Your Relationship is your Greatest Asset
It’s a windy day . We’re sitting on the beach watching the breakers. A flash of chestnut and white swoops down in front of us to snatch a small fish held out by a kindly fisherman. It was one of two Brahminy Kites that own the skies over the stretch of sand we walk each day. We named them Juan and Svetlana. I don’t know why.
They seem to be always together. Not always flying together, wing-in-wing but always keeping a Kite eye out. We have watched them battling wild weather, playing games, and searching for food. Committed. Attached. Alive.
They are not looking out for a better deal.
They are not afraid the other will leave them.
Their eyes are on each other and they battle life together. Other predators attempt to overwhelm them. But they are so much stronger together.
I started thinking about all the predators that threaten relationships in our society: commitment-phobia, the fear of missing out, our focus on productivity over relationships, career opportunities, the lure of transient sex, and the list goes on. Commitment is the seemingly largest hurdle.
That both people need to commit to stay together is self-evident. Sometimes one person says that they will commit to the relationship provided they get a better deal. A healed relationship, with mutual give and take, is a better deal. Commitment allows your relationship to become your greatest asset. The most helpful attitude is doing whatever it takes to achieve this.
Thanks to stability from commitment; love can grow way beyond the honeymoon period. The longer two people are together, the more attached they become, and the more love there can be. This happens with commitment. (Provided you spring clean your conflict bugs). It’s the fairy-tale “ever after” bit of “happy ever after.” It’s living the dream of growing old together. If you want “happy for a short time only while the fun lasts,” you are not ready for a long-term relationship.
I’m not sure if it was Juan or Svetlana who had secured the evening meal. It didn’t matter. It was refreshing to see that the Kites seemed unburdened by years of gender roles. We watched as the Kite battled against, but overcame, a very powerful gust of wind and flew back to the nest with their heavy earnings.
Treat your relationship as a secure anchor in a world of change, difficulty and uncertainty. Affirm your love, commitment and support often, in words and actions. You’ll by making your relationship stronger by doing this.
Commit to loving. You want love, right?
Above all, never stop trying.
People don’t break up because they stop loving., they break up because they stop trying.
Their commitment fails to meet the wind.
Both my parents are over 90. I recently had the privilege of being on a holiday with them. We had dinner together, watched movies, played some gentle sports, did a bit of dancing, spent time just staring at the sky.
Yes, they were doing all of these things and more at 90. Amazing!
They have been together for 66 years.
A lot of what they talked about were simple things:
Mum always having a dinner waiting for Dad
Dad’s protection of Mum (even when she protested!)
Mum’s intuitive way of bringing my father into conversations.
Just before our trip, my Mum got really sick.
“He was wonderful, nothing was too much for him to do. He took such gentle and loving care of me.”
I have been thinking about this idea of what romance really is for a long time now. On this holiday, the answer was right in front of me.
Being romantic is being selfless.
Romance involves giving, going out of your way, spending time, spending money, showing you care and fulfilling some of your partners needs rather than your own. We tend to like it when someone goes out of their way for us. If we could have more of that for ourselves, and do more of that for someone else, life would be better. Your relationship certainly would.
Selflessness doesn’t sound very romantic or sexy does it? But it is. Especially in our contemporary world where individualism and getting what you want and need in a relationship seems to be of paramount importance: selflessness appears more of an inconvenience than something to strive for. If you want your relationship to last for a good while, then give selflessness a go.
Here are some tips on being selfless to your love partner:
Compliment them honestly on something, anything, everything.
Listen, listen, listen to what they say, mean and feel. Listening is a very selfless act.
Appreciate who they are: their body, mind, mannerisms and aspirations.
Ponder what you can do to bring a smile to their face today.
Show genuine compassion and concern for their parents and siblings.
Be grateful for how they enrich your life.
Say ‘thank you’ often.
Seek to understand them.
Think of how you can help fulfil their emotional, physical, intellectual and social needs.
After a wonderful two weeks together, I watched my parents walk down a corridor back to their room after I said goodbye. It is difficult for each of them to walk alone. So they hold each other up. That image will stay with me forever. True selflessness is holding each other up through good times and tough times.
I used to lie to Christian.
Sure, I’ve never cheated on him or stolen from him, but I’ve lied.
(Christian lies too, but a lot less and he tries not to.)
I lied about how much I had spent clothes shopping.
I lied about what I thought about other people.
I lied about what I had disclosed about him to friends.
I lied about what I was really feeling.
So…what’s wrong with that. Everyone lies don’t they?
We were having this conversation while walking along a lonely beach.
We talked about how we are at one of those points in history when it’s become socially acceptable to lie. In this post-truth age, the media, the political world, the business world, and many other areas of society sanction and even applaud lying. Lying is not frowned upon. Getting caught lying is.
I thought I was very clever when I got away with lying: “Ha! He didn’t know.” “Great, won that one.”
When he suspected I was lying, I doubled my efforts to cover it up with more lies. (BTW, this is not that easy for me to be disclosing – it’s making me cringe).
Pride. Shame. Guilt.
“So what happened? Why did you stop lying?” Christian asked.
“You started calling me out on it. Oooh that hurt.”
But it wasn’t only that. I realised that I was getting myself into tighter knots.
From Christian’s perspective, if I was lying about seemingly small things, was I lying about the glue of our relationship?
What if I was lying when I said “I love you”?
I looked down at the sand, remembering what a mess I had gotten into.
A sand bubbler crab surfaced out of its hole and was leaving its sand balls everywhere. At first I thought it was an intricate planned pattern. But as I looked closer I couldn’t see any reasoning or patterns. Just a mess.
It reminded me of the tangled web of deceit I had been weaving.
As I moved closer, the crab scurried back into its hole. Yes, that was it. I had been afraid of being my authentic self. Too afraid of rejection. Of not being loved for who I truly was.
Not lying is a risk. You can never be guaranteed that someone is going to accept all of you. But the aim is always to grow together and this will always mean taking the good and the bad while reaching towards as much good as you can.
You need to live with authenticity: to think, say, and do what you believe and have it line up with what you feel you believe. Your brain wants integrity. Inauthenticity leads to self-loathing and depression. When we can be our true selves, we can share that truth with another person. When we live the mask, we share lies.
Lying is the antithesis of living authentically and being true to your self.
As we turned to go back home I shared a thought, “What if both people in a love-relationship are lying?”
“I see this so often in couple’s therapy. They need to reach for a deeper truth where you are able to accept the other person for their strengths, their faults, and even their lies because of the love. It’s deeper trust for realer love” said Christian.
I still lie about little things. Old habits and templates from childhood are very difficult to break. But I try to be authentic daily. I want the foundations of our relationship to be built on solid, trustworthy ground. Not on sand.
“Please don’t reject me when I tell you this!”
I was screaming these words so loudly inside my head that I thought Christian could hear it.
Actually, I thought the koala could hear it. He gave a sleepy nod in my direction and what I perceived as a very knowing look. We were on a day trip to Australia Zoo, a wild experience.
“Please take it well, please don’t misunderstand, please let’s keep in harmony” my inner-monologue continued.
You may have an inner monologue similar to this when confiding with friends and family, but the stakes are higher when you are sharing something very, very, honest with your love partner. Extremely high. You do not want to lose them, so sometimes you wonder if you can be totally honest with them and allow them to be totally honest with you.
Communication in a love relationship is unique: you are special to one another, you are with each other for so much of the time, you want peace and harmony yet you have wants and needs to honestly express.
“I need to tell you something, and it’s going to take a lot of courage for me to tell you this.”
Good start Caroline, but where do you go from here?
I usually bottle things up and then explode during a heated moment. Christian tends to be more honest, but this can be hurtful. Often I keep things to myself, but he still feels the stirrings underneath. This time I was more prepared. The nature and animals around worked their special kind of charm and made me want to disclose, draw closer, share what was really going on and, I hoped, made Christian more receptive. Setting the right environment is important. This was the right moment.
“Okay, I’m listening” Christian held my hand as we walked through a wetlands area singing with birds.
Silence. Deep breath. Look at him Caroline, you can say it.
“When you….I feel….And you have been doing that a lot lately. I need you to be more….”
Whew! I said it and then held my breath.
We often confide on this level, but this time, what I needed to tell him went to the very deep core of our relationship. The stakes were much higher.
I felt like a meerkat on sentry. On guard, watching for the slightest sign of disturbance. I watched Christian closely, the tightening of his jaw muscle. What was it in his eyes, hurt, betrayal, confusion?
“Thank you for telling me.”
Silence as he took it in.
Honesty is tough. It risks a lot. It leaves you standing naked. But that’s kind of what’s supposed to happen in a personal relationship. For a time you sacrifice the harmony in your relationship and go through uncertainty for a deep togetherness, very deep. And yes, you sometimes hurt your love-partner in the process. Truth does that.
The closer someone is, the more they love you, but the more they can hurt you.
“What can I do to make it easier for you” he said through the hurt. We talked it through. A long, difficult talking through.
Before you back away from the daunting task of being more honest with your love-partner, and have them be honest with you, keep in mind the following:
A relationship means sharing love, and having someone who knows and understands you.
If you feel misunderstood by everyone, but your love- partner understands you; life is OK.
If you feel abandoned by everyone, but your love-partner accepts you; life is pretty good.
If you feel betrayed, hated or cheated by everyone, but your love-partner stands by you, loves you and is faithful to you; life is great.
As we walked through another large aviary we saw two Australian Emerald Doves flying from tree to tree. I wanted to take a photo of them but they were too busy following each other. One would move to a tree and the other would try and keep up. They didn’t always get it right, but they always ended up on the same branch somehow, standing by each other, just belonging to each other. It feels wonderful to be known.
After this disclosure Christian knew a lot more about me and it felt wonderful. Honesty peels back the layers, exposing the true gold and growing the deep love underneath.
Welcome to our blog. Each blog contains an insight into your relationship and how to mend or grow it drawn from Christian's 18 years of clinical experience working in psychiatry. They are told as stories. The central ideas are in bold. All the pictures are originals. We post once a month. Looking forward to travelling with you in this amazing journey called life.