I have had my share of relationships which took me on a ride through a full spectrum of emotions, lessons, and experiences. Over the years, I’ve learned powerful lessons and discovered the most vital ingredients for a strong relationship, many of which I unfortunately discovered once it was already too late. Without further ado, here are the raw ingredients:
You know that gut-wrenching feeling of trying to convince yourself that everything is normal when there is clearly an elephant in the room? Have you ever forced a smile while suppressing that tremendous discomfort and unease around your significant other because you heard an unsettling rumor from your friends or simply have a bad hunch?
Voice your concerns, even if the issue seems irrational to you. Sometimes we’re afraid to speak up, other times we simply want to stay oblivious to the truth. The hard truth I learned is that if something is bothering you or upsetting you in your relationship, that conversation needs to be had with your partner sooner rather than later.
Talk to your partner and see if the issue can be discussed and rationalized. Avoid getting angry if you can, try your best to stay level-headed, and listen to your partner’s response and reasoning. There are two sides to every story, so be sure to listen at least just as much as you talk and try your best to empathize because conflict is only resolved through understanding.
The take-home here is that negativity is not like a fine wine – it doesn’t age well. Allowing these heavy conversations to linger creates a cancer in the partnership which will most likely be the cause of death of the relationship in the end. Talk to one another!
“Communication to a relationship is like oxygen to life. Without it… it dies.”Tony Gaskins
A relationship cannot fully thrive without honesty, which stems from openness. I’m not talking about exposing your fear of spiders… think bigger. Have you cheated on past partners? Were you married? Do you have a promiscuous past? It’s time to lay the truth out on the table. The good, the mistakes, and the baggage… it all needs to be put forward.
You may be asking “Why? The past doesn’t matter.” If it doesn’t matter to you, then don’t open that can of worms, simple as that. However, if your partner is curious, understand that reluctance to disclose certain pieces of your past or character may not be considered ‘lying,’ but hiding the truth can be deceitful and manipulative if you are intentionally trying to portray yourself in a positive light to compensate for your past actions. Be truthful and accept your past because it is the story you have written about yourself.
Is there a time and place for it? Of course, but if you are serious about the person you are dating, then give forth your entire being. Likewise, expect the same from your partner. If you want assurance that you are with the right person, that person will not accept you for who you truly are and the things you’ve done, but will help you through any issues, trauma, or baggage that you may still struggle to carry.
One of the worst things we can do in a relationship is to ignore these ‘truths’ and let them fester in our minds because it leads us to dwell, make assumptions, refrain from communication, and detaches us from the most precious thing we have – the present moment. Address these truths, accept reality, and move forward with building your relationship. If you expose yourself and you are met with rejection, you now have confirmation that your partner was in love with the idea of you rather than you as a person.
Keep in mind that relationships are not about perfection… we just need to be there for one another wholeheartedly. Love is an all-or-nothing deal, so if you are seeking confirmation that you are with the right person, you should never feel the need to hide who you are.
Look, we all have a past. We’ve all been hurt in one way or another and its normal to be cautious when we enter into a new relationship… but if you’re putting up walls that are impossible to climb, why are you choosing to spend another minute in a relationship?
Emotional guard does not equate to emotional intelligence. In fact, I can argue that it’s a sign of cowardice and immaturity. Mature people learn their lessons and apply them forward. Immature people hold grudges and blame their new partners for the mistakes of their ex’s which may have been left unresolved.
There is really no reason to establish dominance in a partnership. True bravery comes from mending your broken heart and putting it on the line all over again. Again, it’s fine and normal to be cautious, but remember that every great endeavor in life comes with great risk. Love is one of the riskiest adventures we embark upon, and to truly experience it in its rawest form, we need to fully put ourselves on the line, say what we felt, have an open heart, and give it our absolute all.
One of the best lessons that I learned from my past relationships is the importance of understanding love languages. For those who have not read Gary Chapmans The Five Love Languages, they are as follows:
- Words of affirmation
- Acts of service
- Receiving gifts
- Quality time
- Physical touch
I am in no way affiliated with this book, but it’s worth a read. Love languages are not universal and it’s important to recognize what ‘small’ actions vibe with your significant other. Washing the dishes may seem like an insignificant chore to you, but your partner may be greatly appreciative if his/her love language happens to be acts of service. Similarly, giving a random compliment or something as simple as taking your partner’s hand in public are examples of ‘little things’ that can make a huge impact in your relationship.
Don’t neglect love language. Good verbal communication makes you strong, effective non-verbal communication makes you inseparable. If you’re having a tough time figuring them out for yourself, talk to your partner and ask. It’s a fun conversation to have on its own and it shows that you care.
There should be no such thing as “I’m too busy” or “I don’t have time.” If you adopt a puppy, are you going to make excuses that you’re too busy to feed or walk your furry friend? Taking this animal into your home was a decision that you made and though it may seem silly to compare a dog to a relationship, the overlap here is you made a commitment which you now have to honor.
If you don’t have time for your partner, you have no right to be in a relationship with that person. Taking it a step further, you have nobody to blame but yourself if you end up getting dumped, divorced, or cheated on. I’ve been there. I was traveling non-stop for work and fully focused on my career in my early twenties. My partner left me. At the time, I was confused and angry, looking for reasons to blame her. With time, I learned that it was my own fault for making excuses instead of making time. It didn’t make much effort to call or video chat when I was traveling, but my mind was somewhere else entirely and it cost me.
I’ll say this one last time for emphasis: Always find time for your significant other! If you can’t, then you have no right to be in a relationship.