Relationship as a 3rd entity
The very act of joining into partnership with a love mate creates a new entity called the “Relationship.” It is as much outside of each partner as it is within, or part of, each of them.
Together the couple will define and co-create their relationship, based on the vision, values, and beliefs of each person.
To understand this concept, imagine a house with 2 pillars holding it up. The two pillars represent the integrity of both partners, and together, they hold up the house, which is the relationship. All three elements are needed for the house to stay standing. Each person has their own identity, values, and needs, and the relationship has an identity, values, and needs as well.
Both pillars have to be strong, and the house has to have its own integrity, to support the partners in experiencing fulfillment, connection, and harmony in the relationship. In my coaching, I do an assessment to find out which areas of your relationship are working and which areas need more improvement, and we focus on those areas that need improvement.
What each partner needs to create a strong, supportive relationship:
1) Self-Awareness of:
-Values: What gives your life meaning. Core values are the guiding principles that drive behavior and help us tell right from wrong. When our lives are aligned with our values, we’re happy! When they’re not, we’re unfulfilled. Examples of values are honesty, freedom, or learning from mistakes.
-Vision/Purpose of your life: When we don’t know where we’re going, we don’t know if our actions-or our relationship-is supportive of what will truly make us happy in the long term. Articulating your vision helps make a road map so you can steer your relationship and your life in the right direction. Partners who get lost in relationship don’t have this.
-Awareness of positive and limiting beliefs, attitudes, and patterns, so you can express them for deeper intimacy and knowledge of who you both are on a deep level. And because the more you know yourself, the less you blame your partner for what’s happening. Then both people can support each other in creating solutions to their issues and living fulfilling lives.
2) Connection to a higher power/the Source of Love. Whatever higher power you believe in, there is a Source of Love that is bigger than you are. When you are triggered or hurt, you can tap into this Source for Self-Compassion that sooths your hurts and allows you to heal. Your partner can’t meet all of your needs all of the time, and its important for each person to tap into this Higher Love when they need
3) Other support systems: throughout human history we had community, networks of friends and family to support us. We didn’t just rely on our partner! That puts too much pressure on the relationship to meet all our needs. Nowadays, we need to consciously seek support systems in our lives so that our needs to give/receive love, contribution, and support are nurtured.
4) Emotional Mastery Skills. We all get triggered and we can’t rely on our partner to make us happy. We need to learn the skills of mastering our emotions so we can fill ourselves up and infuse our relationships with resilience, empathy, and generosity.
What the Relationship Needs to be strong, safe, and supportive:
1) A strong basis of friendship. Partners are allies, not adversaries. Friends have a mutual respect for each other, enjoy each other’s company, feel securely connected, know each other’s likes, dislikes, history, values, dreams, and enjoy quality time together.
2) A thriving culture of appreciation, affection, and emotional connection, where both people feel safe enough to turn towards each other for emotional support and compassion. Without this, both people drift apart and lose passion for each other. They learn to speak each other’s “Love Language” so both people feel loved and appreciated.
3) Manage Conflict: John Gottman, one of the most highly regarded relationship researchers, found that the presence of these 4 communication patterns during conflict predicted divorce so reliably that he named them “The 4 Horsemen of the Apocalypse.” They are:
-Criticism: Blaming your partner for the problem; attacking their character, rather than just complaining about an issue. For example: “You never take out the garbage! You’re lazy and insensitive!”
-Defensiveness: When we feel accused unjustly, we make excuses so that our partner will back off. Unfortunately, this just creates more disconnection. Our partner feels we don’t take them seriously, or that we are blowing them off.
-Contempt: Or a lack of respect in communication. In his research, Dr. Gottman found that couples that are contemptuous of each other are more likely to suffer from infectious illness (colds, the flu, etc.) than others, as their immune systems weaken! Contempt is fueled by long-simmering negative thoughts about the partner – which result in an attitude of superiority. Contempt is found to be the single greatest predictor of divorce.
-Stonewalling: avoiding conflict by putting up walls and becoming emotionally distant. Over time, this leads to profound disconnection.
Gottman ALSO found that over 60% of relationship issues are unsolvable, so you can’t avoid conflict! But what makes people happy in relationship is not avoiding conflict, its learning how to dialogue about issues with emotional intimacy, respect, affection, humor, and creativity about how both people’s needs can get met without giving up what’s important to each of them.
4) Shared Values, Shared Vision/Purpose: Gottman also found that a lack of shared vision for the future was the cause of over 60% of divorces (It was the main cause of mine!) When couples share an inspiring vision for their relationship and their lives, and support each other in living their dreams, they have a powerful reason to stay together through challenges, and grow in love and mutual admiration.