We’ve all heard the saying ‘practice what you preach’. But nowhere is it more prevalent than in intimate relationships.
A friend said to me recently, ‘your words don’t mean sh*t’. The context was that my actions were not matching my intentions in a particular area of my life. He was right. But man, it hurt. It also gave me a reality check.
If my words and actions don’t match up, then it doesn’t matter what I say or what I intend, because words mean nothing if they aren’t backed by consistent action.
Don’t just say it. Do it.
Trust is the cornerstone of any close relationship. It is something that is built over time and can be destroyed overnight. When words match actions, trust is created. When actions don’t match words, trust cannot be built.
You can have all the fancy wordsmithing you like, but if you say you’ll be home at 8pm for example, and you rock up at midnight, guess what, you just failed the integrity test, and dropped a few hundred points on the trust market.
Why do women ‘nag’? Why do men complain? Why do couples drift apart? Why do they argue? Most of the time, it’s because words and actions don’t match up. Words and actions are inextricably linked.
The answer isn’t rocket science. Where there is a lack of trust, there is almost always a lack of actions, or at the very least, actions that don’t match up with words.
Words and actions together create 3 things.
If a woman cannot rely on you, if a man cannot rely on his woman, if two people cannot rely on each other, cracks in the foundation of safety start to appear. At first they may not seem like much. A forgotten promise there. An oversight here. A missed special occasion there. But in time, if this becomes a consistent pattern, your relationship is headed for hard times.
If I tell my wife I love her, and back it up with loving actions, my words are validated and she feels safe with me. Feeling safe simply means that she can rely on me to mean what I say. She can open her heart and lean into me if she needs to, because she knows I am safe.
If I tell my wife I love her, but then don’t show that, whether through carelessness, neglect, forgetfulness or any other form of poor behaviour, I create a discrepancy. Over time, she will learn that my words cannot be trusted, and she will not feel safe.
It doesn’t I am going to do something bad to her. It simply means that she cannot lean into me, knowing that I will be there for her, because my actions have not matched my words. I’m not safe to do so.
When you climb a ladder or cross a bridge, you assume it’s safe right. The bridge is strong, and supportive. When it’s safe, you know you can cross. And when you know you can cross, you can get to where you want to go.
Similarly, when you are building a relationship, especially an intimate one, the bridge you are building between you, creates the means by which you cross over into each other’s lives. If that bridge is shaky, unreliable, sometimes stays in place but other times falls apart and has to be repaired, you soon learn that the trustworthiness of that bridge is something you cannot rely on.
Even if sometimes it is trustworthy but other times it’s not, the underlying conclusion and reality is, ‘the bridge is not trustworthy’. You’ll either avoid it and find another way, or pull it down and build a new one. Try building a relationship on shaky trust, and see how far you get.
Words and actions, safety and trust, create intimacy. This is the closeness that a relationship needs, if it is to go deep and if it is to last and grow into the beautiful potential that it showed at the start. How many couples do you know who have started well, only to crash and burn. Maybe you’ve been there yourself.
Intimacy between two people is the bond that joins them together. Words and actions are the glue. When I know I can count on you to keep your word, I know you are safe for me.
When I know you are safe for me, I am much more willing to trust you, especially with the things that matter most to me.
When I trust you, I am much more likely to let you into the parts of me that are vulnerable and I am open to love.
When we can make that happen, we start to create intimacy. And when we create intimacy, we create and make it possible for love to grow between us. It becomes a mutual exchange, and our relationship transforms as a result.
Words and actions are in bed together. When they are not, we start to feel unsafe and untrusting, and intimacy cannot thrive in that environment.
So the next time you say you are going to do something, you better make sure your actions match up. When you tell someone you love them, follow that up with consistent actions. If you want to create a safe, trusting, intimate relationships, never allow your actions to contradict your words. It’s a simple but powerful principle.
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