On the way to the airport one morning last week, my Uber driver and I chatted about the complicated nature of relationships between men and women. A much younger woman than me, she’s divorced with a new baby and a struggling relationship with her baby’s father. She asked me for advice. She told me she loves to ask people who have also been through a divorce and additional relationships what their secret sauce is; what makes relationships successful.
I don’t pretend to be an expert. I have certainly read a plethora on the topic. While I haven’t quite landed the perfect relationship recipe for me yet, I do know there are some key ingredients.
Some relationship coaches disagree with this one. I’m steadfast and sticking to it because my first relationship lacked chemistry; I let it “grow on me.” It then failed twenty three years later. Honestly, it failed much sooner. But it took twenty three years for me to gain the courage to see the disconnect and walk away. There MUST be sizzle; there MUST be a spark. Not the kind(s) that are fleeting either. I’m talking butterflies, goofy-silly-light-you-up kind of sizzle and spark. The kind that shows up every time you lay eyes on your person. The sound of their voice should resonate with your soul. It should be, the kind of spark that even when you are pissed, it’s still hey, you there, how do we stop this nonsense because I love you so fucking much that I can’t stay mad.
You know who you are. You know what’s important to you. You know your values, morals, religious beliefs and so on. Get on the same page early about core values and beliefs. You don’t have to feel the same way – but you have to share respect for who the other one is. Pay attention. Early. It sucks to spend time, get attached and find out you’re not earning the respect you deserve.
STAY TRUE TO YOURSELF AND WHAT YOU LOVE TO DO.
What attracted you to the person in the beginning was really very simple – you’re attracted to who they are. When two people morph into one and give up the very individual passions and interests that made us who we are, we become dull and less interesting; we have have less to talk about; and we lose a critical piece of ourselves. I have a friend who just shared they know a man who gave up many of the things he loved – including one of his do-it-everyday passions before he then physically moved to be with his person. His partner also made them surrender other loves and life passions under the false claims of being concerned for the person’s safety. I call bullshit. Control is not love nor is love control. Asking someone to surrender what they love for you is total bullshit. When someone asks you to quit being who you are, run.
I’m not talking about not compromising on other life situations; it’s perfectly fine and things like picking movies, restaurants, friend time, etc. are to be negotiated and rightfully so. I am talking about things like my long-term love saying he wasn’t okay with the intended topic of my second book; it would embarrass him and he wouldn’t allow it. Excuse me? Bye. And honestly, that is a rather large deal breaker around why he’s gone. If someone doesn’t embrace you with your passions – passions that make you sparkle and true to truest self yourself – move on.
When we love someone, the last thing we should want, need or expect them to do is let go of the very things that fuel his or her beautiful soul. Love lifts up and supports. Enough said.
THE COUPLE – NOT THE KIDS – COME FIRST
The one, common relationship description in the very few people I know with the healthiest and happiest long-term relationships is that they understand that the couple must be each other’s top priority. These people all have children. They all adore their children; they are all wonderful, devoted, engaged parents. However – they all agree that the key to success is the couple comes first. Why? When the couple is happy, connected, grounded, respectful to and for each other, that energy breathes into every other part of their lives. As one dear friend’s role model told her, “as long as my husband and I are happy and in a good space, everything else in our lives follows suit.”
COMMUNICATION, COMMUNICATION, COMMUNICATION
A dear friend (who is also a former sex therapist) shared this with me recently – and it’s a pretty simple equation – communication is the cornerstone of trust and trust builds intimacy. So what does healthy communication look like? It’s open and honest. It speaks its truth in a matter of fact, non-angry way. We should openly and lovingly be clear on what works for us and what doesn’t; and we should respectfully speak these truths as they come up for us. If we stuff our truths down, as one of my favorite yoga instructors says, shit’s coming out one way or another. When we stuff it down, it’s coming out sideways.
How do we avoid shit spewing out sideways? We own our needs and lovingly and respectfully communicate what those are. Finally, as much as I would love it, we can’t read each other’s minds, no matter how well we know each other. Okay, here’s the problem, sometimes we do know what our person is thinking or feeling, but others – we don’t. And, so in turn, we create crazy stories that just aren’t true or accurate. So, ask your person what he or she needs.
Without trust, you are over before you start. I recently took a run at attempting to trust someone who told me the first two times we were together, “Everything I told you was a lie the last two rounds,” and then he laughed. Oh hell no. We are done. And we were. Right from the moment those words came off his lips. It took me about a month to come to terms with it and let it all go. Trust is key. Remember communication builds trust which builds intimacy.
SHOW GRATITUDE TO AND FOR YOUR PERSON
Men have a tendency to hunt and kill in their dating or marrying styles; this is without a doubt subtle toxic poison. Women have a tendency to get the ring, the house, the kids and quit lovin’ on their men and start barking orders as if he’s a dog; he barks back, and the toxic cycle never stops. Complacency kills all relationships no matter how strong they begin so pay attention. Gratitude for all things expressed regularly to each other goes a long way. Stay in it. Figure out what you can do to light your partner up every damn day. It may be a hug from behind with a kiss on the neck, a post-it note, saying I love you, looking into each other’s eyes and telling that person you are the luckiest person on the planet to have found them. Find what it is. Do it. Which leads me to…
SIZZLE IN THE SACK
It dovetails on chemistry. But, just because the butterflies are there, does not always read and translate to intimate sexual chemistry. Make sure it works and make sure it is sustainable. It’s important. We don’t pay enough attention to it. Avoid the conveyor belt mentality. Pay attention. Communicate here as much or more than anywhere and be on the same page. It matters. A lot. I highly recommend Kim Anami for all things sex and sex therapy. Oh yeaaaaahhhh.
Intimacy may come in all forms but if it’s not coming in the form of sex and love making, you are so screwed. Fix it. You can. If the sparks were there and they’ve left, bring the romance back.
And, that is my not so sexy truth.