Relationships are hard. They take time, commitment, and consistent work. But when you think about it, anything that we truly care about takes time, commitment, and dedication.
So why would we think relationships would be any different? With what we see on the movie screen, watch in television sitcoms, and read in romance novels; romantic love comes easy, there is no fighting, just blissful, passionate love that sweeps you off your feet. That’s unrealistic.
Back to reality; Great relationships take time, commitment, and dedication.
What do I mean by time?
Time together is essential. Not just time spent text messaging, surfing the web, or spacing in front of the television – spend quality time together. Quality time is creating novel and fun memories.
According to Helen Fischer, novelty pumps dopamine in the brain and fun infuses positive energy. When freshness is generated as a couple, intense feelings of romantic love is fostered.
Touch is also crucial while spending quality time together. Holding hands, cuddling, walking arm in arm are all ways to increase oxytocin levels in the brain. Oxytocin is the bonding hormone that new mothers exude to their infant and that couples release when affectionate.
Sex is another way to spend valuable time together. Sex is great for the body, the mind, and the relationship. Pleasant exploratory, sensual stimulation, and orgasm evokes the release of dopamine and oxytocin. The relationship gets a double whammy of deep attachment and a sense of romantic love.
Talking and Listening
Talking about feelings about yourself and sharing your emotions such as joy, peace, anger, and sadness to your partner brings you closer together. Listening with an open heart, open mind and attuning to your partners’ perspective also creates intimacy.
There are several methods to communicate effectively. One is called the imago dialogue. This process emphasizes one person being the sender (talking person) and the other being the receiver (listening person). The sender speaks using “I” statements and talks in small, digestible pieces.
The receiver then mirrors what the sender has spoken. Mirrors means that what you see in the senders’ facial expression, body language, and words are repeated back. The sender then checks in with the receiver to make sure they heard and felt is accurate. If not, then you repeat the step.
Once you have reached a point where the sender has fully grasped what the receiver has said, then the receiver asks, “Is there more?” or “Tell me more.”
The final step is empathy. It is important to imagine how the other person feels and to accurately convey that to the sender. If not, repeat the process.
Finally you can switch. The person who was the sender is now the receiver and vice versa.
What do I mean by commitment?
Commitment means you value the relationship and make it priority. While committing to the relationship, you also commit to zero negativity according to Harville Hendrix and Helen LaKelly Hunt. Zero negativity is threefold.
First, shift your point of view when you notice yourself falling into the trap of criticisms, blames, defenses, demands, or angry outbursts. Instead of focusing on the other, see your role in the source of your agony.
Take responsibility of your part. Rather than pointing your finger, facilitate change on your part.
Mindfulness and Gratitude
Use your brain to your advantage. Our brains are built for deception. Use mindfulness and gratitude practices to train your brain to focus on the positive and shift your vision to love and attraction. An example may be that your partner doesn’t clean their morning dishes, choose to appreciate the cup of tea they prepared for you instead of the dishes left in the sink.
What do I mean by dedication?
Dedication is having a feeling of strong support and loyalty to the relationship. You are dedicated to the process and journey together. You set guidelines and commit to those rules.
Relationships are difficult but with time, commitment, and dedication to your couple contract you are on your way to a healthy relationship. If the relationship is more work than fun or you become someone you don’t like, then the relationship is unhealthy and may need some guidance.
If you know someone who would benefit from learning more about creating a healthy relationship, please pass along the information.
I am a Licensed Psychotherapist and Mind/Body Performance Coach. I enjoy helping people whether it is for pain management, performance anxiety, and the loss of a loved one or fine-tuning relationships. Relationships include the relationship with you, spirituality/God, family, coworkers, friends and partners. I provide individual, couple, and group coaching and counseling.
April Wright, M.A., LMFT
Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist MFC96155