify your ‘love language’. We all give and receive love in different ways so you might be effectively talking different languages. I highly recommend reading the book and taking the 5 Love Languages® assessment to discover your love language and begin improving your relationships. https://www.5lovelanguages.com/
Share what the end game looks like. Things might be great now but work out what you are both wanting from life in 10, 20 or even 30 years from now. You might have different ideas on how to get there but if you can at least hold onto the fact that you are both working towards the same goal it helps ride some of those inevitable bumps in the road.
Find your relationship role models. Unfortunately not many of us come from happy functional families which means many of us don’t grow up with great relationship role models to learn from. If you don’t know what a healthy, functional, loving relationship looks like then how can you achieve it? As a couple take some time to think about who you might be unconsciously modelling off and then together find role models you can both agree on that have the kind of relationship you both want.
Be prepared to do the work. We all come into relationships as individuals with our own thoughts, opinions, ambitions etc and time doesn’t stop when one becomes two so its only logical that we will continue to grow and change as time goes on. You both need to be prepared to continue to learn and grow yourself so you continue to be the best version of yourself and you also need to support your partner to do the same. In the simplest of sense your partner should never want to change you to be someone you’re not but you should want to change to be a better you and a better partner!
Hold the space. We all process information and change at different rates and in different ways, so it is crucial when having important conversations both parties have the time they need to process the information and articulate their response appropriately. Rather than jumping to conclusions when you don’t get the response you expected or wanted, hold the space for your partner to process the conversation in their own time. Not everyone can process quick fire questions and decision making, you may need to put a pin in the conversation and come back to it.
My husband and I have had an amazing 21 (and counting) years together, neither of us is perfect but I believe the main reason we have gotten through those pesky ups and downs is that when things got really hard we were both willing to look inward and identify where we needed to grow which leads me to my final tip… when things get really hard, I mean the, ‘what the hell am I still doing here’ hard, before you throw in the towel and head for the door, stop, take a good look in the mirror and ask yourself if you are honestly giving the very best of yourself to this relationship? Because if you know you can do better then do it now in this relationship, don’t plan to do it better in the next one!
Call to action: If you would like to know more about how working with a personal coach can help you show up in a more meaningful way in your relationships please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Rebecca Matthews, The Mind and Body Co