The Bedrock

Intimate relationships are one of the most fulfilling gifts in life.  They provide and opportunity to develop unconditional love and magnify the depth of our experience through shared meaning and purpose.  This is the foundation that must necessarily support any lifelong commitment.

The Two Pillars

Relationships can also be as diverse as the people that sustain them.  It is normal and even healthy for partners to have substantial differences, enjoying different hobbies or having different personality traits and communication styles, but there are some differences that cannot be reconciled in a relationship. It is essential to remember that there are two pillars that must also exist to allow your marriage to thrive.

 

shared values and shared goals.

Shared Values

Your partner and you are likely very uniquely different individuals. And that’s great thing!  It gives you both opportunities to grow and learn from each other.  Though, your tendencies and preferences, at times, may create tension.  Unforeseen obstacles in life can also put extra strain on your relationship. But, despite the unique dynamics that texture your lives, there are three values that serve as the necessary bedrock to a healthy, lasting partnership.

 

They are:

[nz_icon_list type=”square” icon_color=”#ffffff” background_color=”#0fbe7c”]trust
respect
commitment[/nz_icon_list]

Relationships take great effort. Once the honeymoon stage has passed, the real work begins. Your love is no longer compulsive, it now becomes volitional. If you choose to respect, trust, and devote yourself to one another every day, you will make it through any obstacle that will come your way with grace and experience a deeper level of intimacy with each passing year.

 

Shared Goals

To guarantee that your relationship is of lasting value, you must also develop and work toward shared goals. After all, how can you build a life together if you are heading in different directions?

 

Do you want children?
Do you want to buy a home?
Would you like to live in the city or on the country-side?

 

Invest quality time exploring your future together, both short and long-term. This will build intimacy through shared purpose.

 

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The Love Tank

For a relationship to remain vibrant and strong, it is wise to contribute to your partner’s emotional fulfillment.  Dr. Gary Chapman, author of The 5 Love Languages, explains our emotional needs as a love tank that needs to remain filled [1]. When it is full, your relationship will flourish. When depleted, discontentment can creep in.  Dr. Bill Harley, founder of Marriage Builders, uses a similar example. He refers to it as a love bank that you either make regular deposits in or withdrawals from [2].  It’s very important to know that to contribute to your partner’s love tank/bank, you must have an intimate understanding of their internal world. Without thoroughly understanding how they see the world and themselves in it, how can you hope to provide the support they would most appreciate?

 

 Love Languages

From over 45 years of marriage and 35 years of counseling, Dr. Chapman found that there are five distinct emotional needs that people have. He calls them our love languages.

 

They are:

[nz_icon_list type=”square” icon_color=”#ffffff” background_color=”#0fbe7c”]words of affirmation
quality time
receiving gifts
acts of service
physical touch[/nz_icon_list]

They each have an influence over us, but we tend to have a language or languages that are more dominant than the rest.  To ensure that you are making meaningful contributions to your partner’s emotional needs, it is essential that you learn to speak their love language.  Once you do, try speaking them all to keep variety and depth in your romance.

 

So what are your partner’s love languages?

 

 Rituals

It is so powerful to have routine in our relationships just as it is in other areas of life. This gives structure and consistency in our intentions to nurture love. And because work and differing personal interests can easily lead to excessive time apart, the rituals you adopt are very helpful in maintaining that feeling of connection with your partner. Just remember, they should willingly be engaged in imbued with the feeling of respect and devotion.

 

So what kind of rituals do you have with your partner? If you don’t have any, what kind of rituals can you both share?

 

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Love Busters

Just as there are love languages that fulfill the emotional needs of our partner and fill their love tank, there are also intimacy harming behaviors that can detract from it. It is just as important to identify what behaviors that might distance you and your partner, and intentionally work at eliminating them.

 

Many times, it simply takes thoughtful consideration of your partners personality, preferences, and tendencies to identify these behaviors.  But they often arise when the fundamental values of respect, trust, and commitment are not honored and unfulfilled expectations turn to:

[nz_icon_list type=”square” icon_color=”#ffffff” background_color=”#0fbe7c”]contempt
doubt
disloyalty[/nz_icon_list]

A relationship must maintain a delicate balance of autonomy (considering self) and connectedness (considering others).   It is when partners become excessively contemptous that these unpleasant qualities slowly creep in.  And they usually also result in actions opposed to the 5 love languages:

[nz_icon_list type=”square” icon_color=”#ffffff” background_color=”#0fbe7c”]words of criticism
superficial, distracted, or severely limited time together
acts of malice
physical withdrawal[/nz_icon_list]

To maintain a healthy level of connectedness and fondness in your relationship, take some time out of your week to think only about your partner.   How are they feeling lately?  What do they need from you to better nurture your connection?

 

It can be very helpful and wise to just ask them.  You can say, “I just want to know that I am supporting you like you need.  How are you feeling about our relationship lately?  Is there anything that you need?

 Expectations

What generally poison’s the quality of intimate relationships are excessive or unreasonable expectations. When people’s expectations in their partners are not met, it often leads to contempt. And, as the marriage counselor John Gottman has found, the degree of contempt in a relationship is the #1 predictor of separation in couples.

 

However, expectations are a necessary part of life. They have to do with our need for certainty in life. So what are healthy expectations? As described in the 2 pillars above, shared values and shared goals are fair expectations within a relationship.  Generally, the myriad inspirations for contempt in relationships come from one foundational harmful expectation:

 

that your feeling of love and acceptance is your partner’s responsibility so is contingent upon their actions or inactions.

 

Your experience of love and joy is a personal, internal experience.  When you export it to being contingent on another’s actions then you disempower yourself and put limitations on your capacity to feel love and joy.  Focus on your own joy and self love, and share it with your partner.

 

This will allow you to better appreciate your partner for their unique individuality.  It will also allow you both the freedom to nurture each others love tank volitionally rather than obligatorily.   From this position, their love will become a pleasant embellishment to your own inner contentment rather than being a necessary pre-condition for your happiness.

 

 Managing Disagreements

The same principles that underlie engaging with disagreements with friends and family members also apply in your intimate relationships. Please click here to visit the Growth Through Disagreement page.

 

Key Insights

  • a healthy marriage must nurture the values of respect, trust, and devotion.
  • your bond deepens shared goals and rituals.
  • continually seek to fill your partners love tank by speaking their love language.
  • minimize love busters.
  • seek positive and productive ways of managing disagreements.

Further Reading

For greater insight on the nature of a healthy marriage, please go to the Gottman Method here.