“Until we can understand and partner with the vulnerability that relationships trigger, we will never be able to create the relationship of our dreams.” Bill Crawford, Ph.D.
As a psychologist, I regularly help couples deal with their relationship issues, and, as someone who has a YouTube channel, I have spoken of what I call, “The Two Secrets to a Successful Relationship in the past.
The first necessary ingredient is not really a secret, but one I feel needs to be acknowledged and understood better, and that is “falling in love.” I call it “Disney World.” That is, there are rides and fireworks, and it’s even magical at times, but you can’t live there! Unfortunately, most people want to live there, meaning most people want the wonderful feelings we get when we are “falling in love” to be the energy that sustains the relationship going forward.
What they don’t know is that “wonderful feeling” is an endorphin rush that is designed to bring people together long enough to create a bond so that when their “stuff” comes up, there will be enough of a connection to give them a fighting chance to work through it.
Unfortunately, for most people, “fighting” is what dominates this second stage of relationships (the first stage being “romantic love”) as the two participants struggle to get the other person to change so that they have that wonderful feeling they had at the beginning. Harville Hendrex (author of “Getting The Love You Want” and other books for couples) calls this the “power struggle.”
It is in this second stage of the relationship that the second and third secret to successful relationships will be critical to the success and longevity of the connection.
The second secret is what I call “a common vision.” This refers to the need to have some agreement about what both people want in a relationship. If one person likes to fight and make up, while the other wants to solve problems before they turn into fights, this won’t work. Therefore, a couple that wants to create a happy satisfying relationship that lasts, should spend some time early on, discussing what their respective “visions” look like (how do we resolve problems, choose where to live, deal with money, kid, sex, in-laws, etc.) to see if they do indeed want the same thing.
The third secret has to do with how the participants deal with the vulnerability that will inevitably show up in all deep relationships. In other words, when people fall in love and experience the euphoria of being with that special person, after the endorphin rush wears off (anywhere from a few months to a year or so) each will feel a certain amount of vulnerability. Fears such as, “What if they leave me? What if I’m not good enough to keep them? What if they find someone else?” will surface, and if the participants don’t know how to handle these fears, they can destroy the relationship. This is especially true if, in their past (family of origin, old relationships, etc.) being vulnerable was dangerous because the environment was dysfunctional.
To address all of this I suggest that relationship partners 1) Ensure that they do indeed share a common vision with regard to what they want in a relationship and, 2) Recognize that their deep feelings will trigger their vulnerability at some point, so that when this happens, they can address it for what it is… a fear. In fact, I have found that when fears can be brought to the relationship and owned (versus projected on to the other person) the reaction is often love and reassurance, which, of course, deepens the potential for intimacy. This is what I mean by “partnering with the vulnerability.”
Of course, all of this is easier said than done, and therefore, if you would like your relationship to have every opportunity to get past the power struggle into what is called “Real Love,” I suggest you bring the three secret or essential ingredients to your connection with the one you love. For those of you who would like to do this with me (and incorporate my “Life from the Top of the Mind” system into the process) I suggest you contact me, because, if creating “the relationship of your dreams” is your goal, just dreaming about it won’t make it happen.