October 2013


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Elements Of A Great Relationship

By David Steele

Most of us want a fulfilling lifelong partnership with someone to love and be loved by. Couple in love Those that say they don't want this have usually been seriously wounded in their important relationships. They are protecting themselves, but underneath their defenses they too long for love. Through my life and my work I have come to my own understanding of relationships and how to make them work.

To be lifelong and fulfilling, a relationship must be healthy. Both persons in the relationship must be fully committed and take responsibility for themselves and the relationship. It requires effort to stay conscious and emotionally present. It takes skill to handle our insecurities without distancing our partner- initiating conflict, escaping in work, kids, friends, family, alcohol, TV, etc.- or drive them away by clinging too tight.

As we grow into adulthood our capability to function effectively in a relationship is developed and challenged. When we graduate college we do not have all the skills to succeed on a job, and when we leave our family of origin we do not have all the skills to succeed in a relationship. We must strive for self-awareness and learn the intimacy skills needed to sustain and grow a life partnership.

The following are 5 Elements of a Great Relationship:

  1. Being Fully Committed: Fulfilling relationships can be hard work (and mostly self-work). Intimacy can be scary, raising fears of suffocation, rejection, engulfment, and abandonment. Intimacy touches our upper limits of how happy and secure we can allow ourselves to be before fear of failure or success causes us to unconsciously sabotage ourselves. A healthy, fulfilling relationship starts with commitment. True intimacy, defined as being fully emotionally present and available for each other, is only possible in this context. Our fears and defenses create the temptation to cling or seek distance. Commitment means choosing to take responsibility, handling our fears, and working to be present and emotionally available in our relationship.
  1. Accepting Personal Responsibility: A child holds the world and the people around him or her responsible for meeting his or her needs. A child's "experience" (internal state-mainly thoughts and feelings) and behavior are reactive to the world. Typically a young child's reaction to being hungry is "My stomach is empty and I need you to feed me now!" The responsibility is put on the parent for the unmet need, and a demand is made to meet it. A child does not have the skills, resources, or personal power to take responsibility for his or her own needs, and then take care of them. A baby learns that crying will get his or her needs met; as language develops, speech is used to get needs met. How needs get met at these stages lays the groundwork for the future.As a healthy person develops he or she learns to take responsibility for his or her own needs, and cooperates with others in getting mutual needs met by communicating effectively and being pro-active. This can be called "Mutuality". People who do not practice mutuality continue to hold others responsible for their needs, often blaming others for their unmet needs and expecting others to take care of them, often responding in anger when others do not see things their way.

There are no victims in the healthy adult world; you are in charge of your life and are in this relationship by choice, nobody made the choice for you. Accept your partner as he or she is. Assume he or she can not and will not change for you. Be responsible for identifying your needs and cooperating with your partner in getting them met. Your partner is not in the relationship to take care of you; his or her role is to be responsive to your needs, your role is to be responsive to his or hers.

Your partner can not make you "happy." You can not make your partner "happy." But you join forces and make happiness possible for each other by being emotionally and physically responsive, and by each of you taking full responsibility for creating your own outcomes.

  1. Taking Care of Yourself: You can best take care of yourself by being responsible for getting your own needs met. In addition, you are not taking good care of your partner if you enable him or her to not take care of himself or herself. You can practice mutuality by asking your partner to cooperate in meeting your needs, you by responding cooperatively when your partner asks you. Taking care of yourself means not mindreading your partner or anticipating his or her needs, and not expecting your partner to mindread or anticipate your needs. Do not try make Life "OK" for anyone but yourself, and do not expect anyone to make Life "OK" for you. Realize only you can make yourself happy. In addition, take care of yourself means making it a priority to maintain a balance in your life between your own needs, and the needs of your partner, children, employer, etc.
  1. Telling Your Truth: Communicate your issues, wants, needs, feelings, and boundaries honestly and directly. Do not avoid conflict to protect yourself or your partner's feelings. It must be OK, indeed it is necessary for you to have issues, needs, boundaries, feelings, and you must tell the truth about them. Communicate your truth firmly, lovingly, pro-actively, effectively. Communicate your truth responsibly so that it neither offends nor results in an unproductive conflict.
  1. Doing Your Work: A healthy, fulfilling relationship is mostly self-work. Continously strive to live consciously, push beyond your upper limit, refine your relationship skills, heal your emotional issues, control your knee-jerk reactions and projections, let go of your need to be in control, heal the past, let go of your parents, bring down defenses, handle fears, and increase your capacity for unconditional love.

Following the 5 Elements of a Great Relationship:

  1. Being Fully Committed,
  2. Taking Personal Responsibility,
  3. Taking Care of Yourself,
  4. Telling Your Truth, and
  5. Doing Your Work

...will allow you to experience the love, happiness, joy, and quality of life that you deserve, and is worth your best effort!

Copyright © by David Steele and The Relationship Coaching Institute. All rights reserved in all media. Used with permission.

David Steele, MA, LMFT is founder of Relationship Coaching Institute.

For more information and free Radical Marriage resources for couples visit www.radicalmarriage.com

Ask Our Coaches

My wife gained weight and I'm not attracted to her anymore..

woman_scale Dear Coaches,

I'm an active, fit guy and when I married my wife she was too. But over time she lost interest in fitness and has gained 50 pounds. She's the same woman I fell in love with but I'm no longer physically or sexually attracted to her. What should I do?

~ Tony from Rohnert Park

Martina Cornelius

Martina responds ...

Thanks for your poignant question. First of all, I want to acknowledge how hard it must be for you to no longer feel attracted to the woman you dearly love. This is a very "hot topic" and caution is advised... She is very much aware of her weight increase and may feel self conscious and unattractive already. Her weight gain may have psychological as well as physical reasons (e.g. menopause). One thing that women really love, is undivided attention and presence... a man to be curious about her, to ask clarifying questions and lean towards her in an empathetic way without trying to fix or advise her. To get to the bottom of what is going on for her, wait for a good time without distractions. You may ask her some generalized questions such as: "I notice that you... (observed alarming behavior) ... and I am wondering what is going on for you?" See yourself as her team mate and ally, ready to support her in what is important to her... rather than trying to get her to change, so that you can feel better about yourself.

Martina Cornelius | www.toolsforlastinglove.com

Marian Meade

Marian responds ...

It's valid that you want to be attracted to your wife, and it's important that you address it. If you withold sharing your thoughts and feelings to avoid conflict, you deprive your wife of the opportunity to make healthy changes and you risk losing the emotional intimacy that holds your relationship together. I suspect that the two of you got into a rut a while ago - not just because of the weight. Consider what your contribution has been to the current state of your marriage. This situation may be just the wake up call you need to re-ignite your passion. Physical and sexual attraction increase when you make each other your top priority and do fun things together. Invite her out on a date and share with each other what you love about your relationship. Then create a vision of what you want your future together to look like. Let her know that her health and fitness are big priorities for you. Be willing to tolerate a little conflict now for the future happiness of your relationship. It's possible your wife will be relieved that you are taking leadership in returning your marriage from fizzle to sizzle!

Marian Meade | www.marriagemindedcoaching.com

Barbara Williams

Barbara responds ...

If both of you were active and fit when you married, but now only you are, it's clear that something has changed. What has changed isn't quite clear, but something has. Because I don't know anything about you guys, it would be helpful to throw out these questions for you to consider as I attempt to offer feedback.

How old are you and your wife? How long ago since you married that the interest in fitness changed? Any children since you married? Have you discussed this issue with your wife? At what point did you start to lose attraction to her and what have you done to reconcile this issue?

It does not sound like she is the same woman you fell in love with. She has changed, and she would probably say the same about you. I think it would be helpful for the both of you to meet with a professional to discuss some of the issues that has caused distance between you and how this could be resolved. I think the relationship deserves this because whatever the problem is, it's not just one person, and it could help you in moving forward, wherever that might be.

Barbara A Williams| www.barbarawilliams.relationshipcoach.org/

Let's Get Real

Let's Get Real responds ...

To view Let's Get Real's response to this question in a webTV episode visit www.gettingreal.tv/my-wife-gained-weight/

This column answers questions submitted by our readers. Submit your question here www.relationshipcoach.org/ask-the-coach and it will be forwarded to our coaches all over the world. Each issue, we'll publish a few answers from our RCI coaches.


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Darlene Steele | Editor, Couple for Life News | CONTACT DARLENE
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