#01 PRESENCE – Where Focus Goes, Energy Flows
In a relationship, “being present” with oneself, and the other, is everything. When your partner comes home and greets you, are you fully there? When they tell you about their day, are you truly listening? When they try to share something upsetting, are you looking at them without taking your eyes off? How present are you truly with yourself, and your partner? To become more present, become aware of the chit chat of your mind that is taking you away from what is going on right in front of you. Breath and slow down, drop everything you are doing to gift your undivided attention in those decisive moments that truly will make all the difference. Read between the lines, and inquire, become curious. Gift the gift of presence to your partner, your kids and every other thing you are doing in life.
#02 RESPECT & HONOR – Responsiveness & Reliability
Respect (and honor) bring so much graciousness to your relationship. If we can get to a place where we respect and honor our partner for who they are, we bring a quality that is purely divine. Respecting and honoring your partner means to allow them to be themselves with all their limitations, ideas, beliefs and fears. You see them in their limitation, but also in their greatness. You don’t want to help them change aspects without their heart-felt consent. You allow them to be human. To be themselves. Respect is shown in your actions and words. You are aware that what you do or say will affect them. You care about what is important to them. You know about their wounding, their needs and desires and you cater to them. You know that every time you treat them with anything less than respect or honor you are wounding them deeply. Relationships are so fragile. Humans are fragile.
Allow and promote your partner to be authentic with you. If you stop respecting them because they have failed you or not shown up the way you wanted them to they will feel it. They will also start adjusting their behavior to avoid being punished or disrespected, and they won’t feel safe anymore to be themselves. Then we twist and turn and lose our essence just to please the other. As a result we are betraying ourselves and sooner or later will run into an exhaustion from the continued falsity and betrayal. It becomes an unbearable state to be in. Give your partner the gift to be herself/himself, and make sure you are in love with that essence of her/him. Otherwise relating becomes very inauthentic, and at some point impossible to maintain.
#03 EMOTIONAL ACCOUNTABILITY & MATURITY
Most people are utterly ruled by their emotions and they have never learned what it means to “own” their feelings and be accountable for them, meaning to take responsibility for their emotional state without outsourcing them (expecting someone else to make you feel good again) or lashing them out (passing on the hurt or anger) on the partner. Every time you do not deal with your feelings or project a difficult feeling at another being, you dishonor yourself and your partner which keeps you from accepting a feeling in the first place. Maturity includes to have a strong perspective to be able to deal with all the internal turmoil we are experiencing. We have to adopt to refuse blaming our partner (or others) for what isn’t working for us. We can start asking questions such as: “What is it that I am contributing to this situation?”, “What does this feeling inform me about?”, “Where am I being aggressive instead of bringing softness to the situation”?
#04 INTERDEPENDENCE – I Honor You, I Honor Me, I Honor Us
There is a lot of talk about co-dependency in relationships, and that might make it seem as if “being dependent” is a problem. Being dependent is not a problem until it is a problem. With loving someone comes (inter-)dependency, and there is nothing wrong with that. The question is only where does it come from? Being dependent in a healthy way means that when I can depend on you to catch me if I fall or fail, then I will feel safe enough to risk, to jump, to evolve. When I know that you will let me go, I feel safe enough to stay (Elizabeth Earnshaw) – that’s what interdependent relationships look like, it’s what creates securely attached relationships. Whether you are too dependent, too independent or interdependent, it’s a pattern you learned in childhood, and it is changeable. Interdependece gives one a sense of freedom and individuality that many – especially men – deeply crave. I get to be me, and you get to be you, that’s where the real freedom lies, and freedom is just a state of mind. Challenge each other to pursue individuality, individual growth and relational growth.
#05 QUALITY TIME & NURTURE -We Love What We Give Time To
Another defining issue of conflict in relationships is the fact that many couples are not allocating enough quality time, sex and conversations to the sacred, intimate couple’s space. Both men and women are too busy at work, and when they come home, they lose themselves in the countless to do’s that are still lingering in their head space. Unfortunately most things come before the couple; work, family, kids, practicalities, exercise or (possibly even unnecessary) socializing.
Relationships are like plants. They need nurture, love and care, and they need it in a consistent manner. We all need a sanctuary when combating the stressful realities of the world we live in feels too overwhelming. Your relationship has the potential to be that for you. We have to remind ourselves that our relationship needs effort, and it wants us to keep doing what we did in the beginning. You remember the times when you stayed up until your partner came home? When you took them out for dinner, bought them little gifts, and went the extra mile to organize concert tickets of her/his favorite artist playing in a foreign city? When you made love despite feeling exhausted? We have to keep making the effort, we cant afford to let ourselves go, and yet expect to still feel excited about each other on the long run. If you always do what you did in the beginning of the relationship, there will be no end.
#06 SAFETY & TRUST
Especially women have a strong need for safety in a relationship. Feeling safe in a relationship has many aspects:
- You feel that you can let your guard down and be your authentic you talking to your partner about your feelings, ideas, worries and frustration without fearing to be judged or made wrong in any way – there is vulnerability on both sides
- You are not repeatedly criticized, blamed, shamed, rejected or stonewalled for things you said or did or didn’t do
- You feel that your emotional, physical & spiritual needs are being met to a degree that feels fulfilling for you
- You experience yourself little defensive as there is no need to
- You are treated with respect, kindness and care and you are a top priority for your partner
- Your partner does not threaten to leave the relationship
- Your partner does not manipulate you to change aspects about yourself that you would not want to change yourself
- Your partners words and actions align and are consistent, you feel a sense of congruence in them (reliance)
- Your boundaries are being respected & you feel heard and seen in them
- Your partner is honest and communicates openly and transparently
But it’s not just women that need to feel safe, men need that just as much. How can you make a man feel safe?
I asked them, and that’s what they said:
- She is not greedy or demanding of my vulnerability, but creates a space where I feel safe to explore and express how I am feeling
- She is able to listen to my truth without judgment and she won’t secretly try to push her truth onto me. My truth won’t cause repercussions
- She’s not needy or dependent for my constant attention or solution, but allows herself to need me from a place of conscious choice (contrary to co-dependence).
- She sees me: in the honest efforts I am making for her/us, my pleasure and greatness as well as my shadow, my pain and everything in between
- She allows me to break-down when the world around me gets too much. She offers me to lay my head in her lap and recharge in the safe haven of her bosom
- She is not lashing out her repressed anger towards the male in a hurtful way, but takes responsibility for how she feels and is able to act in proportion to a situation
- She trusts my lead and allows me to make mistakes without punishing me or losing her respect for me as a man
- She chooses me for me not for the illusion of the perfect fairy tale or false sense of safety; marriage, family, a house and kids
“With a safe woman I can relax and dare to be more than a functioning male in this world. With her I get to explore the more feminine aspects within myself in safety.”
This is how you start promoting safety in your relationship:
- Understand what it is that makes you feel safe or what it is that is preventing you from feeling safe right now in your partnership (for inspiration check above)
- Think of what you need in order for this to happen or change for the better
- Make a gentle request for what you wish to make happen or change and ask your partner if she/he would be willing to respond to it
- Set a deadline (3 weeks?) where you pay attention and focus on the issue of safety and note the moments you felt safe(r)
- Discuss and adjust, keep going
Here is some inspiration of safety-focused relating:
- Each person defines their personal boundaries and continuously ask for consent
- Be fully present when you interact with your partner, and actively listen (switch off that TV and sit down and talk)
- Practice proactive open communication and transparency, clarify rather than assume
- When you ask your partner how she or he feels, listen and validate rather than give answer and feedback that aim at finding a solution. Show sincere empathy and allow them to express themselves
- Refrain from accusing or blaming and using “you” statements. Rather use “I” statements such as; “When you did x, y, z, I observed that” instead of “You always/never xxx” – instead of criticising, state your needs
- Make your partner a priority, encourage and support her/him often
#07 HEALTHY BOUNDARIES
Understanding where we end and the other begins is a healthy and extremely important element for our partnership to remain mature, juicy and exciting. Saying no to someone else is a big YES to yourself. It demonstrates how much you honor, love and respect yourself. When you show that to your partner, you show how you get to be treated and you teach it to them in the same time. Nothing is more sexy than self-assurance and confidence. Not in an arrogant way, but in a grounded, clear and loving way. Remember though that your boundaries spoken in the absence of softness is aggression. Most people when learning to speak up for their boundaries bring it across in an aggressive way simply because they feel so shaky expressing them. It helps to take a deep breath and calm down to have a conversation around boundaries. In the heat of the moment, when your boundaries are being crossed and you want to react too aggressively, take a deep breath and wait 5 seconds, to respond in a grounded, clear and kind way.
#08 NERVOUS SYSTEM AWARENESS – Survive Or Thrive In Relationships
Our autonomic nervous system plays a vital role in making relationships work. It is responsible for key aspects that explain why our bodies sometimes behave in ways we would not choose consciously when triggered. Our body either thrives because we are calm and balanced, and we’re operating from the parasympathetic state because we feel safe. Or we are triggered in the fight/flight state where we go into high-alert survival mode where we’re ready to respond to threats (the sympathetic system is aroused). The parasympathetic system (governed by the ventral branch of the vagus nerve) serves the social engagement system that helps us navigate relationships. In that state we feel empowered, able to make choices, happy to play, make love, and have intimacy and connection that feel good.
The vagus nerve through a mechanism called neuroception processes sensory information from the environment constantly. It always scans for signs of safety or danger. Our bodies, however, have a bias to recognise danger, even if it might not even be real, but based on how our nervous sytem developed in our early developmental years, we are rooted in one or the other. What feels safe for someone might be completely unsafe for the other. Understand your partner’s nervous system, and help each other down-regulating when aroused so you can have relaxed and calm conversations that contribute to conflict-resolution.
#09 VULNERABILITY & EMOTIONAL INTIMACY
Your ability to be vulnerable is in direct correlation to the level of emotional intimacy you are experiencing. For you to be vulnerable you must feel safe enough to express your thoughts and feelings. In order to express what you feel, you have to have the bodily awareness of what is moving in you. You can’t know what you feel, if you do not actually feel it. If you do not know what you feel, you cannot express how you feel, so you wont be able to take responsibility for how you feel, and very probably either repress your feelings, but then act out later when things get too much. Men usually grow up without the luxury to have their feelings validated, and it makes them feel deeply ashamed for having them in the first place. That is why one of the big gifts a woman can give a man is to lead him into his heart and vulnerability by being vulnerable herself first. Unfortunately women have been made wrong for having feelings in many ways too, making it something wrong, when in fact it is the most natural and magical thing about being human.
#10 INSPIRATION, STIMULATION, HEALING AND GROWTH
Every relationship needs inspiration and stimulation to keep a certain freshness. If we get too stuck in the old and habitual it won’t provide any newness to either one. A relationship without any newness, without leaping outside the comfort zone is doomed to become too routinely and boring. At some point the relationship and the individual starve for more and if that desire remains repressed, we unconsciously will start looking outside the relationship for that stimulation. The comfort zone is nothing but comfortable. As much as it might feel safe and predictable it is one of the relationship expansion killers. Relationships are here to mutually grow and heal, and you get to that with a partner you love and trust. What comes up in relationships can and wants to be healed in relationships. We just have to work with instead of against each other’s wounded inner child, and team-up to do the work in tandem. Know your partners wounds, and help them heal them. Inspire them for continued growth, and become the best sparring partner they’ve ever had.
#11 AN EPIC CONSCIOUS SEX LIFE
Having regular amazing bonding-inducing love-making is a corner stone to fulfilling relationships, unless sex does not mean much to you. However, for most humans it is an important subject, and it is a big source of our relationship happiness. The longer we are together with someone the more difficult it can get to keep the spark and desire alive. If we want to continue to live a fulfilling sex life, we’ve gotta do some work around it. Together you get to learn everything there is about conscious sexuality and deepen your sexual intimacy like never before. “No mammals are sexually monogamous, and yet close, trusted relationships are our best health insurance. The solution to this conundrum lies in learning to manage our sexual energy differently.” (MARNIA ROBINSON)
#12 MEETING YOUR PARTNER’S VALID NEEDS
When we are born, we are little being full of complex developmental needs. The level to which each one of us has had his/her needs met directly contributed to our sense of worth, and the relationship we have with our needs today. If our needs were met in a consistent way, we tend to feel worthy, and as adults, we are in touch with them. We are also able to express them without shame or fear. However, if you have not had met your needs when you were little, chances are that you feel unworthy, and as an adult you might be out of touch or feel shame and fear around having them. Meeting your partner’s needs is crucial since it makes them feel happy, loved and save. To meet our partner’s valid needs without judgement, or resentment, however, we need to have a positive relationship with our needs first. What do your needs for significance (to matter and to belong), for love and connection, for sex, for variety, for certainty and survival or for growth & contribution look like? Figuring out together, what one’s and the partner’s most prominent valid needs are is crucial for a fulfilling relationship.
“Connection, the ability to feel connected, is neurobiologically wired, that’s why we’re here! Brené Brown