In Part 2 of the Relationship Checklist, we continue discussing the factors that contribute to a secure and lasting romantic relationship. These same principles can be modified to apply to ANY relationship – family, friends, co-workers, neighbors. I will come back to this in future articles.
6. Feeling Like a Team: being on the same page together in terms of both daily activities and common goals.
- Does not come out of power or control
- You have my best interest at heart and I have yours
- Examples: helping one parent pick up the kids for soccer games…..helping get tasks done……helping with house projects… meeting life challenges together
- Supporting the other parent in terms of the parental unit and presenting a United Front to the kids
7. Language of Love: how we express our love for the other person and what actually registers for that person as “feeling loved”. Also, how the other person can express their love to us in a way that makes us feel loved by them.
- The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman, PhD: This is one of the two best relationship books I have used in my private practice with couples. I highly recommend you get the book He explains that we each have one of five “languages” or ways of feeling loved by another person. The Love Languages are: Physical Touch, Words of Affirmation or Appreciation, Receiving Gifts, Acts of Service and Quality Time. When one person expresses their heart in the love language of the other person, it is like it “resonates” a warm feeling of being loved and valued. It encourages each person to reach for the other. It is not a guessing game: Find your top two love languages and tell the other person what it is. If you don’t know, Dr. Chapman has a free test at : http://www.5lovelanguages.com/profile/. If you want to feel the love that is in the other person’s heart, they need to speak your love language and vice versa. It is not about being right or wrong….it is about both people feeling the love that is in each others’ heart.
- According to Dr. Chapman, statistically men tend to want to feel appreciated and that they can make the woman happy…….Women want to feel understood and valued.
- We most often express our love in the way or language that we prefer. But it is also very important to express it in the love language of the other person so they feel it more. And for them to express it in our language of love as well.
- It is important to acknowledge when someone does something for us that makes us feel important, loved and special to them. It feels good to be appreciated, but it also validates that they spoke our language and it warmed our heart. It encourages them to continue to touch our heart.
- Examples in my marriage: My love languages are words and touch. I am not talking about sex. I am talking about gestures that express one’s love for the other person prior to the bedroom. So for me to feel loved, it might be some verbal or written words from my husband that speak of his love for me. Or when he reaches for me with a hug or takes my arm to walk together. My husband’s love languages are also touch and even more so, it is quality time spent together. He cares much less about what we do together, but more is wanting me to initiate and plan the thing we will do. It could be as simple as going for a walk together, or hearing live music that I would like. For him, it is me making time for him for us to be together, when I could be writing my blogs, for example. It is how we demonstrate the importance of the other person in our heart.
8. Building a feeling of safety and security in the relationship
- It is most important. It affects all other areas of the relationship.
- It is based upon mutual respect, dignity and trust.
- You watch my back and I will watch yours.
- It is like two people in the world together.
- Certain things should never be spoken or done, ie: threats of leaving the relationship….harsh words attacking the character of the other person, name-calling or profanity aimed at the other person, or betrayal/infidelity. This is not about blame….it is that these actions break down the trust necessary to be fully open to each other, which is already emotionally vulnerable. I believe romantic relationships are one of the most emotionally vulnerable things we experience. The heart does what the heart does, and often we feel we are not in control of our heart in terms of how we feel.
- No physical or verbal abuse of any kind. For example, discounting or devaluing what the other says, or to try to intimidate the other person.
- Relationships are based upon mutually agreed upon guidelines or boundaries that both commit to follow.
- If one partner feels hurt, the other apologizes immediately, even if they do not agree it was hurtful. The apology is about acknowledging that the partner feels hurt and that it was not done intentionally. If it was done intentionally then the hurtful partner needs to figure out why it was done and for what purpose.
- It is not about being right or wrong…….it does not come out of power…..it is about demonstrating mutual respect for each other. It is about trying to understand the perspective of the other person, and what is important about the issue to each person.
- Important: Anytime even one of the partners approaches the relationship out of Good/Bad, Right/Wrong, Better/Worse, In Control/Not In Control, More Power/Lesser Power – both partners automatically lose. There is no chance for a Win/Win outcome. Instead, each partner must look at issues as each having a preference and how can the issue be resolved for a Win/Win for both partners.
9. Common Pitfalls
- When each partner is waiting for the other to change first, or to demonstrate positive intention and effort so each can feel safe. But in doing so the couple ends up in a stalemate, and there is no chance of resolution or change for the better.
- Solution: Each partner needs to make an effort that does not depend upon the effort of the other person. If one partner does this and the other partner makes no effort, that is a different issue and it can then be addressed.
- Attributing a negative intention in general to what the other partner says and does. This becomes a filter through which we experience our partner and can negatively color what is actually occurring. For example, if we believe or feel like our partner is untrustworthy, then we will most often be looking for evidence to support that belief.
- Solution: Be sure that you are not confusing a past event with the present regarding an unresolved issue. Focus on what is right, rather than what is wrong. Your actions and feelings will follow accordingly.
- Not making time for Date Night. I believe it is vital for a couple to go play. It is not about going to dinner and talking about the kids. It is about having fun together. Doing some of the things you did when you were dating. Notice if you feel any more connected to your mate by the end of the date. And by the way……family activities don’t count as a date!!!
10. Relationships Are Like A Garden
- If not watered and nourished it will begin to grow WEEDS!!!
WHAT TO DO NEXT: Each partner can look at all of these items of the checklist and determine where your own strengths lie, and where you can improve.
- What would you like from your partner? Remember, it is not about being right or wrong. Avoid blaming.
- Finally, sit down together and discuss your results. Come up with a plan of action of how to utilize some of these concepts and activities.
Last note: My other most favorite book is Hold Me Tight by Sue Johnson, PhD. It is about Connection and how it is what most often keeps couples’ gardens watered. It is what helps us to want to move towards our partner…..to want to understand them better…..to want to make them happy, and how to still feel connected to one another, even after a difficult conversation. This is the main model, along with Dr. Chapman’s The 5 Love Languages that I recommend.
Next Relationship 101 blog: Dating 101: You Have to Know Yourself First
To find a mate, we must first be successful in dating. To know what we want, we must first know who we are.