Be a Great Partner by Being a Great Friend to Yourself

Being in a committed relationship is hard, and it can be more than worth it…unless you really like being alone and without someone to share your journey over time.

After years of being a psychologist, a husband (twice) and a life and wellness coach, I have seen the good the bad and the ugly of marriage (or committed relationships).

We all get attracted to people who fill some need, or desire, or ideal…and eventually you need to get beyond that and evolve to the point of sharing, learning, and compromising, without losing your personal identity.

The problem lies in that many of you do not know what your personal identity is or who you truly are at your core. You might have been told how you were supposed to be, or taught what was not you. The process of becoming a mature emotional human is to learn from the ages and stages of personal development while sharing and learning from friends, lovers and mates in the process. No animal on earth has more difficulty with that than humans. We are born with a unique purpose I believe and spend our life figuring out what it might be. But the clues come from relationships. You really cannot go it alone.

Even a hermit needs a crowd to escape from and you are never really alone because we are relationship beings.

As my friend and mentor Margaret Wheatley stated in Turning to One Another, “Relationships are all there is. Everything in the universe only exists because it is in relationship to everything else. Nothing exists in isolation. We have to stop pretending we are individuals that can go it alone.”

So, if you are in a marriage (or committed relationship) what can you learn about the challenges that you face that are upsetting, or destructive, or hurtful? When you feel wronged, what were you expecting? How were you hurt? How did you hurt your lover/partner? What needs were not met and why not? Or Why should they be met? Or what if you are projecting your needs onto your partner and what you perceive they might be doing, is exactly what you are doing? Trust me…this happens a lot.

I believe that relationships over time, and especially long term relationships are one of our best teachers about us. If we have unhealed wounds or unresolved hurts, they will reappear time and again with a person you live with. A person who has filled their reserve and is strong internally, will not feel depleted nor defeated if entanglement or fighting occurs in a relationship. Such a person does not take it personally and communicates from love instead of anger. Easier said than done.

Needs need to be fed just like a garden

Relationships are like gardens. They are not accidental, they are planned and nurtured. And they must be weeded, fed, and cared for. Just as a lawn or garden needs water, if you have an automatic sprinkler in place, you don’t see that it needs water…its need has been filled automatically.

If you think of your needs like to be loved, appreciated, etc, how can you set an automatic sprinkler system to meet those needs. Who else in your life can feed that need? When you get that system in place you are not as needy in your primary relationship, and while those needs may still be important, you won’t be in a drought situation where you are depleted of nourishment. And if you see your partner as your mutual garden caretaker, what can you do for her/him out of love and caring and nurturing, just like you would for a beautiful garden?

For more information about concepts such as these, my book Getting Naked: On Emotional Transparency at the Right Time, the Right Place, and with the Right Person.

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