The easy answer to that question is CONNECTION. The more interesting answer is enthusiasm and joined ambitions. Relationships are the proving ground for our theories and dreams about where we want to go and what we want to do. And it happens on a daily basis. I believe, in a relationship, you are either moving towards or away from your partner in almost every action. If you begin to ask yourself what would be most supportive of your romantic relationship, you can begin to examine if you are partially IN, partially OUT, or all the way IN. I have been striving to find the all-the-way-in woman in my life for the last nine years. Here are a few of the things I’ve learned along my journey home.
ONE: Look for joy.
People show up with a certain amount of joy – it can be influenced and nurtured, but an angry person is hard to be in a relationship with. What I want in a partner is someone who wakes up on bad days and says, “Well, here we go.” They can find optimism in the midst of struggle and disappointments. I am looking for another joyful person. I learned in my marriage that JOY + ANGER does not equal JOY. No matter how I tried, I could not make my wife happy. The knowledge is easy, “Happiness is an inside job.” But the execution of a happy life is part nurture and part nature. I look for joy first. In their eyes. In their conversation. In their plans for their own future, long before I ever showed up.
TWO: Open up the communication.
Give your partner the benefit of the doubt in all situations. And when something doesn’t feel right, go after it as soon as possible. Even when what you need to share is hard, go ahead, and give it an honest attempt. Be aware of how you approach issues, and learn to soften your delivery. Find your part in the problem and start there. Ask for clarification. Ask for a repair if the miss was on your side. Attempt to leave nothing unspoken.
[Exception: know when the sleeping dog should be addressed at a later time. I’m usually overly ambitious in my approach to eliminating doubt and disconnects in my relationships. I have learned to pause at times, even when I think I have the solution. Give the other person the time to settle, figure it out for themselves, but don’t delay if things are starting to feel painful.]
THREE: Find common ground.
I believe online dating has its place. For me, online dating was like training wheels as I got back into the idea of dating and relating to a new person, after my divorce. But online dating will only get you so far. Finding the places where you connect with another person (besides the bedroom) is part of the joy of relating to another person. Are they into running? Is there some way you can connect with them, even if you are not a runner? Is there a sport you used to love but haven’t done in a while? Ask. Perhaps you can find a new adventure together. The “together” part is the key. If you are moving towards a long-term relationship, it’s the “together” moments that matter. What you are doing is less important. This is why binge-watching a show WITH someone at your side, is so much more satisfying that doing it alone.
FOUR: Negotiate all misses and disconnects.
When you feel an “ouch” try and articulate what’s feeling off to yourself first. Then accept the idea that you may be the part that’s off. The frustration and anger may be yours alone. Or you may have hit a trigger of a past hurt that needs to come up for healing with your new partner. When something hurts, people can tend towards isolation and emotional exits, rather than turning into, and back towards, their partner. Find the way to feel and name the hurt before you expect your partner negotiate a solution or some compromise that will feel better to you. Again, learning that our happiness is our responsibility goes a long way towards letting our partners off the hook for making us happy. And here’s the truth: your partner cannot make you happy.
FIVE: Fearless honesty.
This one goes to the heart of the matter. Be honest with your partner at all points along your journey together. When things are off, try and express this in a compassionate way. If things aren’t working out, say something. If you’re planning your escape (breakup, divorce, next relationship) let the current partner know. Let them know BEFORE you begin executing your exit plans. And when things are good don’t forget to say it. Let the tender stuff out too. Feeling a moment of vulnerability? Tell your partner. Feeling particularly well-attached, tell them. Find your partner stunningly beautiful, say it. Give them the gift of your happy honesty too. Do it often. Learn to express your joy and your sadness. Give the gift of honesty to your partner. Ask them to do the same.
SIX: Keep turning towards your partner.
We take a thousand steps every day in our lives. Take a mindfulness day and watch your actions. Does this meal I’m preparing tonight support my partner? If I make plans with my friends should I check in with my partner first, to make sure they don’t have other ideas/plans in mind for us? Try and keep the concept of the WE in mind. As a couple, the WE is about respect and care. If I have ideas and ambitions, or if I need to get away for a weekend alone, I should want to check-in on the WE part of my life. “Here’s what I’d like to do this weekend. Does that fit with your plans?” It’s an easy gesture, but we can forget the WE or take the WE for granted. In the same vein, don’t make plans for your partner without checking-in. It’s easy. It’s not about control. It’s about respect and love. You love this person enough to put your connection with them ahead of any impulsive decision or schedule change you’d like to make. Consider your partner in all of your actions. Make sure you are turning towards them, rather than away from them.
SEVEN: Agree to a simple plan.
Agree to connect with your partner in all areas of your life. If something is difficult it might be coming up for healing. A healing that only a loving partner can provide. As you move on from past hurts and past relationships you will likely uncover some tender points. Make these moments of healing and connection. Your partner is invested in your happiness. Releasing old wounds into the fire of a new love is the best way I know of recovering your most vibrant self. Go for it. Find the partner of your dreams and commit to building the relationship you deserve.
Love is an active journey. Your participation is not optional, it’s mandatory. Give your partner everything you’ve got and expect the same from them. In this way, you can both move closer together, move through old scars and dysfunctions, and build a relationship that becomes everything you’ve ever wanted. Together you can be stronger, happier, and more self-aware.
In a loving relationship, I can grow to be a happier version of myself. I think that’s what we’re all hungry for. Being happier in our lives. For me, this involves a romantic relationship.
As a certified life coach, I’ve been helping men and women find fulfilling relationships. If you’d like to chat for 30-minutes about your dating/relationship challenges, I always give the first 30-session away for free. LEARN ABOUT COACHING WITH JOHN. There are no obligations to continue. But I get excited every time I talk to someone new. I can offer new perspectives and experiences from my post-divorce dating journey. Most of all, I can offer hope.
More articles from The Whole Parent:
- She Was Lovely and She Liked To Drink: A Third Glass Love Story
- Discovering and Recovering Love w/ a New Partner
- Why Does Online Dating Suck? How to Find Your Next Partner.
- Managing Depression In Romantic Relationships: Getting Real w/ Myself
- Keeping Your Cool When Your Lover Is On Fire with Rage
- Sexual Fulfillment: I Don’t Know The Answer, Let’s Find Out Together