After my divorce, I was determined to do relationships differently. Well it’s been a bumpy road, and I have learned much about myself in the process. I guess I should say that I am learning because if you do it right, you should always be learning in life.
I set out to figure out what a conscious, healthy relationship was all about. Somedays I think the recipe is clear, and other days it’s as elusive as ever.
Probably the most important ingredient in the recipe, but the one most overlooked. It is essential to have a grounded sense of self in order to be involved in a healthy relationship. This takes time, and is always evolving given our experiences. We have to know ourselves, our quirks, our traumas, our strengths and our needs. This entails excavating the deep caverns of our inner experiences to understand and see all of our qualities. ALL OF THEM. The good and not so good. We have to get brutally honest with our BS and flaws, for this makes us human, and ultimately loveable.
As soon as we enter this world, we start to have experiences. They shape our beliefs, our histories, and our context. Most of us, have reams and reams of both good and not so good experiences. Some of these have left us scarred. These scars can be looked at as reminders of all that we have been through and hopefully what we have learned in the process. Being able to understand how our history shapes our personality and how to communicate this to the people around us is the bond that holds relationships together. This can be excruciatingly difficult, or it can be simple.
I have scanned the various, soul sucking dating apps out there, and funny enough there is no talk about values. It’s not really talked about, but critically important for successful relationships. Values is what we hold dear in our lives, what matters the most. We may have a vague idea of what’s important, but how many of us, actually can list our top core values??? It took me along time to figure out what my values are, I explored my history, family, culture, gender, and more to figure out the most important things in my life. So many times people listen to the adage “opposites attract” but when it comes to values, couples whose values are far apart on the continuum generally have more conflict than those working on building a foundation of similar values.
Life is already too serious as is. I mean there are bills to pay man! Having a sense of humour, and a shared sense of humour with your partner is essential. I think we’ve become to serious in our pursuit of adulting and we have to have a little more fun. Being able to laugh at situations, at ourselves is essential in keeping grounded and moving forward. When is the last time you cocked your head back and got lost in a belly laugh that lasted until it hurt? If you can’t remember the last time, that means you need to find something funny to get lost in, and get those endorphins flowing!
Let’s face it, our biological urges are a major source of pleasure or pain in our relationships. Unless you identify yourself as “asexual”, we have desires, qualities that define what we think it is attractive in our partners. This too, is diverse. In this category… beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I don’t know if there are universal qualities that spark chemistry because it depends on the context and how/ where we are socialized. Having that spark, that chemistry is an important quality in nurturing and satisfying our physical and sexual needs.
Similar to values, integrity is not often talked about in relationships. We often know we want it, but we don’t actually use the word integrity. The actual definition of integrity is: the quality of being honest and sound moral principals. Integrity starts with self. We have to be honest with ourselves, what we want, what we don’t want, and somehow bring these into alignment. When we are out of integrity with ourselves things go astray. We find ourselves doing things we don’t want to be doing; with a low simmering resentment brewing which can reek havoc in relationships. When we are strong in personal integrity it is easier to communicate our needs in our relationships. In good relationships integrity serves as the glue that holds everything together. Without it, relationships tumble like a house of cards amidst the slightest breeze.
To me, passion is different than chemistry. Passion is the energy and excitement you have for life. If as a couple, you are synced in day to day life as well as the direction of your future, and it brings you excitement. This is passion. Passion is what gets you out of bed in the morning… either jumping out excitedly ready to tackle the day or stumbling hesitantly or reluctantly.
This is where shared goals and plans come into play. When a couple has a good idea of the life they are building together, have created a vision of their desired future and are working together towards it, then they are passionate about their relationship and it creates a way forward. Sometimes this can get lost in the banalities of daily life, but it is crucial to have a north star directing you and your partner forward.
A dose of humility is an attractive quality (to me). Like it or not, humans, we are flawed AF. When we are humble about our lives, and express some grace when we mess up or stumble, it goes a long way in forging a strong relationship. Being with a partner who isn’t there to rub your nose in your mistakes goes a long way. It’s a source of comfort to have a partner present to give you a hug, when you stumble or when you fall. It’s even better when they are there to lend you a hand and help pick you back up. Inside the bonds of a close relationship this should be a soft place to land.
Ick! The V-word. This one is hard for me. It’s been just so easy for me to armour up and protect myself from the big bad scary world. BUT this has also been what’s been holding me back. Vulnerability is the art of being real, being honest, and standing before the world metaphorically naked. Not hiding, but being honest about everything. This takes heaps of courage and is not for the faint of heart. But more that I’ve been dipping my toe into the waters of vulnerability I am seeing that most people react positively, and compassionately. Very rarely have they run screaming from the room, and lets face it…. if they do…. they can keep going.
This ingredient is tricky. It’s easy to walk away… it’s easy to just keep swiping… but commitment is an important quality in forging a conscious relationship. I think it’s essential to know when to stay and when to go. There are times, when the red flags are waving that it is essential that you call it quits. If your boundaries are violated repeatedly that’s a deal breaker. BUT knowing when it’s worth sticking it out is an important quality. It takes discernment. If done right, a good relationship is bumpy as hell with lots of tricky terrain. There are all sorts of triggers and land mines that lay in everyone’s histories. But it’s important to be able to work through these bumps, communicate about what’s happening and what you need in the moment. Over time being able to navigate these bumps is what gives rise to a stable relationship and a foundation of love and respect.
Last but not least!!! Now it might seem obvious that a recipe for LOVE calls for an Open Heart, but I think it is not always that obvious. Especially if we have had our heart broken or been abandoned, it is so damn difficult to open it up again. And I mean really open it. You can go through the motions, as I have been in my past, but it is essential that we have the courage to open our hearts and keep them open. This allows the reciprocal dynamic of giving and receiving to flow freely which is essential in a good relationship.
So now with the list of ingredients complete, what’s next???
With all these ingredients, it takes time to forage for them, cultivate them in ourselves, and then together with another person. Like a great cake; it takes time to put all of the essential ingredients in the mix and nurture them carefully until we can take it out of the oven. If rushed, it will fall flat and leave us hungry. Much like relationships!!!