How do we learn how to maintain relationships? James Menage takes a look at 1o ways, here.
We aren’t taught how to maintain a successful intimate relationship at school, and very often our template for relationship is forged by our parents, who also weren’t taught about relational success.
“The blind leading the blind”!
No wonder the divorce rate is so high, and no wonder the people who are happy and fulfilled in relationship is so low.
I was tending to my garden the other day, and it had been approximately 3 weeks since I’d done any work on it. I was shocked by the amount of weeds that had grown. It took me ages to get it back to a point where it looked tidy, and the other plants had room to flower and grow.
As I was finishing off it hit me how the garden, and gardening, are a great metaphor for your intimate relationship.
How can you expect your garden (relationship) to bear any fruit if you never do any work on it?
It’s funny how we tend more to our garden than we do our intimate relationship, but how we assume that our relationship will stand the test of time, even if we never do any “weeding”.
So here are my top 10 relationship fertilizers, and pesticides (organic of course) that will help you keep your relationship weed and pest free, whilst bearing enormous amounts of fruit:
- Communication – Talk, talk, talk. For most men this is totally unnatural, but without it you’ll get yourself into a whole heap of trouble. My partner recently picked me up for not communicating something to her and she then proceeded to say “you know; I really think you have an issue with communicating. You never tell me what’s going on in your head. I’m not a mind reader”. I sat and thought about what she said and I thought “If I tell you everything of relevance then I’m going to be talking all the time”. Yep!
- Vulnerability – This one links into the bullet point above (communication). Talk to your partner about the stuff that might feel a little uncomfortable sharing. Your emotions, your thoughts, what’s on your mind, your fears, worries about the future, and just about anything else that feels edgy to share. This is a key portal for love, intimacy, and connection, even if it doesn’t feel like it prior to sharing.
- Self-Awareness – Self-awareness is the ability to be able to observe yourself, and identify what you are feeling, thinking, and doing at any moment. Jedi Masters in this realm will be able to link exactly what’s driving their current thoughts, words, and actions with their past. Being this self-aware helps you be able to fulfil the 2 relational laws above (communication and vulnerability) Self-reflective practices can include: mediation, journaling, and therapy.
- Emotional intimacy – If you don’t go looking for your emotions, they will come looking for you. Men who can’t, or won’t, access their emotions will not be able to maintain a successful intimate relationship. Period! The ability to identify, communicate, and express your emotions in healthy ways will deepen and enrich your relationship / life beyond measure. Emotions also carry very accurate message about the environment, and what actions you should carry out to bring your emotions back into harmony.
- Integrity – Make sure you act in integrity with yourself, and your partner. For me, the definition of integrity includes: Knowing and aligning to your values, acting with high moral intelligence (whose interests are you acting in?), making good on agreements that you make in your life, and aligning your thoughts, words and deeds. Ask yourself on a regular basis with your behaviour, “is this the man I want to become”? Or “What legacy do I want to leave behind”? These questions are often enough to bring yourself back into integrity. An area that regularly takes men out of integrity with themselves, and their partners is sex. Drop the affair, if you are having one, and quit looking at porn behind your partner’s back. Affairs and porn are an easy way out of the problems in your marriage.
- Taking Responsibility – If you continue to blame others for your challenges, then you’ll continue to stay stuck. The Victim mindset is one that disempowers you and passes the responsibility for the challenges in your life to those around you. It takes two to tango, and most conflict that arises, between 2 adults, align with this metaphor. So step back when you’re having your next argument, and ask yourself, “How am I contributing to this, and what can I do about that”?
- Balance between space, freedom, and connection – Take space when you need it, but make sure you come back into relationship when you feel ready. Our masculine nature craves space and time alone, but going fishing for the rest of our lives doesn’t make for a great partner. It’s important that we honour those natural urges to escape and get some silence. These regular bouts of alone time will give you perspective, and allow you to work through some issues on your own. Once you’ve done this, head straight back to your partner and share your new perspectives with those that you love.
- Taking a Stand – Many men lose their ability to stand up for themselves at a young age. For example, being overpowered by an aggressive father, or a bully, can often lead to a man losing his voice, and his ability to protect himself and his boundaries. Establishing, and maintaining your boundaries in relationship is crucial, if you don’t want to lose your sense of self to your partner. Loss of self leads to resentment (from you, towards your partner) and a lack of respect (from your partner towards you). Get back in touch with your healthy anger, and use the energy and courage that emotion gives you, to establish and maintain your boundaries. Don’t take any abuse.
- Resilience – All relationships will require stamina and resilience. It doesn’t matter how compatible you are, and how much you love each other. If you have signed up until “death us do part” you’d better buy yourself a crash helmet, and dig in for the tough times that will arise. At times, you’ll probably feel more like heavy weight boxers in the twelfth round of a title fight. This is perfectly normal, and perfectly health (so long as you are fighting clean)!
- Get a Mentor – This is, and has been, my first move when I hit a challenge in my life, that feels greater than my capacity to overcome it. Find the world’s best expert in that particular area, and read their books, have a number of 1-on-1 sessions with them, and attend all of their workshops etc. Don’t just leave the information that you learn as an intellectual concept, apply it, and let it become an embodied reality.
This article originally appeared on Man Up Project
Photo credit: Getty Images