Written by: Jorinde Berben
Image credit: pexels.com
Yesterday, my partner and I did our first joined couple’s coaching session. We coached a couple that wants to progress in their relationship and finds that there are obstacles in the way. It was an amazing experience, fulfilling for all four of us and it showed me, once more, how much there is to learn when it comes to all relationships, and in particular, romantic relationships.
I was never taught in school how to behave in a romantic relationship. What are fair ways to fight? What kind of behaviour can really damage your relationship? How can you communicate effectively? How do you create that couple bubble I mentioned in this previous post?
For most of my life, I thought that love would just come naturally. Once you meet the right person, everything will fall into place and you will magically understand each other and never fight and always be happy and…
Once you’ve been through your first relationship, you come to realise that this is, of course, a fairytale that’s far from complete. Much of how we behave in relationships isn’t ‘natural’ at all but reflects what we’ve learned about communication and human relationships throughout our lives. Some of it is helpful, some of it not so much.
In my earliest relationships, in my 11-year marriage and now in my relationship with my current partner I’ve learned so much about what it means to love someone unconditionally and yet respect your own boundaries. The following are 5 of the most valuable lessons I’ve learned and try to live every day.
- Say it all.
Don’t keep things to yourself because you’re afraid of conflict. When there are little things that pop up and they matter to you, express them. It’s much easier to talk to your partner about those socks on the floor the same day, than it is to discuss his overall sense of neatness (and perhaps affect his feelings of self-worth) after months of sweeping things under the rug.
Learning how to communicate in a healthy, constructive and non-violent way has made a huge impact on my relationships (even if I sometimes still fall off the wagon.)
- Your vulnerability is the way to your deepest connection.
We all want to be loved for who we really are, but we’re afraid to show the parts of ourselves that feel small or bad. You see where that might not add up? Vulnerability requires trust, but trust is mostly built through vulnerability. If you wait until you’re 100% sure your partner will respond in the way you want them to, you’re not being 100% vulnerable.
- Don’t judge. Ever.
Your partner deserves your unwavering support, in every moment. That means you don’t judge them for how they feel or how they act. This is the case when they are with you, or when you’re talking about them to other people. You can lovingly guide your partner when she wants to change, or you can address things that are important to you. However, discussions that start with ‘If you didn’t use your phone so much you would have more time to cook dinner’ have never motivated anyone to change.
- Learn what makes your partner feel loved.
The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman (the website has a fun quiz as well) illustrate that we all have ways to express our love, and ways in which we can accept the other’s love. Learning what way matters to your partner can really boost your connection. If your partner feels loved and cherished, this benefits both of you.
- Pay attention to your own feelings.
Being in a committed relationship as someone who is plagued by attachment anxiety brings its own challenges. I’ve learned through falling and getting up again that it is vitally important to pay attention to my own feelings. They are key indicators of which of my needs are met and which aren’t. There are times when our needs conflict, and it is mostly at those times where I previously would have put my own inclinations aside in favor of my partner, that I found myself resenting my partner afterwards. Making sure my needs are met is my responsibility.
These are only a few lessons I’ve learned along the way, and there will undoubtably be more to include on this blog in future posts.
For now, I am really curious about what you have learned in your life about relationships that you were never explicitly taught. Perhaps we can, one day, design a curriculum that teaches our young people these important lessons when they so crave them.