Ingredients of a Healthy Relationship Part 2
In Relationship Qualities Part 1, we looked at six relationship qualities that are present in some of the most successful couples I’ve studied. Today we’ll look at another four.
7. Physical Intimacy
Communication creates emotional intimacy, but in a loving relationship there must also be physical intimacy. Humans are creatures of affection made to touch and be touched. From babies being tickled, to toddlers having their hair tousled, touch is a way of communicating affection and love. When we got older we hugged friends. When we started dating we held hands. When we found someone to love we made love.
These are acts of tenderness that communicate something important to each other. Emotional connections are important for bonding, but the physical connection communicates love and affection in a way that is exclusive to a loving relationship. Without it, what you have is just a very deep friendship. Both emotional and physical bonds work in concert to keep people anchored to each other.
Because of its exclusive nature it is important that two people are sexually compatible for sex to be satisfying. Preferences, proclivities, likes, dislikes, physical attractiveness, commitment to exercise and general attitudes about sex influence this compatibility. Talking to each other openly about sexual needs is important too. If there is a mismatch, it is a concern, at least from the AA35 perspective of having one exclusive mate for a long, long time. If you have differing views, make sure that you and your partner share those views.
I personally don’t believe in open relationships. Neither do the happiest, most successful couples I know. Sex based wholly on the external is just lust and taking. Even the ‘giving’ of pleasure is motivated by a personal desire for an ego boost. Sex in a really loving relationship is an outward expression of an inside feeling. The giving of pleasure communicates love and a desire for the other to feel good and be happy. The receiving and expression of pleasure communicates trust and openness.
Because sex is an act where you are at your most vulnerable, the best sex can only manifest when most of the other relationship qualities discussed are present. When there are other major issues such as lack of respect, understanding, freedom to be authentic, hindrance with personal goals, communication, and constant strife, interest in love making plummets.
In order to be fully expressive and receptive sexually with your partner, you must have trust. That’s where understanding each other’s value positions is very important. It is very hard to enjoy sex when you do not trust if your partner is being loyal or faithful to you or if their interpretation of what that means differs from yours.
Sex is an extra special bond that connects two people, not the only bond. The couples I know were already very happy and connected in myriad other ways before sex ever came up. They had the closeness of friendship and the enjoyment of each other’s company which many couples don’t have. Because of it, their physical intimacy when they became lovers was more powerful because it was layered atop their emotional intimacy.
Questions to consider:
- Are you happy with your sex Life? If not, what is missing?
- If you are not going all the way in physical intimacy, why?
- Has your partner ever faked an orgasm with you? Have you? How does that make you feel?
- Are there dissatisfactions that have made you lose interest in sex with your partner? For example, your partner being out of shape, unable to fully let go, or not respecting you or treating you with sensitivity?
- Are you very clear on each other’s stand on trust, faithfulness, and acceptable practices e.g. sex buddies, open relationships, unusual sex acts?
- Do you trust your partner enough to sleep well at night?
8. Individual Financial Responsibility
You’ve heard that old joke before. A girl says “My money is my money. Your money is also my money.” Unfortunately this is not a joke to many people, male or female. And as soon as you know this, RUN don’t WALK out of the relationship.
It’s a well-known fact that finances are the root of many relationship problems. When one person becomes responsible for another, it stresses his own resources and cuts down on his ability for self-improvement and happiness.
The idea behind a relationship is two well-adjusted, independently happy and personally responsible people creating a full Life together. Each person should have their financial responsibilities covered, such as having a job, meeting financial obligations, managing debt, and affording personal expenditures like food, clothing and medical needs. This ensures that the relationship is not a means to make up a shortfall, which is unfair and creates resentment.
Successful couples have good financial knowledge and practise fiscal responsibility. They have a financial plan, and agree about money, goals for financial independence, shared responsibilities, delayed gratification, handling parasitic relatives, and business and investment goals. This is important in case one partner becomes incapacitated, and the other person needs to take over and make financial, business or investment decisions.
They are emotionally mature when discussing finances. They do not see it as being calculative, but as one of those logistical necessities that, once taken care of, can be put on auto while they get back to the other aspects of the relationship.
Couples love each other as equals and do not use income differences as leverage to exert influence on choices, such as décor of the home, renovation decisions, and behavior expectations. Couples help each other without becoming responsible for each other.
Shared contribution is another important theme in the finances of happy relationships. Married people may have their personal accounts, but also share a joint account for shared financial obligations, into which each contributes. Shared experiences like meals, hotel stays and travelling are borne by both. Contributions are made on an equal-share or income-proportionate manner for large items. What’s important is not the how, but an agreement that each contributes something that is acceptable to both.
The advantage of this is that it eliminates any hidden financial motives to the relationship and it brings the focus of the experience on being with someone you really love for the right reasons. It also allows one person to be generous on occasion and pay for everything if they are able, without overextending themselves. Avoiding users is one of the most important things to keep you focussed on your dreams and living a full Life.
Questions to consider:
- Do you have a common understanding of common financial issues, such as planning, goals, joint accounts, conspicuous consumption and handling parasitic relatives?
- Is your partner responsible for their own obligations, like bills, credit card or car payments?
- Does your partner have a serious problem, such as gambling, uncontrolled spending, etc
- Since starting this relationship, has your own finances been in order, or have you suffered unplanned and uncomfortable financial drain?
- Does your partner show signs of irresponsible or unreliable behavior such as not paying their fair share, returning money, or other parasitic, gold-digging behavior?
9. Two Already Happy People
Many people feel that they need a relationship to become happy. So when they enter one, they have a lot of expectations. But because they are looking to fill deficiencies in their Lives, they become very disappointed very quickly when they don’t get that external fulfillment. People looking to fill a gap in their Lives tend to be takers, giving nothing back, and exert pressures that make a relationship toxic.
The best relationships are about two already happy, emotionally balanced people coming together to become happier. It’s about synergizing and building something great together. When each is already happy with their Lives, entering a relationship is motivated by adding pleasure, not escaping pain.
Two happy people are also less likely to add useless drama to the relationship, and don’t need to waste time on fulfilling basic needs each of them should have been perfectly capable of doing on their own. The relationship focuses on something higher now, a synergy. So for them it’s about giving and sharing, creating together and building together.
Questions to consider:
- Are you in this relationship to become happy?
- Is your happiness dependent on what your partner does or does not do?
- Are you both proud of each other’s accomplishments before you got into the relationship?
- Does your partner have a good relationship with their parents and other family members?
- Did your partner already have good friends when you met?
An exclusive relationship gives people a fixed point – the special person – around and with whom to base Life’s efforts, goals, and happiness and fulfill the human need to love and be loved.
The keystone that underpins all this is security and great, happy relationships all have this.
When someone makes the decision to commit to a loving relationship, they take a risk. They risk not only time, emotion, energy and money, but more seriously, being hurt and treated badly. For someone of high quality, the opportunity cost is also another suitor who might have been a better match.
Shared experiences of happiness help validate a choice. But the idea of risk itself can only decrease through the building of trust, and from trust comes an increasing feeling of security. Security is what lets each person commit fully to one person and give their all to the relationship.
- It makes someone feel safe
- It gives them confidence they can depend on each other
- They are more comfortable ‘putting their eggs in one basket’
- They can be themselves without the resentment that comes from suppression
- They can open up their hearts, minds and souls to each other without judgement
- They trust enough to go all the way in a sexual relationship
- It diminishes the power of external influences and people to destroy the relationship
The initial excitement of the unknown is replaced by a more lasting happiness as attentions shift to building the future with confidence and hope. Worries about each other are replaced with dealing with necessary challenges of building a life together.
The strongest couples have achieved this. You can just feel the strength and confidence like a tangible aura. They don’t have clinginess associated with low security relationships.
At parties, they take a look at each from time to time, not out of fear or insecurity, but a quick check to make sure they’re having a good time. Their messaging as an entity is so clear that players are shut down immediately, and potential threats are nullified as they seek easier targets.
One of the best gauges of security in a relationship is how well you sleep at night. Sleep is important for health and people sleep very well at night without worrying what their significant other is up to or whether or not they are up chatting on Facebook. Lack of sleep and even worse, nightmares, are a clear sign that it’s best to reevaluate the relationship.
Why did I put security last? Not because it’s the least important, but because having the other points discussed so far in Personal Qualities Part 1 and Part 2, Relationship Qualities Part 1 and 2 set the scene towards establishing security in a relationship.
For example, three common insecurities are jealousy, loss of interest and faithfulness.
Strong couples understand that jealousy sometimes happens, but they are rational ones and not the irrational drama situations that plague many relationships. Concerns are expressed lovingly but not accusingly; answers are given and believed.
Fear of loss of interest plagues people who’ve stagnated, but when there are shared goals, commitment to growth and never ending self-improvement, it is really hard to lose interest because each continues to evolve and is never boring. Strong couples make sure that some this growth is accomplished together while understanding that personal goals are important too.
As for faithfulness, emotional connection precedes physical connection. Decent people don’t decide to become unfaithful overnight just because they wake up with an itch. The ‘scene’ for temptation was set due to many emotional needs not met, unhappiness and accumulating resentment. Therefore quality relationships don’t use restriction as a means to enforce faithfulness. Fidelity is built because two people have good qualities, communicate, resolve problems together, or decide to go separate ways before it happens.
Security is a foundation that is painstakingly built and each positive block of energy and experience adds to this foundation. Anything negative takes away from it. Why are we in relationships? At its most basic, it’s to be happy. If the relationship generally gives two people that, interest will always be there. But if the relationship gives nothing but sadness, strife, unhappiness and emotional drain, then it’s not surprising interest will drop.
Questions to consider:
- Do you sincerely believe your partner is happy in this relationship with you?
- Are you worried or insecure when your partner doesn’t message or call for hours?
- Does your partner jump on everything you say that might be perceived to be a threat, such as if you share about a new colleague who has started working with you?
- Do you find yourself constantly checking your watch or SMSes when you’re out, and rushing home for fear of being castigated, nagged, or interrogated?
- Do you have the confidence when working alone on important goals, such as your career, business or investments that your partner will be supportive, or are you unable to concentrate out of fear for what she’ll do in retaliation for this period of temporary neglect?
- Do you feel you have to give in to your partner’s demands, or give up hobbies and goals, in order make her feel secure, or to feel secure yourself that she will not stray?
- Do you sleep well every night?
This has been a very long post, but only because being in the best, most positive relationships are so important to having a good and full Life.
In choosing a Life partner, many people settle, because they are lonely, unhappy on their own, or are pressured by time, biological clocks, social pressure or even guilt. That’s not what I advocate. If that’s the reason, you really want to fix yourself first.
If I could distill a general summary of what a great relationship is, it would be this:
- It is one where you can be real, still be loved and appreciated for your personality, values and behavior.
- It is one with minimum stress from basic issues and focus on higher, grander ones.
- It is the creation of new experiences and growing together by two already happy, confident people, leading to stronger emotional and physical bonds.
- Give to each other, share good things and bad, be faithful and player-proof in your sexual relationship, and be able to sleep soundly every night.
Those are the lessons I’ve learnt from the loving, couples I’ve admired the most.
I hope they inspire and motivate you to improve both yourselves as well as the relationship too!