Everyone wants a relationship, yet so many of us end up single. What gives?
It is easy to say we just haven't met the right person and I don't deny that there needs to be a level of soul connection. But many couples start with that level of attraction and the relationship still fizzles. So there must be more to it than that.
After working as a coach for many years, I have figured out that the key to a lasting relationship is intimacy, or meaningful connection, between partners. But what makes intimacy possible? What allows it to be more than sustainable, but to actually grow deeper and deeper? What blocks it? What makes it deteriorate?
Intimacy is built on these key skills.
- Self-Awareness You need to know who you are so you don't project your own insecurities and neurotic tendencies onto your lover. For instance, a couple of years ago I realized that I kept getting irritated with my husband over small things and that my irritation was very similar to the way my mom used to behave toward my father. Once I made that connection I was able to stop myself from acting unfairly toward my husband — or at least I realized why I was acting that way and could control it.
- Self-knowledge Intimacy can only happen when both partners are present in a relationship and can relate to each other from their authentic selves. When you are acting and not being your real self, then you and your partner are not going to be able to connect in any meaningful way.
- Self-acceptance Self-acceptance is the process of learning to love yourself with all of your flaws. We are all human. We all have those parts of ourselves that we are not proud of, but we might as well accept them because they are part of what makes us who we are. Once you are able to love yourself, you'll be more receptive to the love your partner gives you.
- Self Exposure This is the core interactive skill that builds intimacy. Is there anything you are afraid to express, to share or to ask for? Why? Is it too soon? It can be, but as you get deeper into a relationship, you need to be able to open yourself up fully to your partner. You don't need to agree. You just need to respect each other's differences. If you continue being honest with each other, even in conflict and difference, you will each learn more about each other and yourself. And this is where real bonding happens.
- Self-Responsibility This is the culmination of being in an adult relationship and the primary reason you need to develop all these other skills. It includes recognizing your own needs and being responsible enough to express them and act in way that supports them being met. This includes knowing that a relationship doesn't have the potential for deep intimacy and choosing to leave so that you can make space in your life for someone else.
None of this is about perfection. It is about life, growing, learning, and deepening your connection to your partner. Mistakes are not wrong; they are learning opportunities. Each stage of life has its own challenges and a relationship is an ongoing process that gives us opportunities to learn more about ourselves and our partner.
More on Love on YourTango: