If you’re new to the dating scene or not had an intimate relationship for some time, the prospect of successfully navigating a new relationship can feel like a daunting, scary journey into uncharted waters.
Not least, because as a relationship evolves there comes increasing pressure on us to relax, reveal more of ourselves and disclose our thoughts and feelings, all as part of the process of getting to know each other better and move forward into a more committed relationship.
But sharing and being intimate makes us vulnerable, whether it be physically, emotionally or sexually. If we sense, rightly or wrongly, that our partner’s not being genuine, is judgemental, or is playing with us the temptation can be to safely retreat inside and stay there awhile!
Becoming and remaining close to someone requires us to know ourselves and what our wants and needs are from the relationship. A special relationship should ‘add value’ to our lives, make the world a better place and not define who we are or compel us to behave differently in order to please our partner and keep them happy.
Yet, sometimes our own needs are overshadowed by our desire to keep that person in our lives. We want to be thought of as ‘nice’, desirable, kind, a good person, which can result in us trying too hard and sending out mixed messages about who we are and what we want from the relationship.
This may result in us appearing artificial, detached and emotionally unavailable, perhaps because we’re working hard at the relationship, whilst not having our own needs met.
If we expect our partner to intuit how we feel without having communicated with them, we can’t expect them to be psychic. Becoming more available emotionally requires recognising our triggers and remembering that we both have needs that have to be accommodated. Each of us have our own stories, issues and concerns. So, if your relationship matters to you, determine to discuss how you’re feeling, but also listen to your partner’s thoughts and feelings.
An interesting book on relationships by Dr Gary Chapman is about love languages*. Written in 1992, ‘How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Partner’, says that we all have our preferred love language, our way of expressing our wants and needs, and by understanding each other’s love language we can, hopefully receive what we need in return.
He describes 5 love languages;
Words of Affirmation
Words of Affirmation are a positive way to communicate our feelings to each other. Problems can arise if our partner demonstrates love in a way we can’t appreciate or acknowledge, perhaps by being reluctant or hesitant to discuss their feelings or listen to us. It can be frustrating if we’re hoping for something more open and in-depth than actually happens.
But successful relationships include accepting that whilst our partner may not often say ‘I love you’, they may communicate in other positive ways, saying, ‘you mean a lot to me’, ‘thank you for being in my life’ or even praising us to others. There are many ways they could express their feelings.
Quality time together can be difficult when ‘everyone’ seems to spend their time constantly checking their phones. Simply sitting together doesn’t equate to quality time. Being one-on-one is an important way to show that you care enough to minimise distractions and fully invest in the time you spend together. This may include sharing opinions, your daily experiences, even insights into your back story and its affect. A proper conversation involves listening and avoiding finishing each other’s sentences or second-guessing what they’re saying.
Physical touch can be an important love language and an indicator that all is not well in a relationship if there’s increasing physical distance between a couple. But touch may not be comfortable for our partner if there’s a damaged personal history, where home life wasn’t affectionate or where there was abuse. Some people find physical touch overbearing, excessive and intrusive at times.
Receiving gifts can be fun and even exciting on occasion, but most people ultimately prefer a handmade card or a thoughtfully compiled scrapbook of memories. A personalised gift often means more than an expensive, hastily purchased bottle of fragrance.
Acts of service
Acts of service are those touching gestures that show someone cares and is trying to be supportive of you, as in running your bath after a busy, stressful day, starting to make dinner, repairing something without having to be repeatedly asked, bringing home a leaflet for an event they know you’d like.
One of these five languages may be the ultimate expression of love to one person, whilst their partner may be indifferent or oblivious to it. Understanding that there could be very different approaches is often the beginning of greater understanding in a relationship.
To be successful in our relationships, we need to be aware of our own basic needs and feelings. Then we can form mutually respectful, meaningful connections with each other that enhances both our lives.
Susan Leigh, Counsellor & Hypnotherapist lifestyletherapy.net