After nearly a decade of being in serious long-term relationships and observing many others, although I’ve not arrived to an ideal scenario, I felt compelled to lay out my thoughts on what might be a healthy partner selection and a thriving relationship. Truth is that in the modern world relationships can take different forms, for a variety of reasons, often without solid lasting intentions.
Decades ago, relationship structures were predetermined for us by our previous generations. Our sense of identity, who we were and what was expected of us, and doing things a certain way gave you a sense of continuity - parents knew how to talk to their kids, husbands knew how to talk to their wives and wives knew what not to say to their husbands - there were rules, duty, and obligations, thus certainty was followed by clarity. All the decisions were made for you, which means you were never ‘alone’ and barely free. Today, in an era when we get to reinvent ourselves, the duty, obligations, and rules were supposedly replaced by freedom and choice and subsequently certainty has been replaced by uncertainty and possibly self-doubt. We are asking questions like: Who am I, am I enough, what do I want; which are met by a shift in relationships. Originally, due to changing times relationships were meant for survival and obligations, then romantic love and companionship, and now we want intimate relationships for self-actualization: ‘I want you to help me become the best version of myself. ‘And this is perhaps the best place where our relationships are landing - a place of mutual discovery.
A life truly shared with someone calls for a level of dedication and contribution that inspires others to thrive. It is often said that the quality of our relationships determines the quality of our life. 99% of your life trajectory is most likely influenced by your partner that’s why choosing wisely is crucial. This may sound overwhelming but in fact, I like to look at it as a harmonious process.
To dive deeper, we must look at what keeps people together.
Why do people stay together?
People stay together oftentimes for many reasons other than love (shocker?); such as time sunk or invested, habituation, emotional intimacy, family duty, ‘obligation’ to the community, partner’s personality, emotional security, physical needs, financial benefits, compatibility, having fun – best buddies, concern for the other, control, codependency, need for validation, physical attraction, fear of uncertainty, comparison of alternatives, companionships, social pressure, social status etc. We will revisit the validity and the worth of what makes a healthy reason to stay together in another blog but for now, I’ll leave you with a perspective on Attachment vs. Love.
Further, let’s take a look at what might be the journey to an organic and authentic experience and stages that lead to lasting healthy and fulfilling relationships that thrive.
How it all starts! At least in the western culture
1. Admiration – I see you!
Typically, admiration starts when a person embodies values that you respect and admire and are most likely to adopt. They may be prioritizing these values at a level you can appreciate and generally it is a reflection of who you are and your believes system in life. Admiration springs through because they mirror you and subconsciously you see yourself in them.
This is where an innate motivation is born to be a better person just by being around them. In a pleasant way, you start seeing areas in your life that you can improve upon to match them and eventually gain their admiration. This is where life can take a turn for the better and change simply starts happening. I wish you saw yourself the way I see you capture the experience well.
2. Deep connection – You get me and I get you!
If you start exploring the admiration and it is reciprocated in no time you feel immersed and alive as if there is a space in which only you and them co-exist. Everything fades and they become the go-to place, your safe hub where you feel safe to be you at the deepest core of who you are, you are accepted, gotten, and secured in. When something happens in your life you find yourself wanting to run and tell them first. It is a nurturing place! It makes you feel 'at home’ because it dives in the deepest part of you, at the core of who you are, a place where only you knew existed or oftentimes you didn’t know it even existed. Their presence validates you as a person! This is not however feeling at ‘home’ as in they grew up the way you did – but at home with yourself – they could be of a different culture or even speak a different language that you would even barely understand but you know that you are experiencing an unexplainable depth and connection. And you don’t want them to ever leave because they somehow ‘get you’ – you belong to the same core to the same tribe. This quote got my attention one day and I think says it well:
‘I must have loved you in another lifetime because when I see you it feels like coming home and no one makes me feel more myself than you. When my hand in yours is familiar and safe like I’ve known your soul since the beginning of time through all the lives I’ve lived. Maybe that’s why my love for you is infinite and maybe that’s why we instantly clicked and maybe that’s why it feels like you are my soul mate.’
Take a look at a few helpful tips on distinguishing connections.
3. Love – I’m into you!
After doing some significant research, there is a common tendency to intertwine a deep connection with love as a deep connection is known as love.
I believe that love is a deep connection nurtured and developed in time with care. Love develops the more you focus on the well-being and caring of the other and that is reciprocated. This way the deep connection unfolds in the practicality of life and creates a love story. ‘It is an emotional fulfillment you experience with another that becomes the most important glue in a long-term serious relationship. It's a very serene feeling when you can just be with someone and have 100% trust and confidence in them, everything they do, and their feelings towards you. You just wake up one day and know no matter what happens, that person will be at your side. There's no logical evidence to prove it: you just know. That knowing of love and acceptance gives you the ability to truly be open and share your life with another.’
This love gets tested and tried and if successful and matured over time. It deepens like the roots of an oak tree and becomes more and more immovable. I heard a speaker the other day say that after 40 years of marriage she can definitely say that she didn’t know what love was at the beginning of their journey even though she married for love, compared with the depth they are experiencing now.
Love has got to be maintained over time and thrive to keep it alive, despite the challenges of life this is the experience. The next quotes reflect the outcome I believe they are after:
‘The best love is the kind that awakens the soul and makes us reach for more, that plants a fire in our hearts and brings peace to our minds, aligns us, and helps us be at rest as if all pieces of the puzzle in life are falling in the right place and … all is well.’
‘You deserve a slow love, uncomplicated, no rush, stable, consistent, you deserve someone that is sure of you that you are sure of.’
‘Love is like a best friend but more, it is one person in the world that knows you better than anyone else someone that makes you a better person, a person that knew you and accepted you and believed in you when no one else would, and no matter what happens they will always love you.’
‘Hang out with someone for hours and hours and when they leave you to miss them the second they leave. I don’t know if I can make this any clearer but I love you, I want YOU, ALL of you, every day for the rest of my life.’
‘When two people are in love they are on the same frequency intellectually, emotionally, and physically. Most people that are together or married are not in love, they are in the habit. ‘
‘I have to be honest with you. I think about you a lot, in the morning when I wake up, at the end of my day before I go to sleep and during the day between everything – it’s you. It is always you!’
‘When two people are in love they enjoy thinking about the same ideas, they get emotionally involved with the same ideas, so they set up the same vibrations, their heart is on the same frequency and they physically enjoy doing the same things. They have a great physical connection. They are in harmony emotionally and physically.’
‘When you love someone you have no control, love is being powerless.’
‘So it’s not gonna be easy – it’s gonna be really hard and we gonna have to work on this bc I want you and me together every day!’ ‘I am nothing special. But in one respect I have succeeded as gloriously as anyone who’s ever lived: I’ve loved another with all my heart and soul; and to me, this has always been enough.’
‘I think our love can do anything we want it to.’
‘But despite their differences, they had one important thing in common… they were crazy about each other.’
4. Purpose - Life gains a new meaning!
Love and deep connection fuel purpose! As you are building a love story your build a life story together!
With no way to predict the future, or a road map for the inevitable challenges along the way that can impact your love levels, how do couples remain true to the purpose of their relationship and not run at the first sign of trouble?
It all goes back to Why are you together?
Yes, you felt a deep connection, you felt the attraction, the harmony but why do you envision a lifetime forever together? Did their values and goals aligned with yours – do you both see a trajectory that makes you both fulfilled and empower you to go forward? A simple answer could be that you want to be part of your partner’s life and build companionship. I am a firm believer that you got to create an essence around it and meaning to fully experience your partners and their companionship.
Maybe you both care about making an impact spiritually in the world, ending the world’s hunger? or impact the way politics are shifting our society, or want to build a product that thrives in the business world, challenge each other in fitness and win championships together or want to impact the environment, global warming, or activists for human traffic etc. Then what would a plan look like – would you travel the world at first to learn more about the subject matter, would you want to both invest time and money in studying the subject matter? Would you want to start an LLC or a small passion project to invite others and build a community and a network to be part of it?
Or the dream would simply be to build a family, which can be purposeful if you intentionally invest time in raising the children, their healthy growth, and upbringing - not just let life pass you by.
Can you easily articulate the purpose of your romantic relationship? To help you do so, here are a few other questions to consider:
What made you choose your partner? Out of all of the people you connected with, why this person?
Why do you want to be in this type of relationship with him or her?
What is your idea of a healthy and loving relationship?
Having a common purpose even if that shifts, get altered, or changes – as long as you value the same things in life and place importance on the same areas of growth – will give meaning to your life together! It will strengthen your partnership and reveal the magic of complementing each other’s knowledge, ability, weaknesses, and strengths as you are working on a progressive goal together. This usually has the tendency not only to keep you thriving as an individual but it is one of the most important factors that keep the relationship thriving, promoting the ‘mutual discovery’ I mentioned in the beginning – nurturing your connection and keeping your love life awake. What always matters is growing together, thriving together, and learning from each other. Value vision lifestyle!
Every relationship brings an opportunity for you to recognize your true divine self and bring all the aspects of yourself that you’ve judged or denied back to love.
5. Commitment – I consistently choose you!
Commitment is consistent action! The act of investing in the relationship. Commitment is the act of consistently cultivating the love and the bond you established. It creates stability and structure. It is a form of loyalty, a foundation on which love grows. It allows trust to develop in a relationship. It is proof that you are being chosen!
There can be a deep connection, love, and even purpose but without consistent action that spells out commitment, there is no security established.
6. Compatibility – We value the same things!
You know you are compatible just like you know you are connected! But while connection happens at emotional and physical levels compatibly happens in practical ways of life, you work well together as you continue to enjoy each other's company. You're in sync! That’s the reason why the topic of compatibility is brought up when we give advice to others that they should marry their best friend. This is because we are naturally in sync with our ‘best’ friend because and you don’t have to think too hard about how you should something together, ideas flow, and things just work out. What differentiates a best friend from a true partner however is the deep connection and the love you have for each other. This cannot be manufactured or forced. If you have it you have it if you don’t, you just have a best friend you hang out with. We can be compatible with a lot of people but if your soul is ‘not awakened’ and you don't feel the fire in your heart’ and joy and passion that only love can generate you might be well… just a best friend.
To further challenge the notion, if you are a hiker and you have 5 hiking buddies that want to hike with you, all partner material but you only feel deeply connected with one that chooses to stay at home – would you ditch them because hiking is not a sport of their choice. Of course, not - you would compromise for common ground. Because love is deeper than that! At the same time, if you have 5 different hiking buddies that are all partner material and are all volunteering to go with you hiking, you would most certainly pick the one that you are deeply connected with and feel love for.
It seems to me that compatibility is deeper than surface-level activities – it goes back to your values. So in this case, if fitness and well-being are something you both value here – one can be a hiker and one can be a runner – you are still compatible through your valuing movement and promoting a healthy lifestyle.
There is a category of people that I encountered in life that have a ‘disciplined’ or rational matter of thinking – excluding the importance of connection and feeling as if they are futile and unimportant. I would argue that in fact that passion and joy fuel your life, they give you the fire to achieve and go to higher heights. If you choose a partner purely on checking boxes on who they are and you don't prioritize whether you are ‘into them’ deeply or not– you are risking running out of fuel to run the relationship.
Compatibility and deep connection play equal importance in the progress of a relationship. One without the other guarantees stagnation.
Clarifying feeling ‘at home”
I find it important to further clarify ‘being at home with the other!' It does not mean that the other person has common habits and inclinations like yours, they like the same food, and hobbies and can buddy up with you in most activities which are loosely labeled as ‘compatibility’ these days. That way there will be many individuals to choose from.
Again, if I didn’t say it enough ‘at home’ means that they ‘get you' like nobody else literally does! That there is a deeply sacred place in your heart that they were able to touch - underneath all the exterior, all that you say, all that you are, all the layers of insecurities, fears, questions, and doubts – there is a place where you are at the core – raw and fully transparent, sincere and honest with no pretense. This is the depth this person can reach within you, they mirror you, they ‘see you' for who you are, and not only do they accept you but they take you to a place of rest and calm, creating an unbreakable harmony, addictive almost – a piece of heaven where you want to stay forever. This almost heavenly aura is the beginning of life-changing love. That is the root that keeps it all together!
You may potentially be missing it
This deep connection can have an intensity that many may be reluctant to tap into. If it feels new, foreign and can be associated with past traumatic consequences where you have felt it before but it was accompanied shortly after by abandonment, abuse, ghosting, and neglect. Someone’s first reaction is to avoid and decline the automatic draw to connect to another person that they attract ‘for no particular reason' because they are afraid of the consequences. Again this is due to past experiences where relationships often with a protector started as a connection but ended in abuse. This can condition one to associate a deep connection with fear or negative feelings. Then they settle or are ‘hiding’ in relationships where they feel ‘comfortable’ and ‘compatible’, but unfulfilled because the deep connection that is crucial for keeping a relationship alive is missing. There are several ways to assess your correlation to this. One of them is by assessing your attachment predisposition. If your past experiences have thought you to be fearful avoidant, anxious preoccupied, or dismissive avoidant you may be sabotaging your deepest and more fulfilling connections that can bring you the closeness that you need. Don’t pay the cost of non-connection!
Stick with a person you feel you can’t live without! A person that you are deeply connected with, you love and are crazy about, and with whom you can imagine building a life. Yes, you can have it all! Life is too short not to! You got to have the attraction of the animation, an eagerness you only have together.
When you write a love story together, you edit, you erase, you adjust – it is never perfect - because every person has issues – you pick one person you deal with their issues, you pick another you pick with others. When you pick a person you also pick their issues, you deal with them but it’s worth it because love carries you on and covers it all.
‘Love is passion, obsession, someone you can’t live without. Fall head over heels, find someone who loves you like crazy and you love them back. How do you find them? Forget your head and lead with your heart. The truth is there is no sense of living without this – to make the journey and not having lived deeply enough. But you have to try because if you haven’t tried, you haven’t lived.’
Let me know your truth-filled thoughts at firstname.lastname@example.org
Esther Perel, Matthew Hussey, Ivan Nicholo, Thais Gibson, Psychology Today, Bustle.com, Healthypathtolove.com, marriage.com, yourtango.com, psychcentral.com, Various Famous Quotes
Blogs Coming up soon:
Why do people stay together?
A snake in the grass - detect control & deception in relationships
What if there is a better person out there?
How to achieve Influence
Understanding the Disturbed