Here's the secret to going the distance!
Every single one of us has relationships in our life: romantic partners, friends, family, colleagues. We were created for relationships. And those relationships, whether they're healthy or unhealthy, bring great significance to our life.
You may ask, "How can I experience more healthy relationships that bring purpose and fulfillment to my life?
Healthy and positive relationships are definitely possible, but they require a lot of work and investment — they don’t just happen.
Whether it's by marriage or dating, the intimacy we build with others affects every area of our life. Having a healthy intimate relationship with one person energizes you and positively impacts your other relationships, as well.
But when life gets busy, you may fail to invest time, energy, and attention to your relationships, which results in emotional disconnection.
There are countless ways to build intimacy, but there are three foundational principles I've seen create strong emotional, physical, and spiritual connection between couples. When applied to their marriage or partnership, a sense of security and feeling of closeness increase, even when they have limited time together.
Here is how successful couples build a happy, intimate relationship that truly lasts:
1. They reveal their true self.
This is a pivotal first step in developing a healthy relationship. Be willing to open up and let that person into your life, to really know you. Share your dreams, fears, goals, expectations, and things that tick you off.
Of course, for this to happen you need to know yourself. Do you know what your expectations and boundaries are in a relationship? Do you know your dreams, fears, goals, your needs and wants in order to know and feel you are loved and important to the person you love?
It's always been easy for me to open up to others because I grew up in the same community until I left for college. I graduated high school with friends I had known since first grade. I never moved once, so I had invested deeply into my relationships with friends. When my wife Susan and I started dating seriously, I recognized the big difference between us, how vulnerable she could be in a relationship.
You see, opening up was difficult for her. She grew up in a military family and attended 11 different schools by the time she graduated. She would live in one community a short time before her dad moves to another military base, so she had little time to develop and nurture friendships. She was friendly to others but did not allow others to really know her because she knew she would be moving soon and it hurt too much to develop friendships and then quickly leave them.
So, she operated her life on a surface level to avoid emotional pain. Our differences related to "being known" created some difficulties that we had to address and work on, especially after we got engaged and early on in our marriage. I wanted to get to know her on a deeper level but she struggled with it. But, once she was able to break that cycle and feel comfortable letting others know her, it opened up a whole new world for her — in both our marriage and friendships.
When your partner doesn't "know" you, it also creates a lot of sexual frustration. In your mind, they should be able to figure out or "know" what you need and want, sexually. When they don't meet these needs, you become angry and frustrated. But, it's not their fault. You failed in letting your partner know your sexual desires, and you must be willing to be known in all facets of the relationship.
2. They get to know who their partner truly is.
For those of us who find it easy to "be known", this is usually a hard principle to apply. This means being willing to listen and allow your partner to be known by you. To know others means listening without interrupting or giving your opinions when the other is opening up and sharing. Knowing others doesn’t mean you have to agree with everything they tell you, but it is crucial that you let them say it.
When my wife started sharing a dream with me, I found myself sometimes interrupting and saying, "Why would you ever think that?" or I would interrupt and finish her sentence for her, which resulted in shutting down communication. I was shutting down the very thing that I wanted from her: to be known.
You must allow them to share their dreams, goals, expectations, and other insights about who they are without judgment or opinions. Your job is simply to listen, understand, and communicate with positive body language. Ask questions later when they have finished. It is vital that you watch and listen in order to know others.
By taking the time to listen without criticism, you are giving your partner the safety and freedom to express themselves. Once you practice this enough and learn to make it a regular part of your relationship, you will be amazed at the doors it opens.
3. They adjust HOW they love to reflect what they know about their partner.
The first two principles don't mean much if you don't take action, and this third principle puts the bow on the package. Once your spouse or partner allows himself or herself to be known to you and you listen, it is time for action to prove that you care about what you know.
For example, if you discover that simple notes of affirmation mean a lot to them, leave a sticky note on the steering wheel that says "I will miss you today, you drive me wild! Can’t wait to see you tonight!" That simple note just made a big investment into your relationship. It’s a big deal that you show that you care about what you know.
This principle, in particular, became a huge part in my marriage. About five years ago my wife shared with me how she had a goal to become a runner. I could have responded with "That’s crazy, you are in your early 50s and now you want to become a runner?" But, I didn’t. Instead I let her share her dream with me and I listened instead of throwing a bucket of cold water on her goal.
Since I listened to her and took the time to know her, I wanted her to know that I cared. I didn’t have any idea if she would carry through with becoming a runner but that didn’t matter. What mattered is that she felt safe to tell me her goal and my role was to support and encourage her because I cared. So, what did I do? I went shopping and bought her some cute running outfits to wear and took her to buy her first pair of serious running shoes.
When she ran her first race, I made numerous signs and went along the race route and held those signs up to encourage her when she ran by me because I wanted her to know I cared. Those type of actions breathe health, life, and deep intimacy into your relationship. By the way, she is still running and has completed numerous races including a recent marathon where she ran past all of her competition. And yes, I was still on the sidelines of the race holding up my signs of encouragement and cheering.
Applying these three principles helps divorce-proof your marriage while also helping you enjoy an improved relationship.
Benefits include trust; security; honoring and respecting your partner; a stronger friendship and staying out of a rut; and deeper levels of emotional, romantic, sexual, and spiritual intimacy. There is also improved healthy communication, a better understanding of your differences, a safer way of handling conflict, increased cooperation, dreaming about your future together, building a team attitude into your relationship, and so much more.
If you desire to develop a strong healthy relationship you must first open up vulnerably and let yourself be known by your partner. Then, listen to and understand your partner in order to know him or her. And finally, just simply prove through your actions that you care about what you've learned about them.
What will you choose? Only you know.
Steve coaches with dating, engaged, and married couples of all ages to help them discover the secrets of experiencing a dynamic and happy relationship. If you want more information about Steve and how to move beyond today to experience the relationship you've always dreamed of visit his website at www.beyondtodaylifecoaching.com.