I often get asked why some relationships last for a life time and others don’t.
My Husband and I have been Married 34 years and I know first- hand the growing pains of the different stages of an intimate relationship.
Is it luck? Is it because the couple has a lot in common? Is it because they come from similar family or cultural back grounds? Is it that their financial situation is stable? These factors can certainly play a part in a successful relationship, but what is really the key needed to create and maintain a thriving, fulfilling, mature intimate, relationship over a life time, is the ability to reach certain milestones; one of these is empathy; another is understanding and expressing your thoughts and feelings.
Empathy is the experience of understanding another person’s condition from their perspective. You place yourself in their shoes and feel what they are feeling. While western culture might be socializing people into becoming more individualistic rather than empathic, it is imperative that couples have the desire to know what their partner truly wants and a willingness to help them achieve it. For your relationship to move beyond the early stages and start to cultivate a mature, long lasting loving connection, empathy is not just desirable it’s mandatory. If this development occurs, and skills are learned over time, a relationship can flourish.
“When someone really hears you without passing judgment on you, without trying to take responsibility for you, without trying to mold you, it feels damn good. . . .
When I have been listened to and when I have been heard, I am able to re-perceive my world in a new way and to go on. It is astonishing how elements which seem insoluble become soluble when someone listens. How confusions which seem irremediable turn into relatively clear flowing streams when one is heard. ” Carl Rogers – Experiences in Communication
Creating the ability to know and express your desires, thoughts, values, and feelings.
This will require of you a willingness to open up, and be vulnerable; really take the time to look inside. Who are you as a separate person outside of your relationship? It requires you and your partner to talk about what you are actually experiencing, and challenges long held assumptions of what the other “thinks” their partner is experiencing. Without this ability, you are leaving your partner to guess and or believe that they must think and feel like me; so I will not ask any questions, or clarify my meaning. We are one.
However, with the ability to identify and express desires, thoughts, values, feelings; it becomes possible to promote individuality between partners and make a clear vision for the future of the relationship. No more guessing; you and your partner will have the ability to express clearly your own expectations, feelings and thoughts to each other ;creating intimacy and connection, by giving respect to your partners individuality. This can be a tall order if these skills were not expressed in your family of origin. I encourage you not to give up! With practice, and support you and your partner can have the relationship you choose for many years to come.
(Ellyn Bader. Ph.d & Peter T. Pearson, 2012)