~The Simple Sophisticate, episode #166
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“If you want to change your partner, change yourself.” —Esther Perel, relationship psychotherapist and best-selling author
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The unexpected adventure you embark upon when you step into a relationship with a potential life partner is that you embark on a journey of self-discovery.
Of course, we can and should go on sojourns of self-discovery before we choose to step into a relationship, but because of the nature of a romantic relationship, often our less developed and tender spots don’t fully become exposed. After all, when we care for someone and see potential for spending our future with them and they with us, we experience emotions at a more intense level than we may have before and perhaps emotions we may had never experienced before.
Whether you are in a relationship that has been seen years together, are just beginning to get to know one another or not in a relationship at all except the one with yourself, understand what Esther Perel reminds us all of above.
If we enter into a relationship in hopes of finding someone who will fill a place in our lives, do what we need them to do and forget that a relationship involves two human beings made up of emotions, aspirations, perceived as well as real limitations, than we need to step back from stepping into a relationship in order to have a healthy relationship down the road.
A simple understood truth that most people accept is nobody is perfect, but sometimes we skip over this truth and jump to assumptions and high expectations rather than coming to understand the person we are involved with and finding the strength to truthfully express who we are and our curiosities as well as our boundaries.
Let’s take a look at at what love, real love unveils and asks of us as well.
Truths to understand
1.You must become a good partner in order to have the opportunity to find and begin to grow a healthy relationship.
I must first say, you do not have to have it all figured out when it comes to relationships, what improvements you need to make, etc., etc.. What I mean is that you must come into a relationship as someone who is content in their own company. Someone who is self-aware and therefore also aware of who might make a good partner. Your ability to communicate clearly, as well as be willing to be vulnerable, but also confident and assured so as not to be taken advantage of.
2. A healthy relationship which requires being involved with a secure partner, will provide the opportunity to see faults in ourselves
While we are imperfect beings, the truth is when we live on our own or we live in relationships that are not truly intimate, we can refrain from confronting what is obstructing our path to reaching our fullest potential. However, when the carrot of a loving relationship is set before us, we will have moments of opportunity to recognize where can do better. In those moments, take time to reflect, and if necessary, communicate with an objective or trusting third party that will give you tools to shift or change what is no longer working.
3. From time to time we will fall back on defaults that are unhelpful
However, the key is recognize these instances when they occur, and gradually with mindful attention, understanding why you do so, choosing a new action that is helpful and healthy rather than hurtful and destructive.
4. High emotional intelligence will not only help you but your partner, and visa versa
Becoming someone who can accurately identify how they feel and why they feel the way they do is a step in the direction of refraining from acting unnecessarily on emotions that will soon pass or you are feeling based on past experiences and not due to what is actually and who is actually with you in the present moment. Similarly, when you can do this for yourself, you can then begin to better accurately observe those around you and while not always telling them you know what and why they’re doing what they are doing, knowing when it would be helpful and when it would not be.
5. Courage & bravery are required
Initially, these may be viewed as the same skill, but the repetition is necessary. We will need to be courageous to reveal who we truly are, what we actually need and be honest about where we can let go. And we will also have to be brave to open our lives up to an individual who is not as well known to us as we know ourselves.
6. It’s easy to react. It’s more difficult to respond.
However, with thoughtful practice, responding can become your default rather than reacting. It just takes conscious effort. Learn more about the difference between reacting and responding here.
What the journey will involve
1.Both partners consistently choosing to figure out how to best make the relationship work and work well for both individuals involved, as well as for the relationship they want to build together.
What do you want? What does your partner want? What do we want as a couple? Have these conversations, don’t be shy. Talk calmly and when you’re ready. Explain what makes you feel loved, explain what makes you feel anxious. Talk through it and work through it. Time is often needed as you begin to mesh and move together through life, but communication of what works for you, where you can compromise and where you cannot is the only way to best make a relationship work for both individuals in a partnership.
2. A choice to love beyond the surface
Exterior appearances can be beguiling, enticing and eye-catching. However, as adults, we can appreciate beauty from afar because we recognize that the beauty we see with our eyes is not the only nor the most significant beauty one can possess.
3. Choosing to treat your partner lovingly even during frustrating times
It will take a conscious choice to respond rather than react. Being aware of how we are feeling, why we are feeling and not being led around by our emotions is key to maintaining and growing stable, healthy relationships.
4. Moments of deep breaths and time on your own to work through new feelings, circumstances, conflicts, etc.
Everything that isn’t working out in this moment doesn’t need to be solved in this moment (even though we might want it to be because of the uncertainty and anguish it is causing). When we understand our emotions, when we understand ourselves well, we will also be stronger to step away from a conversation that may be highly charged due to a variety of reasons, respectfully explain you need a walk, or some time to collect your thoughts or something to indicate, that you will not move on for good, but you need to step back for now to gain some perspective and come back with a calm and clear head.
5. Understanding that our partner is not perfect
We know this logically, but when we meet and begin to build a relationship with someone, it’s natural to have high hopes. The key is to have hope rather than expectation. If we default to expectations, we set traps to fall through and get caught. But if we have hope, we are remaining optimistic while being open to what may be.
6. Perspective of what is truly important
There will be moments during a relationship when things don’t work out as you had hoped and disappointment arises. Perhaps not because of anything either partner could control, and while it is okay to express disappointment, it is also important to put it into perspective with the entire journey you are on together. Will this matter 1 year from now? Will it matter 10 years from now? Simple questions to ask yourself to enable you to not blow small hiccups into ginormous struggles.
Sharing and feeling love with another person is a journey, none of which are exactly alike. And I think keeping that fact in mind is key. Key as well is understanding that your vision of a healthy, happy relationship may be slightly or drastically different from your partners and the only way to discover this is to communicate and begin to reveal your lives together, your real selves, yes, your best selves, but knowing that we will have off days and even in those days our best selves will be different.
Love asks us to look within and examine ourselves. This can be scary, but often when something is scary it is life’s way of saying, look a little closer, examine what is really going on because in so doing, you will set yourself free.
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