I wrote about this topic last week in my “I had no Idea How to Deal with Anger and Conflict” article. In Elaine’s story, she faces the “emo crap that she drags into every relationship.” She faced her demons: protecting herself to the point where she could not let anyone be truly intimate with her; was ready to bolt before she could be abandoned; and locked away her difficult feelings.
Many of Elaine’s traits, as is true for all of us, have their up-and down-sides. For example, her “brass balls” brought success in many areas of her life, yet the double-edge sword kept her from the love she wanted.
After fighting against going to therapy, she relented and learned about herself, her boundaries, and her needs so that she is able to be in a healthy couple relationship.
Elaine describes her own healing as critical to being ready for love. It is why doing what I call Individual Therapy for a Couple may be the right path for you, whether or not you’re in a relationship – to improve the marriage you have, or ready you to have the great relationship you deserve.
We must be prepared to give and receive in relationship. Too much of one without the other, can be problematic. Certain people are good at giving, and perhaps even without knowing they are doing it, give so much as a means of keeping their partner at bay. Others have trouble receiving; it’s too intimate, vulnerable, and scary to trust what’s being offered.
We must be prepared to have each others’ back. Life will throw many curve balls our way, whether it’s from in-laws, jobs, health issues, or other unforeseen areas, we have to choose our partner and protect him/her as the top priority every time.
We have to be prepared to have our partner be our best friend (yes, you need your girl-or guy-friends, too); we need to know each other and be one another’s champion. This can become a challenge at times because we come from different families, and we expect our partner to respond the way our family did – and most likely he won’t. She’ll respond the way her family did. It’s not wrong, just not what we’re used to.
We must be prepared to comfort each other, even if we don’t quite understand why the other is upset. (And we must not assume we did anything wrong if our partner is upset; that just adds more stress to the situation.) We don’t need to fix things for one another. We need to help as our beloved asks for.
We need an intimate and sexual relationship – and yes, they are related, yet different. All of the above needs are intimate. We also need touch (and people have differing levels of need for touch). Sex is both a physical act that brings pleasure, as well as part of our enjoyment in and of each other. Physical proximity is part of our neural regulation; how our brains and physiological systems get aligned. We need that for our very survival. Plus it soothes us.
All of us have baggage we bring to a relationship. We may or may not see it or be aware of it. But our partner certainly will!