The deliberate path to love and fulfilment
I’ve learned a bit lately.
One thing I’ve come to realize as true is ‘love is not a noun, it is a verb’. I went through a marriage breakdown, trial separation and ended up divorced a few years ago. I felt like a failure, but in reality, it was more like I was a passenger in a runaway car that neither of us was driving.
That car was driving towards this end, and I didn’t know how to correct its path. It turns out that slowing down an out of control car is hard, it’s hard to get into a position where you can influence the direction once it is moving at that speed on a bumpy road. Particularly if you both gave up the driver’s seat, and the self-driving function has not been maintained. Or, you are sabotaging your ability to choose a different end.
If you want to be in a fulfilling, deeply connected relationship, you have to choose that as an outcome and be deliberate in how you steer towards that outcome. To make this happen, the most important time is at the start, and then every moment after that.
I’ve realized that in being purposeful about this outcome in my new relationship, I am starting to understand some of the choices you can make along the way. Some things that keep the journey pointed towards fulfillment and connection, and even some things that can enable the mythical self-guiding functions.
This is not a ‘how-to list’, this is a reflection on what has worked for us. It might offer you some tools to use, some inspiration to create moments and opportunities to maintain the direction you both need.
It’s a weird thing, we tend to use the term relationship as the term to describe the commitment of people to each other. There is a primacy on the one that we describe as being the deepest. Our relationship with our chosen partner.
This term is one I want to focus on, partner. Often used in a confusing way nowadays to obfuscate the generalized priority on heterosexual marriages. But in truth, this is the most important term you can have for your loved one.
For those fulfilling and deeply connected relationships are truly a partnership. If you acknowledge this early, you realize that you must take turns in being strong for the other. A side by side, hand around the shoulder type of relationship. You must work out how to support them physically, mentally and soulfully. To do this you need to know them.
Those early relationship conversations that go for hours, where you crawl backward through their life, not just a stepping stone but because not knowing this about them pains you. They are an opportunity to understand.
If you are deliberate here, you will learn more about how to support them than at any other time. If you have forgotten this stuff, or feel like you skipped past it to fast, work out how to get back and talk some more.
For while it is the journey you share that is important, it is only just in front of the journey you both took to arrive where you are today. The most important thing to remember is that you need to be willing to go first. Trust begets trust. Choose to be vulnerable, it is scary but it is the path to connection. Give of yourself, of your insecurities and defining past, and know that ultimately, that trust will come back to you.
Questions that help you go back and understand could be;
- If you were to tell me about the three most important moments from your past, what would they be and why were they important?
- What is the hardest thing you’ve had to deal with? What changed in you going through it?
- What are the things that run through your mind when you are alone and feeling weak or not good enough?
- What is your strongest memory of being happy? And when have you felt close to that recently?
- If you made different choices, what might you have been doing now?
- What do you do to recharge?
- Who are the 10 most important people in your life, and why?
There are plenty of others, but the real requirement is to understand them and make your partner feel truly understood. Because, in this situation you are working out how you can best support them, and they support you. Remember — this is a partnership. You do not both have to be strong all the time. Support in whatever way required is the key.
Schedule these if you have too, but they shouldn’t be more than three months apart. A check-in is a relationship pulse check. An opportunity to get all the things on your mind out on the table and work through them. Even if they are not solved, at least they are communicated.
What we tend to do is discuss all the things that are going through our minds about our relationship (I’ll get back to this later). The very first thing we ask is, to each of us, what is the most important thing we speak about today?
It is often something small that has been eating away; like toilet seats and dishwashers. Or feeling like we are not communicating well at the moment. But sometimes it is more serious and involves topics like finances, work, friends or other important relationships.
Once this conversation is done, and as I said, perhaps not solved but at least in the open. We ask the question, for you, ‘what would make this relationship better today?’. Sometimes it is a walk together and an extension of this conversation. Other times it is a conversation about ‘I request — I offer’, and others it is a date night, a cup of tea, a massage or planning an adventure together. Whatever it may be, work out if you can honor it.
These conversations are part of the maintenance of the self-guiding functions. They are essential but often overlooked. My favorite tool here is the phrase;
The story going through my mind is …..
This permits you, without blaming or arguing, to offer up the narrative you are telling yourself about a situation or event. This is the single most powerful tool in relationship maintenance. Use it, it will feel weird at the start, but you have to start. I use it at work all the time.
Do you ever feel like you are ‘giving’ more than your partner? It seems like, right at this time, you are the one having to sacrifice a little more regularly? You are okay with it, because you love them, but it feels like they are not looking to see if you are as happy as you could be.
One thing we have done is include a Yes Day. This is an opportunity for both people to ask for what they would like. For one day, one member of the relationship has to say yes to the request of the other. Immediately, your reaction is one of vengeance, all those little perceived slights can be recovered. But the key is that they know that it will be your turn next. This tempers things.
However, there is a realization that you can ask your partner the things that have been bubbling in the back of your mind but are too scared, ashamed or selfless to ask. This is an opportunity to put your needs first. Oh… It is scary and makes you feel weird, but boy is it important.
I have even started doing it with my children. You get to understand the things on their mind, the things that they may ask but you have formed a habit of saying no to.
Collectively, you may apply some constraints to it. It is not about spending sprees and slavery. It is about the little things that you do not feel comfortable asking your loved ones to do for you. It feels selfish. You must allow those things to see the light of day. This type of selfish is how you can be more selfless.
Cherish the insecurities
Every person you meet has insecurities. Every one of them.
Many will hide them behind their facades of happiness or confidence. But deep down we all have an inner critic, and their voice is loud. Your job as a supporting partner is to get to know them. Get to know them as well as the person feeling them. Empathy is so important in deep connections, the hardest form of empathy is those surrounding insecurities. They are not yours, and connecting with them will surface all your insecurities.
The ability to share those is powerful. But what creates the foundation for the deepest of connection, the strongest feeling of being understood, is knowing those feelings inside them as your own.
If you can work out how to cherish and honor those insecurities, you will create positive momentum in your relationship. Everyone has self-image insecurities. Everyone has insecurities generated through their childhood and upbringing. Everyone has insecurities about feeling competent. Know these three deepest insecurities, and you will know them like no other.
This is important for us. I am not exclusively talking about just sex and physical intimacy. I am talking about creating a connection that manifests in the physical world. The desire to spend time together walking, exploring nature, dancing, bouncing on a trampoline, holding hands, swimming, throwing a frisbee, massaging, doing crosswords or kicking a ball. There are thousands of ways for this to manifest, but this connection needs to exist in some way.
It will, of course, manifest and be magnified in the primary form of physical connection; kissing, touching and sex. What is important here is that all of these connections that manifest in the physical stem from the connection of the minds and the shared purpose of the soul.
When it does comes to your special time as a couple, you must find different ways for it to manifest as well. You should feel free to express this as you see fit. Keep exploring it together, keep adapting to each other and keep being purposeful about it.
It is easy to realize that when your mind is drained, this is far from your highest priority. However, all drops in your internal strengths are due to a lack of connection. Most often with yourself and your most basic needs, but often with all of your other connections; your friends and family, your colleagues and confidants, and with your physicality.
Remember to prioritize this, carve out time to go for a walk together. To work out together. To hold hands. To kiss — not with the intention of greeting or goodbye — but for connection.
Acknowledge Love Languages
Spend time communicating in each love language. Gary Chapman popularised the terms in his book ‘The Five Love Languages’ and these are foundational ways to describe the ‘verb’ of love.
Work to understand where you primarily give and like to receive love. These terms will help you understand. Importantly, once you have understood your primary and secondary love languages you need to not ignore the others. Here are the five love languages;
1. Acts of Service; Giving love by offering your time and service. When I think of this one I am reminded of my Mother. Whether she has acknowledged it, I see that she demonstrates her love by making sure everyone is taken care of and can feel relaxed.
2. Quality Time; This one makes sense right. This is those sitting on the couch with your legs overlapping and talking times, this is the working together on a crossword over a cup of tea. This is the sitting with your child building Lego or reading a book time. You don’t even need to be doing something, sometimes you just need to be present or engaged.
3. Words of affirmation; You know when you get that feeling inside of you when someone says ‘I appreciate what you do’. Or those special moments when your eyes lock, and you can’t help but say ‘I love you’. The affirming words of connection, this is how you fill this love language.
4. Giving and receiving gifts; I always thought this felt a bit material, but I have seen it and its effect on some of my loved ones. I am not talking about buying expensive gifts to show your love. But you will have interacted with those people who always give thoughtful and often hand made gifts. These people realize that there is something special in thinking of someone else and what they need or would like as a sign of love. It is the thought, not the gift itself that is important.
5. Physical touch; I have spoken about this above. Again, this is not focused on sexual interaction. People with this primary love language will hold hugs a little longer, be comfortable holding hands. They may touch you in familial ways when they talk. If you are in a relationship with them, they will cherish neck rubs or a gentle finger tracing up and down the arm.
Understanding that in any one period, your job is to put some energy into each of these love languages. If you want to know that the other person feels truly loved, you can do something small, regularly if not frequently, in all of them. You will grow to understand the other person’s natural love language, the one they favor. It may be different for giving and receiving, but pay attention and be purposeful.
If you are unsure, you can both do a test on the webpage.
Loving Made Easy
I have learned that with the right person, love does feel easy. There will be periods when it gets harder. The crush of stuff is difficult to navigate. But if you feel like you are drifting, realize that you now have some tools to take control of your journey and set it up for success. I have learned that because of this purposefulness, loving is made easy.
She is kind, considerate, thoughtful, diligent and purposeful in our partnership. I have come to realize that when everything is going well, you have a continuing feeling that the other person is doing so much for you. When you both have that feeling with regularity, you are both so fulfilled, so loved, so supported and so happy.
Find a way to take control of your most important relationships. Find a way to prioritize each other and the time together. Everything I have spoken about is about deepening your connections. Working out how to keep balancing your shared needs and supporting each other’s greatest dreams.
Love you all.
This one is a change of pace for me. I normally write about leadership and personal development, two of my passions. But if this type of article helps one person, provides them with a little spark, I will be very happy. Let me know in the comments if any of it resonates.