Let's face it - relationships are one of the key areas of our life. It can be a source of support, love, fun, self-discovery as well as the source of our worst nightmares.
Every day I meet people with a deep longing for a loving and committed relationship. Yet there seem to be endless barriers to it: From where to find a partner; to how to keep it; to how to get rid of a toxic relationship. In this age, we are saturated with information: where singles meet, dating apps, countless self-help books and "how-to" tips promising a thriving relationship. If we do not lack information and "how-to" tips, what is the missing puzzle?
One way of looking at relationships is realising that the template of all our relationships with others is based on a relationship we have with ourselves. Essentially if we are not comfortable, kind, loving and patient with ourselves - how can we expect that our partner will? If we are unable to love and accept ourselves, how can we expect that from our partner? Indeed an intimate relationship is a love affair with ourselves as much it is with our beloved one.
But what is love? According to Robert J. Sternberg’s love theory, it consists of 3 key components: passion, intimacy and commitment - the ingredients of a resilient and thriving relationship. Our speedy culture is definitely challenging those principles. We want it fast, our own way, we are clear what we want to get from it, but not so clear about what we offer to a potential partner. We want a partner and keep our comforts of a single's life. We are willing to stick around when things are great and distance ourselves when hardships arise.
Hardships in relationships are unavoidable - they are part of the package. Luckily they are also an essential building block of a healthy and loving relationship. Every time a couple works through a challenge, love, understanding and commitment are strengthened. There is a sense of growth, accomplishment and joy. Every time a couple does not relate with a present challenge - doubt, fear and anxiety increase.
A good relationship is not found - it is created.
Even when being single, we are still “dating” ourselves. We can't avoid the relationship with ourselves. Creating an accepting, loving and kind relationship with ourselves is the most effective way of creating an intimate, long-standing and loving relationship. It is the very opposite of hoping to meet somebody and fearing it won't happen - ever.
People with a loving relationship with themselves are beaming - we love to be in their presence. It is an inside-out approach to life. Sadly the mainstream culture worships the outside-in approach. For example: "first you work out to have a fit body (outside) - then you will like yourself (inside)". Creating a loving relationship with yourself is an inside-out approach: "I appreciate myself (inside) therefore I love to take care of my body (outside)". It is a subtle, yet profoundly impactful shift within ourselves.
Another interesting fact is that we are already in a relationship with our future partner. We have expectations, experiences we would like to have together, plans, hopes and fears. We have so much that we would like to share with our future beloved one. If you imagine your life being a house - would you invite your potential partner in your home? Is your house ready to receive your beloved one? Have you stored away all the photos of your previous partners? Is it clean and enjoyable?
We all know the experience of “visiting the house of our potential partner”... the feeling there are lots of emotions under the carpet, the smell of the unfinished relationships perfuming the house, the wobbly furniture of insecurity and nervousness, rooms that you are afraid to peek in... not very inviting indeed.
We must take responsibility for our house - for our life. We cannot expect our partner is going to fix it nor hope that someday things will magically fall in place. Taking care of our emotional wellbeing is as important as is taking care of our bodies and appearance. It brings a sense of balance and completeness in our lives. In this state, we are much more likely to meet our future partner fully and even impress them.
Having said that, we are all on the path of constructing & de-cluttering our lives. We are all dealing with our particular challenges and life lessons to master. That is precisely why support and coaching in the relationship area is a game-changer. Getting help, a mentor, a coach for a skill we want to master in our life is obvious - it is what you do if you're going to learn fast and master the skill. When it comes to the area of intimate relationships - there seems to be a tremendous hesitation about receiving support. There is a common belief, that we should be able to do it our own. I find this especially true in the academic and high-performers circles. Our pride is more important than having a loving and successful relationship.
Like every other area in our life, intimate relationships need experience and knowledge. We might have accumulated experience but without increasing our emotional intelligence and braking our habitual patterns, we tend to re-create the same situations again and again. We are unconsciously boycotting our own future. There are not many places within our society where we deepen our emotional intelligence and skills of an intimate relationship. Not in school, family or workplace - therefore mastering these skills is essential for a successful relationship.
Relationships are wonderful, unpredictable and messy. They are at the heart of every human journey, every amazing movie, operas, inventions... Ultimately, relationships are at the heart of an extraordinary life. The key message here is that they are totally workable and good. They demand us stepping out of our comfort zones, only to broaden our understanding of love, kindness and appreciation of ourselves and our beloved one.