“Daring to set boundaries is about having the courage to love ourselves even when we risk disappointing others.” ~Brene Brown
Fairy tales and love stories feed us fantasies of perfect “happy ever after” relationships. But, in reality, we see unhappy, unhealthy relationships all around us. Is it even possible that you can make a relationship last forever?
It is possible if you choose wisely, work hard, and you both remain committed to making it work. Working with couples, I have seen the deep longing that people have for being seen, heard and understood. Both partners long for it so much that it gets in the way of each one seeing, hearing and understanding their partner. Is that perhaps true in your case, too?
How can you make your relationship last forever?
First, rather than asking, “How can I make a relationship last forever? Ask, “How can we create a love that lasts forever?” Do you see the positive shift in this language?
Here are five other shifts that will help you promote a long-lasting relationship:
Shift “I can change him” into “I love him warts and all.” It’s a fairy tale to kiss a frog and change him into a perfect prince. When you commit to someone, you’re accepting him as he is. To manipulate, cry and pout because he doesn’t live up to your unrealistic expectations is dishonest. That’s why it’s so important to know yourself before ever beginning a relationship. Only then will you recognize the right partner for you.
If you’re already in a relationship, it’s never too late to learn to appreciate and wholeheartedly accept each other as you are. I love how Thomas Merton describes this:
“The beginning of love is to let those we love be perfectly themselves, and not to twist them to fit our own image. Otherwise we love only the reflection of ourselves we find in them.”
Shift “I’m not getting what I want and need” into “I give without any strings attached.” Expecting to get more than you give is a poor foundation for any relationship. Give for the sheer joy of giving. Delighting each other makes love grow.
Shift “My dream” into “Our shared vision”. We all need to have dreams. To pursue a relationship when you’re stuck on only “my dream,” will make you feel trapped, frustrated, and resentful. Look for someone who has the same vision as you do, so you can build on it, while allowing you both to achieve your most important individual dreams.
Shift “I can’t talk to him about THAT!” into “We hold sacred our intimate secrets.” It takes vulnerability and trust to open up to each other. You earn trust by keeping intimate things private. You don’t run off to tell mom, sisters, or friends what your man’s weaknesses or insecurities are. It’s between you and him alone. And you don’t hold it against him. You see it as an opportunity to step up and supportively add what he lacks.
Shift “He’s not the man I married” into “We’re growing together.” It’s inevitable that you both will change. When you’re committed to growing together, you allow each other space to explore and develop. You can freely express feelings, needs, hopes and dreams. You support each other, not being afraid of where the change will take you, because you’re in the journey together and that’s exciting!
Conflicts and disagreement are bound to happen. If you haven’t learned to feel safe in these situations, you may take them as a sign you shouldn’t be together. But it’s actually a sign that you don’t have the right skills to overcome those moments…yet.
Repair is the most important step to disagreement. You can learn to resolve and deepen your relationship by following my Three Steps to Personal Responsibility in Relationships:
- I am responsible for understanding myself – my wants, needs and values;
- I am responsible for verbalizing that understanding to you;
- YOU are responsible for co-creating with me a relationship where I feel safe to speak my truth. (This helps both parties to take responsibility for their part in the relationship.)
Having been married for almost 26 years, I understand that cultivating a healthy relationship takes a lot of work. Both parties need to be interested in growing personally and updating old familial patterns that aren’t useful anymore.
Sometimes you can get stuck. I get that. I’m here to help you get past that and gain more clarity. Please contact me and schedule an “Unlocking Your Potential” 30-minute complimentary consultation (in-person, by phone or via Skype). If you want something in your relationship to change, that change must begin with you.
“Love is an untamed force. When we try to control it, it destroys us. When we try to imprison it, it enslaves us. When we try to understand it, it leaves us feeling lost and confused.” ~ Paulo Coelho
You love your parents. You love your children. You love your life-long best friend you’ve had since grade school. You love your romantic partner. You love them all, but not in the same way. Each one holds a special and unique place in your heart.
Why is it that we immediately “fall in love” with some people, while not others? Just to give you an example: I’ve become acquainted with Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s work (www.chimamanda.com). And I immediately felt a strong connection with her. What she says and her way of being really resonates with me. She’s funny, graceful, authentic, and the kind of powerful person that makes me proud to be a woman. So I’ve fallen in love with her and have adopted her as my new role model.
From a biological point of view, love is fundamentally chemistry. While lust is a temporary sexual state caused by the release of chemicals such as testosterone and estrogen, true love is caused by the release of a whole range of chemicals such as pheromones, dopamine, norepinephrine, serotonin, oxytocin and vasopressin.
From an evolutionary standpoint, love can be viewed as a survival mechanism because it holds the family and community together for mutual security and shared resources.
The word “love” is confusing, because in English we have just one word to describe so many emotional states. It would be so much better to follow the example of the ancient Greeks who had numerous words to describe the various feelings of love:
- Philia – the deep intimacy between close friends or family members.
- Ludus – the playful affection like flirting.
- Storge – affection within the moment similar to when you see a child do something adorable.
- Pragma – the mature love that develops over a long period of time between committed couples who actively practice goodwill and understanding.
- Agape – the generalized love for all of humanity.
- Philautia – the self-love that we need in order to care for others.
- Eros – the sexual passion and infatuation, which fades unless it turns into a deeper love like philia or pragma.
Even growing up in Italy we distinguished between love towards family and friends by saying: “Ti voglio bene’” and towards a romantic partner using the phrase: “Ti amo.”
Love is never static. It’s expansive. Your heart will never be too full to accept another love. However, it needs to be nurtured and expressed in acts of kindness, generosity and self-sacrifice to stay alive and active.
You can be open to accepting love, but you can’t dictate how, when and where love strikes. You can’t make somebody love you. Love usually arrives in our lives without warning. You can’t buy it. Sell it. Imprison it.
True love is so powerful that it can never hurt anyone. Although, it may cost you dearly because it gives you the courage to speak up and stand up for what you believe in. While it comes freely, it creates an unbreakable bond, one that can be stronger than death. There is nothing it can’t face. If you have love you have a blessed life.
Yet sadly, too many people live without love. They’ve been abused. They’re too busy. Or their fears keep love away. They feel unloved, unworthy, unappreciated. The good news is that anyone can change their situation.
If you’d like to experience deeper, more meaning connections in your life, remember change starts within you. Please check out the Women in Leadership Retreat I’m leading with my close friend Nando Raynolds on May 20 and 21. Everyone gets to choose their own goal to work on so creating loving relationships could be yours. Or feel free to contact me and schedule an “Unlocking Your Potential” 30-minute complimentary consultation, in-person, by phone or via Skype.
“Real connection and intimacy is like a meal, not a sugar fix.” ~ Kristin Armstrong
Does the idea of being emotionally intimate sound amazing or scary to you? Fear keeps many people distant from others. As a result, they become loners or social butterflies that flit from one encounter to another, collecting acquaintances but no real friendships.
Either way they feel empty inside. It’s the difference between having a burger versus an avocado salad for lunch. The first one looks delicious but it has no nutritional value. The second one is deeply nourishing and the benefits can last for a long time.
If you carry such fear, be assured that it’s possible to get rid of the fear. You can experience the exquisite joy of connecting with another person emotionally, intellectually and spiritually – that endeavor we call intimacy.
We all need close friends who are there for us through good times and bad. They are the people who love and accept us for who we are. There are two things that will help you be more comfortable forming intimate relationships.
First, you need to accept yourself the way you are.
When you learn to be mindful, fully aware of yourself, you can be authentic and open with others. When you learn to listen to yourself and trust yourself then you can truly listen and trust others.
“Intimacy simply means that the doors of the heart are open for you, you are welcome to come in and be a guest. But that is possible only if you have a heart which is not stinking with repressed sexuality, which is not boiling with all kinds of perversions, which is natural – as natural as trees, as innocent as children. Then there is no fear of intimacy.” ~ Osho
If you long for intimacy, you have to be willing to drop your defenses, repressions, and inhibitions and be vulnerable. If you’re living a simple, natural life there will be no fear of intimacy, only abundant joy and fulfillment. But if there are scars and wounds that you’re trying to hide, these will need to be healed and mended. Otherwise, you’ll always be afraid that someone will “find out”.
These hurts will no longer have power over you when you let them go, because you’ve rid yourself of self-condemnation and judgment. You accept that you don’t have to be perfect. You no longer lose respect, greatness, or ego, because you’re not focused on those things any longer.
Second, you must open up fully to others and let them get to know the person you are inside.
Platonic intimacy goes deeper than everyday ‘small talk’. It takes time. Lasting friendships grow from having a common interest or shared passion. It’s not that you want to sleep together, but you want to work together towards a common goal. And your differences in opinion and outlook bring richness to the friendship.
Look at the friends or acquaintances you already have and see if there isn’t someone you’d like to get to know better on a deeper level. Look for your common ground and start sharing deeper thoughts and feelings on that topic. Remember, intimacy takes willingness to be vulnerable, to share yourself and risk hurt and rejection. You’ll achieve it only when you’re being deliberate, consistent and exquisitely attentive.
If you’re struggling with how to build intimate relationships, please check out the Women in Leadership Retreat that my intimate friend Nando Raynolds and I are leading on May 20 and 21. We can work with you on this particular goal. Or feel free to contact me and schedule a one-on-one “Unlocking Your Potential” 30-minute complimentary consultation, in-person, by phone or via Skype.
“Intimacy is not a happy medium. It is a way of being in which the tension between distance and closeness is dissolved and a new horizon appears. Intimacy is beyond fear.” ~ Henri Nouwen
Your best friend…who is it? What makes him/her your BEST friend? Perhaps it’s because you’ve known each other forever. Or you have a lot in common as you share similar interests, values and goals. Platonic friendships are held together by intentional attention and nurturing. Friendship is a growing and evolving endeavour. And it will fail if it’s neglected.
Life-long friends are rare, mainly because we outgrow our childhood relationships. They were built around circumstances like living next door, going to the same school, attending the same events. But when we moved past these activities, the friendships faded away because there wasn’t much in common any more.
Platonic friendships take emotional and intellectual connection. True friends really understand each other. They connect on an intimate level, not just superficially. True friends see each other’s faults, but because of caring for each other, they don’t focus on these faults but strive to help each other become better people. It means seeing each other for who you are, not for what you can get from them. It means shifting the focus off of self and looking for the good and valuing them deeply.
Intimacy is not the same as sexuality. Sex is simply one way of displaying intimacy. A person can engage in sex without it being an intimate act. Intimacy is when people openly share themselves, fully exposing their inner being, their thoughts, their emotions, their pains, their desires, and their cherished dreams. And many people have a hard time doing that, because somewhere in their past they’ve been hurt and they haven’t learned to let that go.
Many people are starved from true connection, attunement and deep presence with one another. Some of us bring this drought from childhood where the connections were sparse and scarce. Or we’ve developed the “I don’t want to get involved” attitude because we don’t want to be responsible. Perhaps overtime this has formed from an emotionally sterile home or work environment.
Others find it very challenging to develop intimate friendships outside of their romantic relationships, especially with the opposite sex, for fear of crossing boundaries. So, they’re okay not taking risks and dealing with a deep longing for nourishing connections.
There are a lot of insecurities around forming platonic friendships. Some of the following reasons may resonate with you. As you read them, see which ones you identify with…
I don’t know how to cultivate closeness in a platonic friendship without risking rejection, awkwardness or sexual charge. If there’s intimacy, do I need to be or do anything different? Am I obligated in any way? Cultivating greater emotional intelligence will help you identify your own emotions and those of others so you’ll know what behavior is appropriate.
I am not good enough. If I give people a chance to get close to me, they’re going to find out all my faults and not like me. Everyone has faults. Look for the good in yourself and others.
I don’t trust myself. Being a friend means you can count on me, and I don’t know that I can always be there for you. And if it’s a member of the opposite sex, I know it’s going to become sexual, because I can’t control myself. You can learn to trust and control yourself.
I don’t trust others. I’ve been hurt before and I’d rather be alone that risk that again. Taking risks is what living fully is all about. Stepping into a risk, without having a specific outcome in mind, frees you to experience the moment joyfully and view it as a gift.
I don’t want to be rejected. What if I invest in a person who doesn’t reciprocate? Being rejected is part of life. What about rejection bothers you so much? Not everyone in the world is meant to be your friend.
There may not be as many established protocols that facilitate building emotional intimacy in a non-romantic setting. But you can develop emotional and intellectual skills to cultivate platonic intimacy.
If experiencing intimacy is what you’re looking for, check out the Women in Leadership Retreat I’m leading with my colleague Nando Raynolds (a very intimate friend of mine!) on May 20 and 21. We can work with you on this particular goal. Or feel free to contact me and schedule an “Unlocking Your Potential” 30-minute complimentary consultation, in-person, by phone or via Skype.