1. The Art of Relationshipping
Updated: Jun 27, 2019
As a couples and family therapist, I’ve helped hundreds navigate obstacles and challenges of their relationships. Whether it’s a relationship with yourself, your spouse, parent, child, partner, or community, there are always obstacles and there is always change.
That’s what makes relationships and life inherently complex and difficult.
Who's To Blame For That?
If you feel your relationship isn’t going the way you want it to, it wouldn’t be fair to assume that’s your fault. Or anyone’s. We aren’t born with all the skills, strategies, and habits that create successful relationships. Even those of us who are generally good at communication can struggle with relationships because every individual relationship is as unique as every individual person.
Success in relationships isn't based on luck, it's more about the work each partner puts into it. But every partnership defines its own success. The decision of what you want in your relationship is yours to make.
How to get there is how I can help.
There is no magic pill that can be prescribed to perfect any relationship. The very nature of life; constant evolution and change makes that impossible. But there is an art and a practice that can help you cultivate your relationships so that they evolve in a direction of your choice...
Relationshipping is not a one-size-fits all practice. It is a one-size-adapts to all practice. There are plenty of general guidelines to relationshipping that you’ll read about in this blog, and then there are more specific strategies that we specially tailor to each relationship in therapy. Ultimately, we want to do what works, and thinking of relationship as something you do rather than something you have has helped so many of my patients discover the power they have in their relationships.
The Emotional Factor Language already enables us to understand love as a verb, and this is a major component of relationshipping. To love someone is difficult to describe in words, because there are so many deep emotions that the word love encompasses. What relationshipping helps us understand is how to cultivate those emotions, how to nourish them, how to make the feeling thrive--to the point where we are content to spend the rest of our lives with the people who matter most.
The Business Factor
Once a couple embarks on a life together, the business of everyday life can become overbearing. With shared responsibilities, it can be difficult to navigate and negotiate common expenses, chores, schedules, and other logistics. Having children takes that to a whole new level.
This can make your partnership feel like another job. But it’s not about managing one another--it’s about depending on one another, and making the burdens of life easier to bear by lifting them together.
Learning and Accepting Differences
It’s important to realize your perception of your relationship and your needs will change over time. That you and your partner are inherently different. Over the years I’ve seen patterns in one gender that may not be apparent to the other: for example men often crave a sense of independence in the relationship and women tend to seek connection and attachment. You don’t know what you don’t know about the opposite gender, but becoming aware helps you and your partner avoid the pitfalls of misunderstandings.
Relationshipping gives you a sense of what to expect in the future so you can meet those challenges feeling well-prepared.
The best way to achieve balance in relationships is to be purposefully proactive. Establishing a plan to reintroduce and reinforce the bliss that brought you together is a lot easier than you might imagine. I like to focus on daily moments of connection, scheduling regular dates, and active listening.
Daily Moments of Connection
They say “what you focus on grows” and that certainly applies to relationshipping. Simply spending a few moments to point out and express gratitude for the important people in your life nourishes your brain with positive thoughts that help it develop.
Scheduling Regular Dates
I’ve met plenty of couples that argue, but I don’t think I’ve ever met a couple who schedules their arguments. We don’t schedule those unexpected unpleasant moments, but they often creep into lives when we’re most stressed. Left unmanaged, the responsibilities of daily life will consume all of your free time.
Togetherness requires purposeful planning and making together time a top priority in your schedule. It might sound like a chore to make room in your schedule for these activities, but don’t worry. You get to make sure they’re fun.
Notice how many people who are “together” are each staring at the devices between them? That’s pretty much the opposite of active listening. Being present and involved in a conversation goes far beyond physical proximity and passive hearing. Active listening is a skill that must be cultivated, and flourishes with practice.
Ready To Relationship?
I coined relationshipping because relationships aren't static or stagnant. They are moving--almost living things. Like love, it’s not something you have, it’s something you experience. Something you do actively. Something you can improve, enhance, and master. Your relationships will constantly change as they evolve, but with the right tools and training you can make them evolve the way you want. You can achieve the happiness you deserve. And you and your partner will become one of those “lucky” couples.
Until next time, happy relationshipping.