Healthy relationships - future choices
Written by listed counsellor/psychotherapist: Julie Sale MBACP, Dip Couns, CBT Practitioner
22nd September, 20150 Comments
There comes a time in most people’s lives where they will want to settle down into a committed relationship, where they will feel stable, supported and special. After all, we are all special and deserve to feel that way. It feels nice when it is reciprocated by someone who we think is special too. In my experience of counselling work around relationships, I have found that one of the main issues about attracting the right partner is that sexual chemistry or physical attraction is the driver, and that driver is travelling down a one-way street.
Although there is an admission that physical attraction generates a pleasant feeling, over-emphasising its importance when looking for a mate is unlikely to end up in committed bliss. If you have maintained healthy relationships that start with lust or chemistry and your relationships stay strong then great, you probably won’t seek counselling. You will not need to understand unhealthy patterns around repeatedly attracting or being attracted to the wrong type. This article however explores over-relying on lust when establishing long-term relationships. Here, the focus is on balanced relationships and acknowledging that passion and chemistry are just small parts of what contribute towards a wholesome, healthy relationship.
All too often, too strong a focus on aesthetics, immediate sexual chemistry and social status can inhibit the chances of finding a long-term suitable partner. Not that these qualities are not important, they can be to a certain degree, but a balance of these qualities and a stronger focus on contentment and compatibility tends to nourish a relationship for longer rather than allowing attraction to feed the passion. Other qualities include common interests, kindness, mutual respect, a shared sense of humour or being able to be in each others presence for long periods. The kinds of relationships that are lit up initially with passion are frequently the ones that burn out the quickest. Intense relationships can be likened to addictions and substance abuse. The feelings from the fix can be immense and satisfy an emotional void in a flash or moment. But these fixes, no matter how many of them your relationship provides you with, will not lead you to forming a healthy, more endearing relationship, especially if other aspects of the pairing are not being given attention. The magnet that draws people together in sexual chemistry is not always an indicator of a healthy, long-term committed attachment, especially if either or both people are not in the right place for a relationship and need some self-exploration to help them understand their attractions and needs.
Another big theme in being drawn to unhealthy relationships is a person’s desire to save and rescue somebody else. This is never healthy, whether you are expecting your efforts to be reciprocated when you are the one that is needed, because you may have an unconscious desire to control others and always be right. Other common issues surround the type of person that is attracted to you. You may find that those attracted to you may not see you as valuable, you may in turn not feel worthy and you wonder why you keep attracting this same type of partner. It may be that you are already in a relationship that provides some of your needs, but you feel that your partner is not respecting whom you are completely and you would like more from the relationship but do not know how to ask for it, so it leaves you feeling incomplete and unsatisfied.
An exploration of who your main role models were growing up and who you were most closely attached to can help you discover what impact they had on your life and choices of companion, be it with friends or romantic partnerships. This exploration and understanding of relationship styles, attachment and behavioural patterns in the past and present can help you to understand the reasoning around being attracted to certain types. Counselling can help you to unravel these subconscious deep-seated drivers and provide you with an opportunity to move forward making more positive, wholesome choices as well as break some of those negative behavioural choices and attachment patterns.
We often enter romantic relationships still carrying some baggage in the form of a hurt heart or damaged self that can culminate into defence mechanisms, all too often coming to the surface when we are involved in an intimate affair. The personal work one has to do, in order to develop our relationship skills is very much connected with how we are communicating, where we learned our interpersonal skills and what kind of relationship dynamics were exposed to as children. A relationship with another is not the balm to heal a person’s past wounds and it won’t magically make all their needs fulfilled. However, a supportive relationship can stimulate a person into being their best self and help a person to accept and forgive themselves as well as others, allowing them to blossom and willingly open up a wider scope for compromise whilst learning to put conflicts aside. By raising awareness of self and how self-impacts others, we can develop better practices which can ultimately lead us on to the right path to establishing better partnerships.
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