1. It’s crucial that both people feel able to be authentic with each other. In relationships trust matters and trust depends on authenticity. So stop and think about what gets in the way of being more genuine? How do you stop yourself? You could start up a conversation with whomever it is, sharing ideas about what gets in the way and how to make changes to make the relationship better.
2. Relationships are about learning to embrace the complexity of respecting two different points of view, letting them sit quietly next to each other. Usually what we do is use our point of view as a battering ram to erase the other person’s point of view. I find this task very easy to do every day that I work with relationships.
There is always merit to two different ways of thinking. This creates room within the relationship for the differences to breathe. While entrenched warfare is the norm in too many relationships, you can see how unproductive it is in Congress.
3. Be open to being influenced by the other person because this is the ultimate test of respect in any relationship. While I believe in gun restrictions, I’ve also learned from my clients to respect their passion for hunting.
When your partner can influence you (& vice versa) toward better behavior (i.e. I think you owe our friends an apology) this leads to personal growth. Relationships are about helping each other to grow and become more whole.
4. You both make choices to do things you may not love because they’re important to the other person and nurtures the relationship.
Heterosexual women often ask men to learn more about being emotionally connected by sharing their emotions. This requires men to learn how to identify their feelings when even the vocabulary of feelings might be a mystery. It would take the effort to go to the emotions page of my website and print out the feeling word vocabulary list to practice with 2 or 3 times a week.
5. Vulnerability is required for relationships to work despite our culture not supporting this. It takes a great deal of strength to be vulnerable with someone else. When you are feeling hurt or scared; it can be very valuable currency to share. Instead of hiding out in anger and entrenched warfare.
6. When you experience the pain you cause others with your own dark side it should leave you humble. It is easier to suspend judgement of your partner’s dark side because you are aware of your own struggles. When there is less blame, criticism and judgement it is easier for relationships to grow and achieve greater depth.
Joseph Campbell talks about marriage as an ordeal, not a love affair. I believe this to be true because being partners with someone requires growth and change. The work of relationships improves you and enriches your life. It’s worth it.