I wrote and rewrote this blog post over and over again. I wasn't happy with it because I didn't feel like my perspective was enough. There are so many different relationships out there, my relationship could be much different than others so I felt compelled to start conversations with people and start listening to what they had to say about relationships. For the past couple of weeks leading up to actually sitting down and writing this blog post, I had wonderful conversations with all different individuals at all different stages of a relationship.
Each perspective helped me write this post....so I wanted to say thank you to those who aided in my writing...
Before I get into anything about relationships I want to inform you that in this life, you don't need a relationship to fulfill you and make you happy. Some people are happier alone....this life doesn't have a checklist that you have to abide by too. Many people find other things to fulfill them rather than a relationship.
Strong, happy, healthy relationships are Not forced, they develop, they bloom and they grow with care...
Love is wonderful...it's energizing, it makes you view the world differently and view yourself differently. However, life is not a fairy-tale. Love develops...many people have issues letting go of certain views of how a relationship should look and function. Let go of what a relationship should be and work on what your relationship is. Love is beautiful, but it's work and sometimes a lot of it.
Self-Disclosure. I met Rick when I was 21 and he was 20 on facebook through a mutual friend in college (back in the day when poking people was a thing)...I won't bore you with the details, but I was a mess when he met me, I was in the midst of my eating disorder and I couldn't think for myself let alone think about caring for someone else. At that mutual friend's 21st birthday party we met in person and from that moment on he wouldn't leave me alone (I mean, I get it.....KIDDING) I was, of course, angered at the fact anyone would want to pursue me...I mean I was an awful person with awful secrets (or so I thought of myself.) I told him off one day because I was mean not only to myself but to anyone who thought about possibly wanting to care about me...he tried keeping in touch with texts here and there...sometimes I answered, sometimes I didn't...and then a funny incident put us back in touch with each other about a year later.
Before I knew it I was in a relationship with Rick. I didn't go into our relationship saying ..."Yes, this guy is definitely a potential person for me to marry one day"...At 22 I just kinda realized that this guy interested me...I wanted to get to know him and I wanted him around me, he made my energy balanced and he made me genuinely happy. Rick is the same person today that I met when I was 21...I mean way better looking, smarter, better dressed...but you get it (I love sarcasm, can't you tell!?) Rick wasn't trying to be someone else, he was being himself and I admire that in people because in the end, we need to be who we truly are to find the person who we deeply can connect with.
So as a Therapist what can I tell you about relationships?
Well, I believe there are core values to a good, solid relationship. If you establish these core values than it could help you both connect on a deeper level. A relationship gives you this certain happiness that only that other person will understand with you. A relationship can give you balance, emotional support and can help you grow and change.
Start incorporating these into your relationship...
Communication. Time and time again we hear communication is the key to a healthy relationship. It truly is imperative for you to realize the importance of it. When I say communication I mean the little things..." how was your day?"....and for the person reciprocating to share more than "it was good", "it was stressful", "fine." See, when you're with someone for awhile you start to get lazy in many things, including conversation because you know each other. This is why being in a healthy relationship takes work...work at the conversation, sometimes you'll realize after time it won't feel like work because it's enjoyable. Communication is important because we aren't mind-readers. Sometimes you need to hear from the other person what they want, emotionally and physically. Remember to always enjoy conversation with each other, remember to talk it all out and always tell each other "I love you."
Emotional support. The benefit of a healthy relationship is sharing with someone the real you, the feelings you feel and the emotions that come up that you'll need to work through. This life is going to put you through all kinds of situations and emotions. A healthy relationship means that you feel safe to share your emotions and receive support for the feelings you feel. Knowing that someone is there to help you work through things, helps make the load a lot lighter to lift.
Forgiveness. Arguing is inevitable. Sometimes you need to have arguments to work through things, but use every fight as a way to move you both forward. Learn lessons from them and always forgive. Never look at a fight as to who won or who lost...that is not healthy and can lead to resentment down the road. You both must understand that sometimes "picking a fight" is something we do when we are internally struggling with something else. So, sometimes realize when you're looking to fight because you're displacing your emotions.
Trust. Trust is a sole foundation of a healthy relationship. Nowadays many couples define relationships differently. Regardless of what kind of relationship you have, trust is crucial. For many, trust is the hardest core value to give to the other person because trusting them makes you vulnerable. Trust is earned and as you both grow together, your trust should grow with you. The trust you want from someone should be given back to them. Let go, trust someone and if you're hurt use it as a lesson in your next relationship.
Respect. Respect has been said to be one of the most important traits of a strong relationship. Respecting each other means you are considerate of the other person always, you value each other's feelings and you try to not allow yourself to say hurtful things when you get worked up. In a relationship as you grow together, you are simultaneously growing into yourselves...you must respect each other through the process. This means respect if someone needs to find their happiness and encourage them. You don't have to agree with everything they say or do, but respect means giving them the validation that their journey and feelings matter to you. As you both grow, you'll learn different things about each other and as long as you respect each other's journeys, you will grow stronger together.
Sex. Have sex! It sounds so simple, but from what I hear from numerous couples sex takes the back burner when life gets in the way and guess what, life won't stop getting in the way!
Rick and I have a pretty active sex life after 2 years married and almost 8 years together. I tell you this because it really does help keep that physical, romantic connection between us strong. There is research that states if you are with a partner and do not engage in physical contact you lose that romantic connection easier. Hey! don't get me wrong there are some nights when closing my eyes seems like a WAY better way to end the night, but research also shows that when you start to hold each other and make that skin to skin contact your endorphins increase and makes it easier to get in the mood. Rick and I establish at least 3 times a week we have sex. Now that doesn't mean you have to do what we do, you can establish your own amount, it varies with all different couples, but have it! Pretend, play, have fun! Never forget when you first met, the feeling, the intimacy...regardless of how long you've been together you can always go back to that feeling. Having sex has been linked to numerous health benefits like less stress, less anxiety, overall better mood...click on the link to take a look at this article by OnHealth on the surprising health benefits of sex.
On the other hand, I have done research that as long as you vocalize the reason for not having sex, it can keep your relationship just as healthy. Again, going back to one of my previous tips...COMMUNICATE. There are plenty of alternatives besides sex you can partake in if sex is something that isn't on the table.
Last but not least...Have Fun! Never stop enjoying yourselves together...never stop taking trips, walks, talking, laughing, enjoy all the little moments and really embrace the big ones, but always remember relationships differ from person to person, don't compare...just enjoy yours.
I'm not saying following all these tips means you'll have the best relationship. It takes a lot of work, I would say Rick and I have a pretty terrific relationship and yet we still have our days.....see the fighting, minor jealousy, time you need away from each other is all okay, sometimes you need to miss the other person. How you handle what comes up in a relationship is what differentiates a healthy relationship from a non-healthy one.
Sometimes, no matter how much you try, some relationships will end and that is okay...it'll take time to heal, but each relationship you encounter will give you more tools to help you better yourself as well as your journey...
Rick has changed my heart. I despise how corny it sounds, but there's no other way to explain it. He gave me the strength and the love that helped me grow into the woman I am today. His presence gives me peace and we always work through everything together, especially when life gets hard. Rick has seen me at my rawest moments thus far, he knows me better than anyone else and at the end of the day when life isn't going right and I get down...he always, always knows how to make me laugh.
What I've realized is wherever I go, whatever adventures I get into, the memories I made, the memories I will make, the goals I reach or don't reach, the loses, the saddness, the pain, the happiness...I want Rick by my side for it all...
"Love doesn't make the world go round. Love is what makes the ride worthwhile."
— Franklin P. Jones