Create high-quality relationships
By Lloyd J. Thomas, Ph.D.
Boy meets girl. Woman meets man. You know the scenario. They fall in love. They enjoy each other’s company. They miss one another when they’re apart. They decide to live together or get married. And that’s it! The fairytale ends. What I call, “the reality of the relationship” sets in.
Most of us have no idea of how to create a loving relationship. We usually “let nature take its course” or try to behave the way our parents behaved around each other. Neither of these methods of relating turns out very well, let alone very loving.
Creating a loving relationship is often scary because the mutual sharing of love requires vulnerability on each partner’s part. When we are vulnerable, we fear the possibility of hurt, rejection, criticism, abandonment or negative judgment.
When we allow another person into our heart, the depth of inner emotion can be extremely powerful. A loving relationship involves us at the very depths of being human. It always demands that we grow.
I suggest that you not seek a loving relationship. Rather, determine to create one. Loving relationships are not already existent, waiting for you to discover them. Rather, they evolve and become manifest as you and another create them.
Here are a few guidelines to assist you in creating a successful, long-term and loving relationship.
Your first step is to love and care for yourself. Your well-being is your responsibility. No one else has the power or responsibility for your health, growth or personal development. Only you have it. Take charge of the nature and quality of your personal life. Bring to any loving relationship a person who is maximally well on all levels of being: physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, and interpersonal. Begin taking full responsibility for yourself through self-acceptance and self-forgiveness for all perceived imperfections. Treat yourself as the precious person you truly are.
Next step: In your imagination create a greater purpose for your relationship. Envision the nature and quality of the loving relationship you wish to create. Then dedicate that relationship to a higher purpose such as: service to others; spiritual growth; raising a loving family; creating prosperity and happiness. Mutually choose your higher purpose for creating this loving relationship.
Commit yourself to do whatever it takes by way of personal change, to create the relationship you have envisioned. Learn new skills regarding communication, humor, mutual support, compassion, emotional autonomy, conflict management, power and control issues, and realization of your own potential as a loving human being.
Honor the everlasting process of change. As each person grows, changes in the relationship will occur. The dynamics of the relationship will change to accommodate this growth. In order to keep the relationship alive and nourishing, each person must overcome the tendency to keep things as they are, or have been. If you cling to the status quo, the relationship stagnates and withers. Invite and respect changes. It is the only way to evolve in love.
Have fun. Enjoy exploring the intricacies of joy and delight. Try out new activities and experiences. Every couple needs healthy doses of creative play. Play for your own sake. Play for the sake of the relationship. Your relationship probably began playfully. Renew playfulness and make time to enjoy each other’s company.
Finally, don’t be afraid or ashamed to get help. Most of us never learned the “how to’s” of relationship building. All relationships periodically bog down over some dynamic or issue. Instead of escalating your old habits, seek out help in learning new ones. Seek help from a trusted couple; by attending a marital workshop; or seeking counsel from a marital counselor or qualified therapist.
If we have no loving relationship in which to thrive, we all die sooner than we would if we had at least one. May all the relationships you create in your life, be loving ones.
Dr. Thomas is a licensed psychologist, author, speaker, and life coach. He serves on the faculty of the International University of Professional Studies. He recently co-authored (with Patrick Williams) the book: “Total Life Coaching: 50+ Life Lessons, Skills and Techniques for Enhancing Your Practice…and Your Life!” (W.W. Norton 2005) It is available at your local bookstore or on Amazon.com.