Dr Caroline Leaf – Relationships can be tough, especially during a global pandemic. Many of us are spending more time than ever before with our partner, while COVID-19 has made it harder to connect with others if we are single and looking for a relationship. Thankfully, whether we are single, in a relationship, or somewhere in between, there are things we can do now to attract the kind of love we want in our lives, as I discuss in my recent podcast interview (episode #211) with bestselling author, speaker and couples counselor Monica Berg. We talk about everything you need to know about healthy relationships, including why we need to rethink love, the mental health benefits of a good argument, how to attract the kind of love you want, rekindling love in your life, building frameworks for lasting and fulfilling relationships, tips for single people, and how to become more comfortable with change.
As Monica notes in her new book, Rethink Love, in our culture we overemphasize romanticized versions of love. We tend to end our stories where love actually begins: walking into the sunset and living happily ever after.
At the core of the strongest and most sustainable relationships is the most important relationship you will ever have: the one you have with yourself. For any relationship to be successful, you must become authentic and vulnerable as a person: you need to become your own best friend. The good news is that it’s never too late to do this! The state of your life and your relationships is dependent on you.
If you are single or in a relationship, the best thing you can do right now is to stop and take a good look at the state of your relationships or where you are in life and be honest with yourself. Open your mind and give yourself permission to access the innermost parts of your life. Just be honest with yourself — don’t pressure yourself to do anything just yet. When we acknowledge where we are in life, we begin the healing process. It is never too late to restart and change, and this starts with acknowledging what needs to be changed!
Remember, life happens to you, not through you. You are never going to be happy all the time—you are a human being going through human experiences. However, this does not mean you cannot learn to embrace all possibilities to change, even hard ones. You can wake up excited every day for these opportunities, both known and unknown, to grow and reach a new level of elevation; this is our ultimate joy as human beings. If you adopt this mentality, you can live a happy and fulfilled life and have great and lasting relationships, no matter what life throws your way.
True relationship success starts with you. In Rethink Love, Monica notes how being honest with yourself and doing the work needed to become your own best friend will really transform your life and relationships. Why? Relationships fail when we:
- Do not do our own internal work. Far too often, we look externally for things that will fulfill us internally. We look to people to make us love ourselves, but no one person can do that for us.
- Do not understand the difference between seeking validation and getting feedback. Validation is when we look to someone else to make us feel okay. Feedback, on the other hand, helps makes us better by helping us work through our issues.
- Think that we do not deserve love. We can’t hold two opposing thoughts at the same time. We can’t say we want to be respected and loved unconditionally and feel that we don’t deserve love or respect.
If you are single, the most important thing you can do right now is build your internal foundation. The relationship with you have with yourself is most important part of any relationship you will have, so do the uncomfortable internal work first. When you do this, your energy will attract the kind of love you want. If you search for someone when you are broken, you are probably going to find someone who is a little broken as well.
We also need to rethink what love means in our relationships. The most important thing we can do is know the difference between unconditional love and ego-based love. Don’t go into a relationship with a consumer mindset. The other person is not just there to make you happy. It is far more important to ask what you are offering in the relationship. You want to become an appreciator, not a depreciator. You should love someone because they exist, not just because they give you something you want. This means thinking about what that person feels, what their needs are, how you can put yourself in their shoes and put their needs first. Remember, your partner wants the same thing you want: to be heard and seen.
We also need understand the importance of fighting well in a relationship. If you don’t argue in a relationship, then you should be concerned. This means you don’t care enough to fight about something!
However, you should not just argue or fight without thinking. Every couple needs to find their own fighting style, or what Monica calls “spiritual sparing”. This means:
- Understanding how your past affects the way you argue in the present. Do you fight like your parents fought? How does your partner respond to your fighting style, and vice versa?
- Knowing the physiological components of arguing and how it affects you both in different ways. How does a fight affect you or your partner on a physical level? How can this knowledge help you learn to argue better? Take the time to discuss how you fight and how you can learn to argue better in the future.
- Always resolve an argument. Never leave an argument without a definitive resolution, even if this takes some time! If things are really tense, reach an agreement to discuss the issue at a later date. It is often a good idea to wait three days after a fight to discuss the core issue(s) proactively, instead of reactively responding in the moment.