When men and women come together to share their lives, they both have certain expectations, hopes, and dreams. Each person no doubt has different expectations and they assume these expectations will be met by their partner. What are, what would be, or what were your expectations and dreams for a fulfilling primary relationship? Your answers could vary from desiring to have someone in your life who really cares about you, perhaps offer financial security, to having children and raising a family, or to have a fun social partner. How do two people build a loving, joyful, long term relationship with one another when their expectations are not only different, but ultimately may go unfulfilled?
LIVING IN LOVE by James and Betty Robinson offers some sound principles by which to build a strong, healthy, primary relationship. I would like to share with you what I have learned.
1) You must be willing to cooperate and change your inner self to defeat relationship challenges. The journey of a joyful marriage will require continued transformation of your inner self. As you are confronted with struggles in your relationship, do not attempt to impose change on your partner; instead search for how you can change in order to grow and improve. An unhealthy self-focus can show up in many ways; the most common is trying to change your partner to meet your expectations. This will always be a mistake.
Ask yourself, is your relationship less than what you expected? Do you want to make it better? The “”would you like to make it better” question is never for your partner. It is for you. Are you willing to change to make it better?
Real, lasting change can never be imposed from the outside. It has to come from inside of us. Growth in a primary relationship has to happen on the inside of each partner first before it can be seen on the outside. The starting place will always be in your own heart. Meaningful change will always begin with oneself. Until we can be honest with ourselves and face our own shortcomings, we will not be able to successfully build a loving relationship.
2) Commitment is the foundation of a loving relationship. Commitment creates safety, which builds trust and the ability to grow as an individual. Commitment is synonymous with a covenant. In a covenant, you agree to give up all of your rights on behalf of the other person, to take up the responsibility to love, meet your partner’s needs, and assume the responsibility for the success of the relationship. Assuming responsibility means listening to your partners concerns, respecting her thoughts, and listening to gain a true understanding. You must be devoted to support your partner in what interests and excites her.
You must learn to live outside your own selfishness. Selfishness is as dangerous to a marriage as having an outside allegiance, and probably even more so since it is on the inside of a marriage. When you take the attitude, “this is how I am, so learn to live with it,” you are being selfish. The path of your own self-interest will be best found in serving the best interest of your partner and the relationship.
3) Good communication begins with being concerned about what is best for your partner. Remember words are not enough. Your body language and tone of voice must extend love and understanding. You must be willing to listen to each other’s hearts. Your partner will more likely listen to you if you chose words lovingly and express them with a kind voice.
It helps to start any communication by expressing a positive attitude toward your partner. For example, “your feelings and thoughts are important to me. You must have a reason for them, so I want to understand them.” Always remember you are both on the same team. When you approach a communication with the mindset of a winner and a loser, your relationship will grow weaker. When you are competing with the one you love, you cannot build a loving relationship.
Learn to communicate in three steps. The steps are stop, repeat, clarify. First stop talking and start to listen more. Listen not just to the words but to her heartfelt feelings. When your communication is competitive, you will not be able to listen to your partner’s heart. Next, encourage your partner to repeat and expend her thoughts in more detail. By allowing your partner the opportunity to repeat and expand her thoughts, you will gain the opportunity for a better understanding. Last, clarify your understanding by putting into your own words what you think the other person is saying. This last step will give you the opportunity to receive a confirmation of your understanding of your partner’s thoughts and feelings.
To build a more loving relationship, start by looking to your own heart as to how you can change to become a better partner. Be committed to take the responsibility to love and meet your partner’s needs. You need to make it a priority in your life as to what is important to your partner. You must take responsibility for the success of the relationship in order for it to flourish. In order for any relationship to thrive, you must take responsibility for the success of quality communication. You cannot have a harmonious relationship without staying attuned to each other’s thoughts and feelings. When you stop sharing your feelings openly, you stop living. To refuse to communicate is to accept a form of bondage in your relationship.
Always remember, one of the greatest gifts you can give your partner is to communicate affirmation and encouragement.
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