By Jackie White
Next to working on ourselves to live our best life, nurturing our relationships is paramount. Our relationships, especially our love relationship, can impact our own lives deeply. We need to make sure we keep our marriages and romantic relationships healthy and strong.
February is the month of love. We like to romanticize love, of course, because it’s a feeling of euphoria and cloud nine walking. Books and films are filled with these stories and images of the perfect love. We watch them and think that we want that kind of love for ourselves. Those fairy tales can make us feel that love like that will never be ours. Like the scene in “An Officer and a Gentleman”, when will Richard Gere runs into the horrible factory and scoops up Deborah Winger and carries her out into the sunset to live happily ever after. We even are pining for Billy Crystal, of all people, in “When Harry Met Sally” when he runs to Sally at midnight on New Year’s Eve and finally confesses his love to her by describing everything he loves about her including the crinkle in her nose. It’s so great to watch these perfect love stories, but sometimes they can mess with our heads.
Perfection is a Bar Too High
Let’s start with nothing is perfect. No love, no one person, no relationship is ever perfect, but does that mean it’s not right? No, of course not. But for those of you seeking Mr. or Ms. Perfect and have a laundry list of attributes they should possess, you should probably throw that list and perfection agenda out the window because it just ain’t gonna happen. You are setting yourself up for disappointment.
Bumps in the Road
Those who are married or in a committed relationship for years know that the high of romance wears off and the daily grind of life kicks in. The love stories we see on the big screen make us yearn for a romantic scene or two in our own relationships. Instead, we might get to a point where our partner’s flaws get magnified and the baggage brought to the partnership gets heavier. It is to be expected, but it doesn’t have to degrade the reason why you are together in the first place.
Choosing Love. Keeping Love.
Finding a partner that will suit you today and through the years should be based on sharing similar fundamental values in life. If you would like to identify your values in life, click here for a downloadable Core Values worksheet.
A partner should also be compatible, honest and committed. These things are the building blocks of a relationship, but the way you keep love, can be wrapped up in two words: work and vulnerability. These two very important ingredients are the gas in the tank, if you will.
Love can suddenly hit you out of the blue when you least expect it. Love can toss you into the highs and lows every relationship experiences, but to get through and maintain a strong and steady love, it will require work. Love cannot infinitely function on autopilot. It requires care and effort. That’s the work part.
Examples of Relationship Work
Supporting your partner in their desires and goals in life is one of the ways you show that you love them. Your partner may have different hobbies or interests than you in some cases and that’s to be expected. For example, your husband really likes the Bears football team (I am so sorry - Lol!) and he won’t stop talking about them. You may feel that you have heard just about enough about the Bears, but don’t tune out! You don’t want him tuning out when you are describing the great ideas you have for a new flower bed. You can handle listening and taking (some) interest in what he is saying. This is an example of where some work might come in. Will you ever love the Bears like he does? Maybe not, but he will love you for caring enough to listen when he shares his passion for them.
There may be times when your partner and you have found that your communication has broken down. Working on communicating clearly with each other is of utmost importance. Speaking with respect and asking for understanding is critical. Listen for understanding and avoid thinking about how you are going to respond while your partner is speaking. An example of putting some work into communication would be for you to do your best to listen to that same old story you have heard a million times and give your partner the space to express themselves without judgement.
Vulnerability...Run for the Hills!
Some of you just got squeamish when the word vulnerability was mentioned. You may want to run away because things just got really uncomfortable, but you need to know that vulnerability is an essential ingredient for love to grow. Sharing the you that usually just lives inside your head is probably one of the most vulnerable things you can do. It is sharing who you really are. Your dreams, experiences, fears and uncertainties are the critical things you should be able to share with your partner. Your partner should be a safe place to fall. They should be your confidant as you are for them. We all have vulnerabilities and by sharing them with your partner you should not feel that you are exposing your weak underbelly, but instead that you are sharing intimate thoughts that can let your partner in to really know who you are. That is the root of love.
Brene Brown, the Vulnerability Queen, reports people describe vulnerability as:
Like taking off a mask and hoping that the real me isn’t too disappointing
Being all in
Scary and exciting; terrifying and hopeful
There is always fear and risk in life when you want to get to the good stuff. You just have to be willing to walk through the fear so that the love and the relationship you have can flourish.
Clint Black wrote a song called “It’s Something that We Do” and it so eloquently describes the recipe for building and keeping a strong relationship.
Enjoy your romantic books and movies for what they are, entertainment. You can still create romantic dates and rekindle your love through loving gestures, but just be sure to have a strong foundation to build upon. Be real with yourself and your partner and take a good look at what you can do to make your relationship stronger. The reward will be worth the effort.
For your own Core Values Worksheet, click here.
Erika Fehrenbach Prell is passionate about inspiring and educating, others on their path to complete wellness-mind,body, and soul. This desire led Erika to the helping profession of nursing, and she obtained her Master's Degree as a Nurse Practitioner in 2007. Erika specialized in cardiac surgery, largely influenced by her personal experience with heart disease. While she loved working with this population, her heart's desire has always been to impact lives on a larger scale and from a proactive, not reactive, place. The universe answered when her path crossed with Jackie and SoulShine was born. Erika finally feels she is walking in her purpose and is excited for this journey to unfold.