The permission to fully love and embrace your self and life with wonder, compassion and acceptance is no small matter. Paradoxically, you need your own love and acceptance to fully and genuinely love your partner (and vice versa..).
At least three reasons. For one, it is impossible to be in a love relationship and not hurt each other. It is par for the course in relationships. You are two different persons. You each bring unique strengths, gifts, intelligences and energy to the relationship. Each of you also brings past wounds, hurts and painful experiences.
Second, nature seems to love to bring together two persons in a couple relationship that have seemingly opposing approaches in several areas of growth, and especially when it comes to dealing with pain or stress. Pain is part of growth; the cliche “no pain, no gain” is more than true, it is law of physics.
Second, the fastest, most efficient and effective way to prevent your defense strategies from unnecessarily taking over and controlling the outcomes of situation or your life together (i.e., whether wallowing in painful emotions on one extreme or withdrawing on the other) is to develop your ability to activate your own sense of love presence in the moment when you get triggered.
All of the above and more explain why it is not possible to avoid pain or hurt in your couple relationship.
What self-love is not.
First let’s look at what self-love is not.
Self-love cannot be merely “giving” your self whatever you want or indulging in whatever you feel like doing or makes you feel good or comfortable. There is a host of things that feel good or comfortable, such as junk food and gossiping, that are dangerous or harmful to every aspect of your life. You’re wired with emotion-drives, or needs, that are relational in nature. To ignore your partner’s feelings and sense of security is to ignore your own.
To test …
When it comes to healing your couple communications and relationship, there are at least five prerequisite shifts in perception that are critical to help you unlock your imagination, and galvanize the energy you need to take action – to break out of stuck places and let go of old comfort zones (thus making it more likely your partner will do the same).
Continuing from Part 2, the third prerequisite shift in perception allows you to take 100% responsibility for how you respond to life events, and thus who you become (and what you create) as a result of your responses.
3. See your self as fully equipped and capable captain of your life (thus own body’s relaxation response).
This is a choice you make to see your self as capable of creating a fulfilling life — i.e., making good decisions, learning from them, thoughtfully connecting to your wants and needs, handling emotions along the way (triggering ones in particular), etc.
You know that repeated actions form habits, or emotion-command neural pathways, that are automatically activated by the subconscious mind as “default” options. Old habitual responses must be unlearned, retrained or replaced by new optimal ones.
As captain you understand that energy is too precious to waste, and that taking the reins as captain is not a mere option, rather a prerequisite to realizing the fulfilling happy life you aspire. More specifically, this means that you now understand why you must (learn to) let go of such energy-wasting patterns as blame, denial, withdrawal, avoidance, comparing and judgments of self and others, etc., all of which were perhaps useful to ensure your physical survival in childhood, but are now simply blocking your personal growth and healing, as well as aspirations to create an emotionally fulfilling connection with your partner. Knowing this, you’re ready to do what is necessary to take command of the direction and energy flowing in your body.
Conceivably, nothing matters more to living a fulfilling life, than realizing you have access to a powerful human capacity to bring, create and express love in your life and relationships. Stop waiting …
It cannot be said too often to couples: choose words (and nonverbals) carefully in sensitive discussions, more specifically, to opt for ones that energize optimal emotional states. This can mean letting go of triggering words or actions, and breaking old habits is not easy. What if the life and health of your relationship depended on it however?
The fact is, words produce images in your mind. Images produce emotions, and emotions shape behaviors.
Speaking of breaking free of the criticizing habit, a step discussed in Part 2, it’s a lot easier to achieve when you also shift your focus to wanting to understand what you each want, then actively giving or supporting each other to realize your wants and yearnings etc. – at minimum with the energy you bring. These two remaining steps strengthen your relationship, and are the subject of this post.
Step 4: Know What You Each Want — and Why
Step four consists of two parts: clearly understanding what you (really, really) want and why, and also what your partner wants and why.
Knowing what you want makes it more likely you will: (1) be heard and understood ; (2) say and express what you want in ways your partner can “listen” (not get triggered); (3) stay on topic focused on what is most relevant; and (4) eventually come to a mutually satisfying resolution.
Like it or not, you are the one constant in your couple relationship. If your couple relationship is on the rocks and you’re wondering why you seem to “attract” certain issues or partners, here’s a sobering thought (and potentially uplifting): What you bring to your relationship shapes you and your life. If you’re not consciously choosing what you bring, i.e., in terms of your intentions, thoughts, actions etc., you’re sitting on pure power, waiting to go to work for you.
In Part 1 we looked at the first two steps to shift “how you “argue” in ways that create an authentic connection between you and your partner. Here is step 3:
In a recent study of predictors of infidelity in couple relationships, the findings overall indicated men and women overall seem to follow the stereotypes. The focus on sex, performance, variety and frequency tends to be driven by men, while the focus on emotional connection and nonsexual affection by women.
Drs. Mark, Janssen and Milhausen found no significant differences in rates of infidelity of men, with 23 percent for men and 19 percent for women, however, what predicted infidelity differed for men and women. Predictors for men in the study had more to do with personality traits, such as performance anxiety, a propensity for getting sexually excited by triggers, and so on, whereas relationship factors, such as emotional intimacy, partnership, etc., carried significantly more weight for women.
The reasons women cheat seem more related to unfulfilled expectations or failure, their own or partner’s, with regard to developing a deeper emotional connection. In contrast, author and sex addiction expert Robert Weiss states in an article on why men cheat that when it comes to sex, “men tend to be most aroused by a visual succession of body parts and sexual acts” where as women are “aroused by sexualized and romanticized emotional connections between people more than body parts.”
In successful relationships, partners take the basics seriously, and handle the yearnings of each to feel heard and understood as unique beings as really, really important; in short, they treat one another with dignity, recognizing their own and one another’s personal power.
As top trial lawyer Gerry Spence notes, what we face when we interact with one another, is what we most fear in our relationships, and that is: the power of the other as an agent of their choices.
The other has the power, for example, to choose to say no, to deny some need, want or yearning, and so on, and because this directly challenges our own sense of personal power (to realize dreams, wants and needs), it touches our deepest intimacy fears, such as fear of inadequacy, rejection, abandonment.
Not surprisingly, this dynamic is particularly intense in couple relationships.
This post lists the last 6 of 12 science-backed wedding vows, and is a continuation of Part 1. They are
7. “I vow to disallow my past to negatively influence our present and future together as individuals and a couple.
This vow stems from research on couple communications and forgiveness. Consciously or not, early experiences in interactions with primary caregivers can subconsciously shape our lives, particularly events that were emotionally intense. Many or most core beliefs about who we are, what we are capable of, how we want life to be, and so on, originate in formative years of childhood. Some affect us in positive ways, giving us stamina to overcome challenges, while others block or limit our growth and happiness.
Often the impact of negative (and positive) childhood experiences remains dormant until problems in an intimate relationship surface, making it imperative that we take a fresh look at some deeply painful aspect of ourselves or lives, perhaps ones we’ve disowned or kept well hidden deep inside.
With this in mind, let’s explore what defensive patterns in your couple relationship are saying to you and your partner. To be sure, your brains and emotions, thoughts and feelings, are doing what they’re designed to do whenever you or your partner perceive a threat, in this case, a threat to meeting a core attachment or intimacy (love) need.
What does reactivity say about what’s going on beneath the surface of your couple relationship?
A recent article on Science of Relationships outlined a list of ten research-based wedding vows. Based on findings, Samantha Joel outlined vows that, if followed, would best guarantee marital bliss. The below list of 12 vows is adapted from the original.
1. “I vow to think highly of you, and seek to know and appreciate you for who you are, as well as who you aspire to become.”
This vow draws from research on the power of imagination, more specifically, the use of positive illusions or imagination, as a creative force, a self-fulfilling prophecy of sorts. Based on the findings of Dr. Sandara Murray and colleagues, partners who maintained positive illusions of the other and their relationship were more likely to eventually create it. When you view your partner in a positive light, whether you do so consciously or not, the benefits include not only giving your partner a personal feel-good, but also increasing their sense of security in relation to you.