10 Weeks to Wellbeing: Week 5 – Love Life
“Love is the sweetest thing!” Or is it: “Love hurts, love scars, love wounds and mars”? Are you single and feeling despondent about love opportunities, or in a relationship that could be better? Either way, spending time examining your stories about love and relationships can only help you build better relationships now and in the future. Let’s start with:
We’re deeply affected by the relationship ‘models’ we grew up around (notably our parents’) and by the ideas we’ve picked up from songs, books and films, building up powerful internal scripts about how to love and be loved. When did you last consider your scripts? Whether or not you’re in a relationship at the moment, write your answers to the following:
- What do you want from a/your relationship?
- What do you bring to a/your relationship?
- What will a/does your current relationship add to your life?
- What do you believe makes for a healthy relationship?
If you have a partner, they can do this exercise too – see communication, below.
Josh Ritter sang “Every heart is a package tangled up in knots someone else tied”. Our job as adults is to untangle our knots – to examine our personal baggage and work through it, and not expect someone (or something) else to heal our wounds. What baggage are you carrying? Do you think you would benefit from therapy or counselling, either by yourself or with a partner? Would self-reflection and reading around the topic help you let go of some of the pain you hold around love? Writing about your feelings is a powerful tool for processing emotions, and there are lots of great therapeutic and philosophical books out there to help you heal. At the root of many relationship problems is a fear of vulnerability – but human life is vulnerability. Connecting with other people means getting hurt. (If this crosses the line into abuse however, get help immediately.) “There is no remedy for love but to love more”, said Henry David Thoreau. Healthy relationships aren’t based on a need for a partner to provide what’s missing in our lives; each of us should be able to provide for ourselves what we need and then choose to grow with a partner free from dependence.
Whether you’re starting a relationship or in an established one, healthy communication is key. Relationships are agreements: problems arise when a partner feels that an agreement has been violated – by the other person flirting, or spending too much money, or not doing their share of the housework, for example. But often, the ‘agreement’ was never spoken in the first place! People have different ideas about what a healthy relationship is, so it’s critical to discuss yours with your partner. People show their love in different ways – through physical affection, practical support, loving words, etc. – but we have a tendency to judge based on our own preferred style. Tell your partner what it is that makes you feel loved, and listen to what makes them feel loved. Talk about your deal-breakers; the things that you will not have in your relationship. This isn’t about making demands: for both of you, it’s about asking for what you need, respecting the other’s choice to provide that or not, and choosing what to do in response. (For those of you not yet in a relationship, thinking about this is great preparation.)
Finally, don’t be tempted to try and avoid or suppress negativity completely – it’s important for growth and improvement. Dr. John Gottman has conducted some fascinating research on what makes a happy marriage; he’s come up with a ratio of positive interactions (touching, smiling, paying compliments) to negative interactions (arguing) for a high chance of relationship success1. The magic ratio is 5:1. Can you reach it?
Next week: Career (extended special).
1John M. Gottman, James Coan, Sybil Carrere and Catherine Swanson. (1998). Predicting marital happiness and stability from newlywed interactions. Journal of Marriage and Family, Vol. 60, No. 1 (Feb., 1998), pp. 5-22
Published by: National Council on Family Relations
Article DOI: 10.2307/353438
Article Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/353438
Amazon affiliate links. Affiliate links are always marked on this site.