Article Note: This article, due to length, will be divided into two published pieces.
Within this series, we’ve first looked to the four basic human needs, and asked ourselves some questions about who we are and what we dream of in life. Next, we found out that all humans have the same two fears, not being loved and not being enough. In the third article, we discovered that it is impossible to love anyone else unless you love yourself – and again, we asked some tough questions. If you haven’t read these articles, take time to go back and familiarize yourself, take the questions seriously and know thyself. You’re simply going to have to have faith that they are all in this order for a reason.
After your relationship to yourself, your relationships of faith and love are the most important driving factors in your life. I’ll be rather short in this section, but will direct you to the ministry website if you’re interested. Basically, here is my take: Faith in a creator….for the Christian, it is God, for the Muslim, Allah…is the center of your understanding of your inside self. I am a “follower of the Way of Christ” which means I take the thought of being a “Christian” seriously and studiously, sans the need for rule driven man made religion. Some of the most miserable, mean people I have ever met in my life use their bibles as a blunt instrument in the name of evangelism….please, don’t count me in that lineage. Christ followers should be filled with faith, hope and love (1 Corn 13:13, if you want to look it up.)
So, how have you decided what you believe? Did you make a thoughtful informed choice? Are you in a two way, honest dialogue with God as you understand the divine? Are you honest with yourself about who you are, what you need and how you were created? Are you living a life ruled by fear, or are you willing to step into what looks like craziness when you’re called out of your comfort zone? I have heard many conversion and calling stories in my time with the church and in seminary – some feel accurate to me, some not. It’s really not my call. What I do know is this….No matter what religion you profess to be, I believe your soul is a unique creation that is made by a higher power, greater than all of us combined. As I climb mountains and traverse rivers, I see the hand of creation at work – awesome beauty. You know as well as I that you’re inside your body and mind, a separate, integral part of all that is in the universe. Thinking that this is all random chance is like explaining the dictionary as the result of an explosion in a printing factory. Get to know what your faith is rooted in and then live it with a passion. Don’t be lukewarm…and don’t just swallow what you’re told or make it us as you go. Investigate. Pray. Meditate. Be insatiably curious. Seek hope, faith and joy like it’s your job.
Romance, Romance, Romance
Romantic relationships are next on the ladder past faith and self. Love is a tricky thing, and not all that easy to navigate if it’s real. Two humans living in close proximity, hopefully growing in a like direction…a rare bird. My life coach Tim Shurr describes relationships as “two people with empty cups coming to each other and saying ‘fill me up, fill me up.’ You cannot give what you do not have.” The article on self love is designed to get you to think about how you meet your own needs and have a full cup coming into your relationship.
Life Principal: Relationships are where you go to give, not to take.
I’ve seen a ton of people – and have been one – that married that college or high school sweetheart only to hit a big brick wall a decade later. The reasons behind getting married are often based in fear – that not being loved and reaching out to the big world alone – to the hot love affair that is destined to cool down because the two people are growing and changing like we all do in our twenties. Add the four R’s (below) to that scenario, the pressures of everyday life and you understand why the first time divorce rate in fifty year old men is astronomically high. So what are we looking for in that forever pattern that allows a relationship to grow? A few things pro and con come to mind.
Life Principal: Collaboration is a crucial component to romantic love.
There is a really dirty word that has migrated from its place in contract negotiation into the daily lives of many couples. That word is compromise. Compromise in a relationship is a way to say “there is always one of us having to sacrifice more than his/her fair share.” It’s a great way to create stress on the relationship and feeds into long term resentment, which we will discuss later on. You find compromise in couples who are deep into repression – they are roommates more than a couple, even if they appear to the outside world to be an intact family unit. These are the folks that get divorced five minutes after the last kid leaves for college because they’ve been sitting at restaurants for the past twenty years, with a table that might as well have been 3,000 miles wide between them, with absolutely nothing interesting to say to one another. They live basically separate lives that only connect through kids, church or the occasional friend.
Collaboration, on the other hand, considers and weighs each person’s input, and ultimately both individuals own the final decision. It takes into consideration the likes and dislikes of the two, and builds a strong bridge between the divide. It really helps if you began your relationship as a fully engaged adult that loved to connect, to pitch and catch ideas, with the same values and interests. If not, you’ll have to learn to love what your spouse holds dear…for instance, I am watching golf with my best friend/hubster, which I used to ignore. I like to play golf (badly)…but it was collaboration between us to go to the golf course as a family and spend time together there with our daughter on his turf for a while. I love it now! My hubster is slowly learning that I really do love to yell at the TV during any NASCAR event, and suffers through taking me to the swanky suite for the Brickyard in Indianapolis. Funny for a chick in a dress, I promise you, but I love racing…..and the symphony. He’s versatile enough to do both in one day, if that is what he thinks fills my cup, to use Tim’s description of intentional giving. Collaboration requires the all important component of…..
Life principal: Communication is the basic element of any relationship.
You’ve heard it a million times, but if you are unable to communicate, you’re sunk. Meaningful communication requires that first; you trust one another enough to talk truthfully. If you’re not in trust with your partner, all communication and connection is honestly off the table, weather you know it or not. Communication isn’t just talking; it’s actively listening to the words and meanings that fill your partner’s life. I am a woman of words…lots of words. I communicate to a fault. Still, the hubster fails to hear me from time to time, resulting in a lot of frustration for yours truly. Often I have to realize that he’s not feeling the intensity that I feel over a concern or an idea. I then change my state to match his energy and speed. Given that I’m a powerhouse of intensity, I am also able to go “to fast” to listen.
Life Principal: Everything hinges on Trust.
Without trust in any relationship there are high amounts of uncertainty and doubt, and in romantic relationships, it is the mortar that holds all of the relational brick together. In order for any relationship to withstand the test of time and the pressure of real life, equal amounts of trust needs to be displayed by both partners…and be merited. What kind of relationship is built without trust? Unsuccessful ones. Trust has been the main topic of discussion between my hubster and I over the past year, a time fraught with change, challenge and hardship. We’ve had long discussions about expectations, needs and dreams. While not all of those details came to the same conclusion, both of us agreed to be respectful of each others’ feelings and thoughts, communicating in love and friendship – never in anger. It’s one of the great components of our relationship, and one that I would encourage you to foster.
A quick suggestion from the peanut gallery? I deliberately think of ways to communicate with the hubster in “his love language” (Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman) and find ways to practice good self love through working out, friends and any kind outdoor adventure (sans hunting, which I am not cool with but my BFF “D” loves). To do all of this I needed to know and really understand two things: my needs, my love language and his needs and love language. You have to remember that in any relationship the first one that yells, that loses respect for a partner and grows angry, loses. You’re a grown up. Use your words. In an article entitled, “Trust and Vulnerability in Relationships,” (PsychCentral) author Jane Collingwood states that, “A willingness to be vulnerable is a significant feature of lasting relationships — ones in which partners are allies, not foes.” The other thing that I know about the man I love? I believe his promises, even when he appears to be failing in them. I am his greatest champion, and have absolute faith in this unique love that is “us.” I am wholly committed to loving him in both the good and bad times, even when we’re on the “back side of opposing deserts” philosophically speaking. When I can be sure of nothing else, I have never forgotten what it is like to be us.
Sex, Romance and All things Intimate
Romance is the building block that many couples feel leaves after the first few years of marriage. If your sex life is ho-hum, your relationship might need a really good looking into – you could begin with this article. I realize that kids, work and life pressures leave you feeling less than sexy at the end of the day, but a highly prized part of your relationship is your intimate connection. For the highly visual person with basic needs for connection and variety, the intimate part of a relationship can be the make or break deal. As a person coming from a highly sensual nature (part of my natural make up) I find that I am easily able to equate the intimate connection to the man that I love with my giving of self to him. I think up all sorts of things that I can do with the love of my life, passionate moments when we can spend just us time…and that requires planning. It’s not just possible, it’s necessary to maintain relational health that you continue to date one another over a lifetime. I learned that sitting next to my love at a restaurant, laughing over dinner side by side, knowing how much I love him…it’s that type of memory that gets me through the tough times when I don’t feel so connected.
It is sexual chemistry that keeps those feelings of love and connection alive, feeding into your communication and intimacy. Are you a wild child in the boudoir? Maybe you’re the elusive soft and sweet type? Can you articulate your needs to your partner, or yourself? Do you know what they are? Is your dream to melt into the arms of the one that you love amidst a tub full of bubbles and great wine until the whole world vanishes? I can understand, trust me. I have memories of intimacy with the love of my life where I could have gladly died in his arms and regretted not a single second of bubble clad bliss. Matching intensity and drive in the bedroom are important things to consider in a potential spouse. Next to money pressures, sexual dissatisfaction is the reason that many marriages fail. Communicate openly and honestly with yourself and your partner about what you need from your intimate relationship. That charge, that electrical connection that you feel when you’re near one another can translate into those amazing late night talks, exciting hikes in not so exotic places…and even play time with the kids. Intimate intensity goes a long way toward marrying your souls to one another for all time.
Understand the Role of Values
A value is a belief, a mission, or a philosophy that is meaningful to an individual person, the internal script that forms their basis of life and drives their internal rules. Consciously aware or not, every individual has a core set of personal values that energize their ethics and decisions. They are the “lens” though which all people view life. Values can range from commonplace beliefs like honesty and hard work, to psychological strengths such as self-reliance and seeking growth, caring for others, etc.
Think of values like the rules for the game of life that you lead. If both partners in a relationship share the same values, it is highly likely that this will be a long-term relationship because they both understand the rules and have like energy. When you’re with someone who shares your values, your intensity and your level of intimacy you feel drawn, complete. That feeling of repression (we’ll discuss this next) is a signal that you’re playing by separate sets of rules. Many of the original reasons that a couple marries comes to haunt a partner who is unsure of his or her future…the loss of a comfort zone might conflict with a basic need, or a value (rule) might have to much power over a person to allow them to make a balanced, healthy decision. Balance in all things is necessary. It is hard for a person to fully understand a partner’s beliefs or values if they don’t have the same value. Fully comprehending the values of your partner requires an open mind and fully present, willing heart.
In the next article, we’ll discuss the functional parts of relationships and the reason they decay.