People are complicated. Relationships are Not
Do you find romantic relationships a struggle?
Are you someone who describes your relationship as ‘complicated’?
My work with couples over the last decade and more has given me the opportunity to codify healthy, connected relationships. I have represented the ‘Us’ between the Me and You; been the voice of the relationship and come to one conclusion.
People are complicated, relationships are not.
The irony is that humans are actually designed for collaborating. Our brain/body systems are optimized when we connect deeply, when we feel safe and bonded to another. Meaning something to someone, provides us with a sense of belonging and purpose. Isolation is bad for our physical and mental health and loneliness has proven to be the greatest killer in old age. It is vital for our well-being to build strong alliances, partnerships and intimate relationships.
So, if it is in our DNA to bond deeply- why do so many of us experience our relationships as ‘complicated’? A few reasons:
- Our definition of ‘Love’ gets in the way. We think that when we love someone, we should love them unconditionally. ‘Unconditionally’ means that we love them even if their behaviour is consistently not lovable toward us. We should just love them despite ongoing hurtful, harmful words and actions inflicted on us. We tolerate the intolerable. We accept the unacceptable. Unconditional love in a relationship is dangerous. There needs to be conditions present (a.k.a rules of engagement) between people if you want a connection to strengthen. Everything on this planet is conditional. The sun always shines yes, but the weather conditions need to be right for us to experience the sunshine. Either the conditions in which something exists will enable its potential or disable it. Relationships are the same.
Love is unconditional, Relationships are not
2. ‘We get in our own way’ with unrealistic expectations and outdated beliefs on how things ‘should’ be, instead of getting clear on what a reasonable, healthy and appropriate expectation is for a couple/pair/marriage/partnership. Healthy love relationships become a natural consequence when we apply the principles of partnership, the four aspects of intimacy and authentic compatibility. No matter which way you look at it, the more aligned you are with someone, the better match you will be. We often try to force a square peg into a round hole and make a relationship work even if we are not a good fit for each other.
Compatibility is the number one predictor of long-term relationship success.
In order to take out the ‘complicated’ in relationships, I developed a People Pairing Method.
This method bridges the mind and heart for pairing people together successfully. It could be described as ‘Intelligent Love’. These are the competencies and skills of ‘relationshipping’, collaborating and co-creating. They are prerequisites which enable LOVE to grow.
Each of these elements have substantial depth, for the purposes of this article I have kept it very high-level.
1: Individual Authentic Well-being
Self- Leadership. Take responsibility for your Self. For your Life. For your emotional and mental well-being. Craft a life that is an expression of who you are, aligned with your exceptional blueprint. It needs to be authentic to you, not what you think you ‘should’ be doing or what other people think it ought to be. Take 100% ownership and accountability for your own wellbeing and fulfillment in life. When you manufacture your own joy and release your partner of that responsibility, your relationship has an opportunity to thrive. By increasing your self- awareness of your strengths and shortcomings, you are able to manage and mitigate your weaknesses/faults as well as the ‘baggage’ you carry that cause trouble in your relationships.
- Increase self-awareness and personal authenticity levels with personal development programs e.g. Landmark
- Introspection, meditation and mindfulness practices raise self-awareness
- Psychometric assessments generate personal insights e.g. TotalSDI, Enneagram
- Self-regulation: manage your emotions, don’t let them manage you
2: Authentic Compatibility
Complementary Strengths. Discover who, when combined with you, is a good match. Depending on how you prefer to invest your time, money, energy and resources, one person will be better suited for you than another. Clarify for yourself who you are and who you are not, when pairing yourself with another. Be true to yourself and retain your own personal identity in the partnership. Individuals who change for the sake of another become angry and resentful over time. Build an intimate partnership that gives you the freedom to be yourself, where you feel safe and connected.
- Be clear about your dealmakers and deal breakers/ requirements/ non-negotiables
- Discern who brings out the best in you (and the worst)
- Retain your personal identity and sense of self in your relationship
- Never sacrifice your self-respect, dignity or integrity for anyone
3: An Agreed Shared Agenda
Co-create and collaborate toward a common goal. Two people with shared intentions who are committed to the same outcome/vison/goal will make necessary personal sacrifices to achieve the fulfillment of that goal. Failed partnerships are often rooted in the pursuit of separate agendas or the pursuit of goals they are not committed to. Raising children and providing a home for family is a shared agenda with an expiry date- when the children have left, there needs to be another purpose to the union. A long-term relationship goal with no ‘expiry date’ is to collaborate with someone who challenges, encourages and inspires you to become the-best-version-of-yourself.
- Clarify your joint vision, what you are hoping to achieve together as a pair? otherwise there is no purpose to your union (pleasure is not a goal- it is a side effect)
4: Empowering Beliefs and Realistic Expectations
Get out of your own way. Unhealthy, disempowering beliefs about love, intimacy and marriage create filters for unreasonable and unrealistic expectations. Explore, negotiate and articulate explicit expectations of roles and responsibilities for marriage and intimacy. Relationship frustration and destruction is often the result of outdated, unrealistic expectations of our partners e.g. sex is not intimacy, sex is not an obligation, sex is not a marital right.
- What you think, feel and believe is what you create. To determine your implicit beliefs, take a look at your reality and what your life demonstrates to be true.
- Explore the inventory of your beliefs, change the ones that are not working for you and your relationship
- Life and relationships are not ‘happening to us’, they are ‘responding to us’,
5: Be a Quality Partner
Become a collaborator. Partnering is a collaborative, co-creative process. Acquire co-creating techniques and competencies for quality collaboration. Acquire relationships skills and practice until you are proficient, these are the skills that generate a climate for love to grow. They begin with the individual:
- Individuals who listen and develop their EQ are more likely to practice positive and effective communication.
- People who demonstrate accountability and integrity establish trust
- When we express kindness and compassion, we invite considerate and caring behaviour in return.
- If we are respectful, we produce respect between ‘us’.
- Showing vulnerability engenders a forgiving, accepting partnership.
- Being a lovable, playful partner encourages desire and physical intimacy.
I have been together with my husband now for 16 years. He has been on the receiving end of my personal experimentation of these ideas and my developing, unfolding method. Fortunately, or unfortunately he has been the guinea pig while I have practiced what I preach. My clients have also had these ideas weaved into their own recovery programmes when I have done a relationship audit on their marriages and so far, the feedback is that my working diagnosis is accurate.
My method is helping others to take the complicated out of their relationships.
I hope that this is the beginning of that for you.