Saying the words, “I love you” to your partner, no matter how long you have been together, adds a special reminder with words we all like to hear. A good relationship doesn’t just happen. It needs to be nurtured and cared for like a garden, by planting seeds of respect, love, and by serving our partner’s in a selfless way.
Reflecting on my relationship with my husband of many years, we have had many challenges along the way, but each time we went through the fire, it forged our bond, which has grown stronger and deeper than I could ever have imagined.
When we first enter a relationship, often through a strong romantic attraction, we, of course, are always on our best behavior. As time goes on, that outer veneer wears away, and we begin to show who we really are, flaws and all. It is only when two people make a conscious choice that they will work things out, no matter what, that true growth in the relationship happens.
Often when there are disagreements or arguments, one of the first reactions we have is the flight or fight response. In the early stages of my relationship with my husband, often my response was to take flight. I would grab my keys, head out the door, walk to the park or jump in my car and speed off down the road.
At one point years ago, when my husband and I were in the midst of a very difficult time, I realized that I was repeating the negative behavior of my parents. I was then able to look clearly at my reactions and begin to change and leave behind the “environmental influence” of my childhood. One night after a heated argument, I had what I believe was an out-of-body experience. I felt detached from my body and it was as if I looked down on my body from above it. For the first time, I saw with complete clarity, that I was repeating behavior and duplicating the anger in the dysfunctional way that my parents always had. It wasn’t long after that I looked in the mirror one night and said these very powerful and healing words to my deepest self; “I am not my mother, I am not my father…Who am I?” From that point on I was able to be a better listener. In time I learned that I didn’t have to react to my husbands emotional states. It was when I was able to remain calm, quiet and to listen, and then respond, that things really changed. This is an ongoing practice, and sometimes, even now, my emotions get the best of me, but that is becoming less and less as time goes by.
When we make mistakes in our relationships, as we always do, it is important to learn the art of forgiveness. Everyone makes mistakes, and if we are smart or have the desire to, we quickly learn the lessons from our mistakes and move on. We can only be accountable for ourselves. When we are constantly bringing up past mistakes and playing the blame game in our relationships, we get stuck in a pattern of negativity. If we consider the concept that, our thoughts create our world, it becomes evident that we need to keep our thoughts off the past, off mistakes, off anything that isn’t fruitful to our current situation and focus on the here and now.
I was speaking to someone recently, who made the comment that she could forgive, but never forget. There are times when we think we are being forgiving, but we aren’t fully letting go of the pain, anger, or frustration that is associated with a hurtful experience from the past. To fully forgive, we must forget. We must let go and surrender fully to the present moment to really change the past. When we focus on negative events that are over and done with, our bodies respond on the physiological level and releases stress hormones associated with that past event. That is why we must stay away from thoughts that keep us stuck in patterns that are no longer relevant, unless we make them so, by bringing them up over and over again. It is only by making the effort to stay positive in our thoughts, our actions, and by trying to focus on the positive daily that we see the greatest results in our lives and in all of our relationships.
A good relationship flourishes when we take time to say “I love you” at least a few times daily. You can never say the most powerful words in any language, “I love you” enough. Saying I love you also requires action by having the deepest respect for our partners. One way to do this is being polite. Saying please and thank-you or by asking, “Is there anything I can do for you?” builds a relationship on the foundation of respect and integrity, which is the strongest foundation any relationship can have.
Writing little notes are a great way to say, “thank you for being in my life.” Just by writing the words, I Love You, sends a sweet and endearing message. I have read that couples who have strong relationships have one thing in common, and that is writing loving messages, sending cards, and emailing notes to one another.
Never neglect the simple act of touching your partner. Touching, even by just briefly laying a hand on a shoulder, or a pat on the back, and also giving hugs are the simplest ways to connect. Smiling, especially first thing in the morning, to greet our partners is always a welcome sight, even when we don’t feel like it. Taking the step to be pleasant and smile is often the most neglected acts and can send a message of taking our most cherished companion for granted. Smiling is a great habit to adopt in all situations. Just by smiling, our bodies energy reacts in a positive way. Holding hands is so simple and sweet. It is one of the first things people do when they become attracted to one another. There is even evidence to suggest that when we hold hands with the one we love, there is a lowering of stress hormones, blood pressure goes down, and women in particular feel a deep sense of security.
When children are involved in a relationship, it is critical that parents have a night together or times during the week that are just for them. If this step isn’t taken, there can be a serious disconnect from each other. Even having a baby-sitter come over for an hour, and just taking a walk together, going out for a drink, or parking in a peaceful place is essential. Talking isn’t even necessary. This isn’t a time for discussing work, bills, or focusing on problems. It is making a point to be together and having quality time. When important issues have to be discussed, tell your partner you need to talk. If it isn’t a good time, due to too many distractions, ask when a good time would be. This prepares your partner and helps in not catching them off guard.
It is always nice if we can be on the same page with our partners when it comes to having our needs fulfilled. If we have expectations, sometimes we can be very disappointed and become resentful. That is where doing your best as an individual, by being the example of what you would like, without expectations, is the most challenging, but the most effective way of creating an ideal relationship. In most cases, patience and persistence will be rewarded.
It is very important that we have the freedom to have our individuality in the midst of the relationship. This comes when we accept that in any long term relationship, our partner is bound to change. When two people make a commitment to stay together, no matter what, when they are committed to growth and change in a positive way, when we have that one person we can rely on, one person to turn to when we lose perspective, that person can fill our lives with the companionship that is essential for balance, health and peace.
Having a companion that we can rely on in this often chaotic world is one of the greatest gifts we have in life. When we make the effort and nurture our relationships, we are blessed and fortunate to have someone to share our simple humanity with, someone who helps share the burden of all that is required to have a quality life. When two people make the choice to be together and work toward a common goal, that life is enhanced, we live healthier and happier lives, and we are a good example to our children, who will carry that into the next generation.
© Rose Winstanley-Trefz 2014