Happy Healthy Loving Relationships
Partnership Can Become A Loving Art Form of Life
Lynne Namka, Ed. D.
Love is a science. Love is an art. Love is a choice to be made over and over in each moment. To love is to invest in emotional entrepreneurship of you and those beings with whom you surround yourself and become conscious in all your relationships. The decision to become a loving person is the most important investment that you will ever make in your life.
Love is often thought of as feeling or an emotional state but do you realize that love can also be a verb, as well as an act? It can also be an attitude of daily living. Making the decision to be a loving person will bring happiness to others and return to love to you. Love is a way of “Be-ing.” It is an attitude and way of being and interacting with those around you. You have the option of how far open you want your heart to be with the people around you. How you distribute the love that you have within you is again a choice. As the bible tells us in 1 Corinthians 16:14 “Let all that you do be done in love.”
The true meaning of love in romantic relationship is for two mature, independent people to come together in equal partnership to celebrate their growth, both as individuals and as a couple.
“Love consists of this; that two solitudes protect and touch and greet each other,” said the philosopher, Rilke. Spontaneity and authenticity as well as letting go of protective walls are the hallmark of the mature adult. Intimacy can be achieved when the both partners are complete within themselves and are comfortable with their identity and are willing to take risks with their vulnerable feelings.
Mature love is not hearts and flowers and fireworks all of the time. It is about living up to the strength of one’s own values while choosing to be in a partnership. It is the commitment of really being there for another individual while retaining one’s own sense of self. It’s being there during the ins and outs of the relationship. Often is about being willing to be vulnerable and do the hard work of looking deeply within one’s self.
The happy, healthy couple recognizes that they are a unit in which both their relationship and their individuality are important. They have a systems approach, which recognizes each person’s need to grow and change while giving priority to the relationship. There is a commitment to their individual growth as well as their “coupleness.” Loving partners think both in terms of the “we”, as well as their own individual wishes.
They are willing to set boundaries on those actions of their partner that are not in the best interests of the relationship. Loving boundaries start with what relationship researcher John Gottman called a “soft startup.” Speaking softly and wisely when upset about something can defuse defendedness of the partner. “Honey, I noticed that …. is affecting our relationship. Could we talk about this?” spoken in a voice of loving concern is an example of a soft startup. My teacher Virginia Satir said that you can tell a person almost anything if you do it in a loving, conscious way. Sometimes I spend several days getting myself in a loving attitude and finding the right words and correct timing to bring up a point to my husband.
In mature partnerships, communication skills are open and authentic with few double bind messages, which say one thing and mean another. The two people are straight with each other. They remain there for each other expressing their vulnerability, following Pierre Teilhard de Chardin’s definition of love “…. to approach each other center to center.” They own their own feelings and actions and use frequent “I messages.” They stress equality in the relationship, individuality and happiness rather than the need to be in control. They understand that conflict is inevitable so they do not try to avoid it but view it as a challenge. They have techniques for conflict resolution and do not allow issues to build up. They continue to work through their own issues of power.
They learn ways to work with their unruly feelings. They learn to recognize their triggers and their defensiveness when feeling threatened. Heart and warmth shut down along with the connected sense of being at one with the world when those grand-slam negative feeling come in. Their coping style in dealing with stress is based on negotiation and problem solving, not defensiveness and withdrawal. They choose to lay down their armor of war and address those vulnerable feelings of guilt and shame when they have disrupted the loving energy in the relationship. Love becomes an attitude of how to approach the partner as well as others. Love becomes a verb in action.
We are meant to be in loving relationships, but we have little glitches inside that keep these loving relationships from happening called negative feelings and defenses. If you get defensive, that is a signal that something unresolved keeping you from experiencing love and intimacy. To have a glitch free life, keep working your program.” Feelings are after all, just feelings. Defensive actions are just unhealthy ways that you have learned to deal with threat. You can use them as an opportunity to learn. You can turn consciously to the act of becoming a loving person again and again.
As the Course In Miracles says, “Speak only love, for that is what you are.”
Healthy couples have fun together; they make their fun by finding things they both enjoy and putting them in the schedule. With a strong sense of self, they draw from their unique spiritual nature. They develop meaning in their lives by creating a strong family life and doing some type if volunteer work that helps others.
Psychologist Florence Kaslow writing about the research on mature relationships said, “When one is privileged to be in the company of a compatible couple, their well being and harmony is apparent. They seem to exude tranquility, a kind of inner peace, and liking of their place in the world. They may be quiet or effusive, but their confidence in loving and being loved and valued is unmistakable. They have an unselfconscious desire to please one another because there are sufficient shared paths, goals and values. They understand that when they as a couple benefit, so do each of the partners individually.”
Happy couples are aware of the importance of keeping love alive. If you are in a relationship of a number of years that has lost its sizzle, find ways to recapture the spark. Remember, as David Day Williams said, “Love is a participatory process.” Look at the way that you participate daily. Observe and challenge your unloving acts. Challenge your partner to participate in becoming a loving person as well. Here is a message given to me on my wedding day from my aunt who said her grandmother (my great grandmother) gave her this message on her wedding day: “Have a happy marriage. You can if you try.”
If you are out of love with your partner and headed the wrong way, do a U-turn and get back into it. It is normal for a relationship to have the inns and outs. Find the endearing traits of your partner and why you chose your partner in the first place and focus on those instead of how you’ve been hurt. Court your partner again; bring back the romance.
Specific things you can do: Learn and use the Emotional Freedom Technique and other Energy Psychology techniques that reduce and release your negative feelings of frustration, anger, disgust and contempt. Impatience with your partner’s faults can undermine your loving intention for staying connected. See your relationship as an opportunity to find those unloving aspects of yourself and fix them. Learn thought stoppage and other techniques that help you break into your negative, critical thoughts. Practice active listening and Intentional Dialogue with your loved one. Study and use fair fighting tips to break into your unhealthy ways of reacting when you feel threat. Stop venting about the undesirable aspects of your partner. Take a couples workshop or retreat that teaches communication and intimacy skills. Practice daily kindness and loving gestures. Smile often and flirt with each other. You can fall in love again if you are willing to learn new things about yourself and do the loving acts of connection.
Study forgiveness and practice it daily until you really get it. “Love is an act of endless forgiveness,” said actor Peter Ustinov. Continual forgiveness of yourself and your partner will make you grow into the person who is capable of being loving. Get into couples therapy for a general tune up of your relationship and to resolve any deep, long-standing hurts. Cherish each other. The thing to treasure above all else is loving connections. Belonging is the joy of being human.
Now we have a science of how to stay healthy and heartfelt in your relationships. I’ve listed some of the best scientific information on how to stay connected with your partner and your children on this web site. The ideas on our web site will help you become a loving person capable of finding and maintaining loving relationships.
Kahlil Gibran said “When there’s someone, one someone, who makes your days brighter, makes your joys greater, makes your heart lighter…Someone, one someone, you want to share with, do everything with, go everywhere with. Someone, one someone you want to live for. You have something called love.”
Find that someone. Be that someone. You can if you keep searching for the best that is in you while releasing that which is not consistent with your loving nature. Remind yourself of Mother Theresa’s quote often: “Do small things with great love.”
I wish you happy, healthy, loving, connected relationships. – Lynne Namka