How to Have A Healthy Relationship
With Valentine's Day just around the corner, we are about to get bombarded with messages about creating the perfect Valentine's Day date for your beloved. But the truth is, love isn't nourished only one day a year. Love is an action. It's a lifestyle. It's a way of being in relationship to your partner/s friends and the world around you. Love can thrive in any manner of relating, not just intimate, sexual partnerships. In fact, much I what I have learnt about relationships and loving multitudes of people, is through some of my friendships. Granted, the friendships I have tend to be very rich, deep, and powerful. Qualities many reserve only for a lover, which like everything else in love, is a choice. But when we recognize that love is in fact infinite and co-created, it allows us to think more creatively about our relationships, what they mean to us and how we want them to be. Over the years I have loved and continue to love many people (often at once) I have learned that love is not a finite resource. There is plenty to go around. But when love hurts, there are a few reasons that drive most relationships into the ground.
Whether you’re a Valentine’s Day person or not, I invite you to read the 5 things relationships need to thrive on Valentine’s Day and EVERYDAY
Boundaries are the foundation of any sustainable relationship. They help us understand what matters to us, why and how it matters and what we do to manage ourselves and our relationships when things go wrong (which they inevitably will). Boundaries tell those you love how to love you properly. Boundaries create stability and safety. Boundaries mean you’re serious about love.
Mistakes are inevitable and amazing opportunities to evolve.
Let’s face it. Mistakes suck. They hurt others and they hurt us. When mistakes happen, we have an opportunity to learn, grow and evolve. Many partnerships dissolve over mistakes, but you get to decide whether the mistakes define you and your relationship or whether you’ll use them as nourishment for expansion.
Mistakes can be anything including being a poor communicator, to cheating, to being absent-minded and inattentive in relationships. When they happen most of us shut down and lock down in shame. It can be hard to face up and feel the sun on your face when you’re covered in shame.
Obviously, ongoing ‘mistakes’ of the same kind over and over, cease to be mistakes, and become poor behavior and boundary crossing (see above). But only the people in the relationship get to decide how the relationship will evolve in the presence of inevitable mistakes. It’s by learning what to do when hurt arises that we learn what we are made of, what we value and whether a relationship is worth saving. There is no simple answer, but the truth is mistakes happen – often.
Talk about how you like to be loved
Valentine’s Day needn’t be extravagant or expensive. Making time for relationship skills development is a wonderful way to show love. This Valentine’s Day, gather a group of friends around you – or sit with a partner, and discuss:
- How you like to be loved?
- How do you know when someone is loving you the way you want?
- When was the last time you felt loved and what was it?
Use that information for creating connections with those you love.
Learn to have conflict
A perfect relationship isn’t conflict-free. It’s conflict-smart. (Also – FYI there is no such thing as a perfect relationship). Learning how to speak your truth and say what you mean is an essential relationship skill. Learn how to listen to grievances without being defensive is also essential. Honestly, so much of my work involves navigating this terrain. It’s inevitable, but it needn’t be a catastrophe.
Nourishing relationships are about curiosity, not certainty
When people come to see me it’s usually because something in their relationship has gone pear-shaped. They want to know hacks, tips and tricks to overcome relationship woes and avoid them happening ever again (both in and out of the bedroom). People often have a sense of urgency with it – “We have to have this dealt with by September – we are getting married” as if relationship management is something that only happens once! [NEWSFLASH – it never ever ends]
Being certain about relationships is where we go wrong. Yes, we want stability and safety, but we also want to grow and explore. We want love, not suffocation. We want to feel wanted and creative, not caged and obliged. This is why creating deep and safe connections involves learning how to explore; both alone and together. Avoiding questions because you’re scared of the answers only prolongs your anxiety. Instead, imagine knowing that your person / people are there because they really want to be there. Because they see you and you are a team on the same page. Wouldn’t that be better than misery of maintaining the status quo even though you know it’s no longer working for you both?
Getting comfortable with uncertainty takes practice, but it’s a skill that will sustain us through every relationship we have. We don’t have to love it, but feeling confident to swim in deep water means so many more opportunities for pleasure and connection can arise when you are curious and trust yourself to hold your end of the deal.
Finding pleasure, connection and safety in love is possible. You just have to know where to look and be brave enough to open the door.