Lately there’s been a lot of attention paid to the Law of Attraction. For those of you who have been living in a cave for the past few years, simply put, this phrase refers to the idea that by intensely focusing your attention on what you want and keeping “negative” thoughts having to do with fear, anger, doubt, guilt, etc. out of your consciousness, you will draw into your life whatever it is that you truly desire. Call me skeptical but I find this philosophy somewhat simplistic particularly when it comes to relationships. While it certainly is beneficial to avoid getting ensnared in the trap of obsessive negative thinking, thinking positive thoughts is generally not enough to bring about any desired outcome, particularly in the domain of relationships.

The idea that you can attract the relationship of your dreams is naturally quite attractive to those of us who are in search of a life partner. The number of websites and dating services that are in the business of bringing unmatched individuals together seems to be growing at an exponential rate, and given the number of singles out there who are looking to pair up with the right person, that’s not surprising.

There is, however a fly in the ointment, to use a somewhat unattractive metaphor. Linda and I have noticed that there seems for many who are on the relationship path, a much greater concern in regard to the attracting of a partner than there is with the sustaining of a relationship.

The dictionary defines the word “sustain” as meaning “to give support to, to keep up the vitality or courage of.” Relationships do require support and vitality, in order to thrive, and as anyone who has successfully navigated their way through the sometimes treacherous waters of committed partnership knows, courage as well. Lots of it. This territory can be dangerous especially for those of us who have been hurt in past relationships and want to protect ourselves from future pain, or those who want to avoid the possibility of loss or disappointment, or those who are disinclined to be emotionally honest or vulnerable. This only includes about 100% of the population. In growing up, most of us learn very little about the process of building healthy relationships, and we end up having to learn about it on the job, or putting it in a way that is more relevant to our subject, on the playground.

The problem with focusing primarily or even exclusively on the attracting part of the equation and neglecting the skill-building part of it is that even if we are successful in finding that special someone who really lights up our life, unless we have learned how to navigate the waters that can at times get very choppy, we’re likely to run aground on the rocks. If this happens before we’ve learned the fine art of managing the inevitable differences and challenges that show up in even the best relationships, it may be too late to learn the lessons and develop the necessary tools needed to implement them.

Getting clear about the kind of person that you want to share your life with is of course an essential prerequisite to finding the partner of your dreams, so by all means, include that step in your process. But don’t stop there. The next stage of the game has to do with working together to lay the foundation of your relationship and that will require more than visualizing and affirming all of the positive things that you want to experience with your beloved. It will involve the acknowledgment of the shadow or less attractive qualities that you both possess and honest conversation about your fears, needs, hopes, strengths, weaknesses, and vision. It will involve the establishment of a relationship that provides the kind of emotional security and acceptance that you both need in order to feel safe enough to reveal and hear the deep truths that you each hold. Listening without judgment and speaking without defensiveness is easier said than done, but with practice, mutual support, and the willingness to share responsibility for the relationship that you co-create, you and your mate can create the partnership of your dreams, no matter who they are.