Relationships: sometimes we live with them, sometimes we live without them.
We don’t just want a relationship; we want a happy one, a healthy one. We want to feel loved, understood, and cared for and we want our partner to feel loved, understood, and cared for.
Couples and individuals come to me all the time for counseling or coaching because their relationships are falling apart and neither partner feels loved or appreciated. Some of these relationships may truly be dead on the vine for various reasons and remaining in the relationship may not serve the highest good of one or both of the partners, which I will discuss more below. However, some relationships can come back to life with a major love infusion and some ground rules for communication.
When couples work with me, I ask them to get at least one copy of the book, Why Marriages Succeed or Fail by psychologist John Gottman. I love this book because it outlines right away the communication styles that couples can choose to engage in that will show respect for their spouse/partner and those communication styles that must be changed or the relationship is doomed to fail.
I read about Gottman’s The Four Horsemen of the relationship apocalypse when my own marriage was on the rocks. While that marriage ultimately did not last, the book was extremely useful and helped us to significantly improve our communication with one another, which gave us several more years to grow together. For some couples, improved respect and communication may be just what they need to facilitate a conscious uncoupling, which is its own form of success in the case of divorce or dissolution.
The Five Love Languages
In his book, The Five Love Languages, Gary Chapman identifies five ways people feel love and communicate love. Each one of us has a primary love language or way we feel most loved by our sweethearts or spouses. When our partners speak our primary love language to us and we speak theirs to them everyone wins! In his words, our love tanks are filled.
The Five Love Languages are:
1. Quality Time
2. Acts of Service
3. Physical Touch
4. Gift Giving
5. Words of Affirmation
Chapman’s book gives several case examples of how common it is for a spouse to communicate their love in one language, but not in the language that the other spouse feels the most loved, which often leaves both partners feeling unappreciated. Of course we don’t just want our lovers to speak one dialect. It’s most romantic when our lovers speak several or all of the love languages to us at some time. Likewise, if we want to be fluent in the language of love, the more dialects we speak to our lovers, the more appreciated they will feel. Chapman includes a quiz in the book to help you identify what your primary love language is and explains how to speak all five.
I recommend this book to all of my clients, even the same-sex couples I work with, though unfortunately the book never mentions same-sex couples and much to my annoyance uses the clinical term “sexual intercourse” instead of just saying “sex” or “love-making,” revealing the author’s conservative background and quite possibly a propensity to be limited to the missionary position. Okay, enough about that.
To be clear, not all relationships will last until death do us part, nor should they. Some relationships will spring back to life or get out of the marital rapids with improved communication skills and filled love tanks. Yet for those couples who are willing to do the work, have a new skill set, and ride off into the sunset and live happily-ever-after.
Other individuals may have fulfilled their spiritual contracts with one another and find that it’s time to make a new covenant, so to speak. This is especially true for conscious people on the spiritual path whose commitment to their spiritual growth and their relationship with God takes precedence over all other commitments. Yes, there are quite a few of us odd ducks out there.
Gary Zukav’s book The Seat of the Soul, and his book Spiritual Partnership both discuss the importance of being true to one’s spiritual path and explores the notion that some marriages are also spiritual partnerships, while others are not. Some marriages may begin that way but relationship dynamics can change.
As individuals wake up spiritually, they may realize that the marriage is not in alignment with their spiritual growth and unfoldment. For those on a spiritual path it is better to dissolve a marriage/relationship that stymies one or both partner’s spiritual growth and development, rather than remain in that marriage/relationship if the partners cannot shift the dynamics.
This is not an easy thing to hear and some people might disagree and argue that people should stay married no matter what. Certainly if that’s in alignment with one’s spiritual belief system and their spouse’s beliefs, then I would encourage that couple to get lots of support to find a way to make it work. However, if we’re talking about someone putting their belief system on another person’s relationship, I would kindly say, “mind your own business.”
To Thine Own Self Be True
For those individuals who find themselves at odds with their own value system, with regard to their marriage and spiritual path, or are really afraid of being judged by being true to themselves by releasing a marriage or relationship that no longer supports their health, well-being, and spiritual growth, I would quote Shakespeare to them: “To thine own self be true. And it must follow, as the night the day, Thou canst not then be false to any man.”
If you are not in a relationship right now but want one, or want to find ways to feel loved now or attract more love into your life, Chapman has a book called The 5 Love Languages for Singles and you can also pick up Arielle Ford’s book The Soul Mate Secret, about how to clean up the past to make room for your beloved.
You can also check out the transformational book Love Yourself Like Your Life Depends on It by Kamal Ravikant. It’s a great little book about self-love and self-acceptance. It’s true, you’ve gotta love yourself first.