The task of love, intimacy and the 15 goals of relationships
Are you expecting a happy Valentine's Day?
Love and intimacy is not called a task for nothing! It takes responsibility, commitment, patience and resilience! Frequent complaints from those in relationships often include:
I’m neglected, my trust is always broken, we don’t communicate, sex is non-existent or boring! I just feel so angry and resentful all the time, I score points and misdemeanours go into the filing cabinet to be hurled later. I’m sick of being taken for granted!
The bad news is the relationship is an entity in itself and is both partners’ responsibility. The buck stops here. Have a long hard talk with yourself; what are my barriers?
What am I really feeling? Do I fear intimacy, losing control or do I fear losing my independence, am I too needy? Am I protecting myself from vulnerability, abandonment, rejection? Or am I terrified that if I allow someone really close, then they will not like what they see?
The good news is once we are clear how we feel, then we can look at the motives for our behaviour. We can then look at where this comes from and begin to see patterns.
Is my partner like one of my parents? What role models were my parents for relationships, how was love and intimacy demonstrated when I was child? Did I grow up in an abusive family atmosphere, is my current relationship abusive?
What were my family values about intimacy, affection and sex? What were the expectations of the roles for a man and woman? Are these beliefs replaying in my current relationship? How much are my expectations based on my family of origin; how it was and how it should have been?
All this experience forms our core beliefs about ourselves, our relationship, how we feel and our resulting behaviour, thus, setting up a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Initiate regular relationship chit chats
Create a safe uninterrupted, environment where you both can talk openly about hopes and fears for the relationship, make agreements and check in weekly.
Rules: Be honest about your own issues, use “I” statements. For example, "I feel X when you do Y and would prefer Z". Start and end with what you appreciate in each other. Be respectful. Employ careful, compassionate listening, putting yourself in each other’s shoes. Allow your partner to talk uninterrupted and take turns when talking. Use a wooden spoon - one person can hold a wooden spoon, talk until they have finished and then hand it over. In this way, you can only talk with permission from the other, when they have finished and handed over the wooden spoon.
- Start with telling your partner what you love and appreciate.
- Tell each other what attracted you in the first place, recreate this later, on a planned date night.
- Give your description of how you want the relationship to develop.
- Identify strengths and common goals, both as individuals and as a team.
- Tackle issues in a non-judgmental way, using “I” statements explaining how you feel and what you want (as opposed to blame – “you always, you never”).
- Intimacy - be brave a say what you want. What does this mean to you and what needs to happen for you to feel intimate? Examine your commitment to intimacy and passion. Give yourselves assignments. Start small, perhaps only kiss and cuddle for a week then re-evaluate.
- Clarify agreements, practise and celebrate successes.
The 15 goals of effective partnerships: Mutual trust, mutual respect, mutual cooperation.
1. Celebrate individuality. Appreciate and enable each other to develop both as individuals as well as equal partners of a relationship.
2. Resolve conflict. Assertively face and work through struggles together.
3. Develop spirituality. Discover and share spiritual values.
4. Communicate effectively. Connect through non-judgmental talking, listening, sharing and valuing opinions.
5. Empathise with emotions. Being in tune with each others’ emotions, responding and sharing.
6. Forgive. Don’t be afraid to take responsibility, to apologise and ask what you can do to be a better spouse.
7. Develop friendship. Create a closeness and regard each other as friends.
8. Make time for fun and recreation. Laugh, share jokes, be on the same wavelength. Support each other in rejuvenating.
9. Be honest. "Am I committed to this relationship?"
10. Shared parenting. Share values and responsibilities in raising your children. Work towards having a common attitude to parenting and nurturing.
11. Share love and intimacy. Share expressions of love from the standpoint, “how can you best make your partner happy?”
12. Problem solve finances. Work as a team to balance beliefs about money, in managing money and saving for family goals.
13. Support with occupation. Share common tasks in the home and with children. Support each other through the trials and tribulation of working life.
14. Value each others’ intellect. Share ideas, respect each others’ viewpoints and intellectual capacity, share mind-widening experiences.
15. Withstand crises. Stand together, unite in facing challenges.
Time to seek support
Sometimes, couples get into a rut and need counselling. Counselling provides a safe non-judgmental environment with a third party. Contentious issues are explored, conflict is minimised, communication techniques are practised and shared resolutions agreed. This empowers the couple to move forward.
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About Kim Harries
Kim is a BACP accredited counsellor/psychotherapist. She has a private practice; (individuals and couples) and supervises counsellors. She runs TRING Wellbeing Community - (sole practitioners work together to meet the needs of the local community). In her day job, she coaches people with mental health issues/disabilities back into paid employment.