Thoughts on Successful Relationships
I did not intend to study the mating habits of guys this week, but somehow I found myself shoulders-deep in books, articles and podcasts that tap into men and their raw struggles with love and intimacy. Lately I’ve been so enamored with my single status that relationship advice hasn’t ranked high on my reading list. However, understanding vulnerability and its power to connect people has. And so naturally I bulldozed my way through The Men on My Couch (a revealing window into the titillating sessions sex therapist Brandy Engler had with her male patients) before tuning into my friend Nate’s awesome podcast, Loveumentary, Episode 10: The Bachelorcast.
Between Nate’s single friends ruminating on love and the married men on Brandy’s couch spilling their tales of infidelity, one theme in particular resonated with my own beliefs: Knowing who you are and what you want is a vital prerequisite to entering a lasting, healthy relationship.
As Dr. Brandy Engler puts it, “Knowing what you want is empowering.”
When you feel empowered, you feel confident and whole as opposed to needy and lacking. And the more in touch you are with yourself, the more likely you know what kind of person you’d like to be with.
So how do you get to this tricky place of knowing yourself and what you truly want?
I think it starts with figuring out what makes you come alive inside, then allowing yourself to do more of that. Shine light on your passions. Share the things that energize you with the people who inspire you. In the past couple months, I’ve made the kind of intense connections that I now believe can only happen when you expose yourself. Not just the pretty parts, but also the fears and inner demons you’ve been hiding.
To be fair, a relationship with someone else doesn’t really fit into my life right now. I’m training for a half marathon, living in an isolated mountain town with my parents, and getting ready to travel to Thailand. On top of all that, I’m moving to Portland this May to pursue my freelance writing while I shift into a new industry altogether. For the first time in my adult life, I’m doing exactly what I want to do, if for no other reason than it makes me feel alive. It’s exhilarating and terrifying and I’m proud of myself for it, all the same.
I’m still curious to grasp what makes relationships last, for when I do enter into a new one.
Still hungry for the male perspective, I asked one of my most favorite people in the world, Ben, what his thoughts are on marriage and if he thinks we can ever really be prepared for it. His answers pointed to the importance of taking the time to know who you are at a deep level and what your values are, so you can effectively seek out people who align with those values.
Taking his insight a step further, I believe that to be a partner who can really hear the other person’s needs and connect meaningfully, you need to arrive at a place where you aren’t so focused on just hearing yourself. For instance, I think the more comfortable you are with yourself and the life you’re leading, the more available you are to dedicate part of that life to another.
I guess I’m at a ‘to be continued’ phase in my life, in a lot of ways. Quitting my job and and starting this blog were two of the most frightening decisions I’ve made. The amazing thing I’ve noticed is that in taking those risks, each big decision thereafter has been far less agonizing and consuming. Like moving to Portland. I’m more excited than scared, which is alien to me, given how long I’ve avoided leaving the Bay area. What this tells me is that the more chances I take, the more comfortable (and even thrilled) I am with ambiguity. The less I stress. The more I appreciate this wild journey of life. Once you get in this rhythm, where it becomes more second nature to follow your instincts, then I think you are freer to experience life with greater presence. My hope is that in being that open, I’ll be able to better connect with my future partner and understand their needs. This may just be the formula for a lasting, healthy relationship.
What do you think? Is there a roadmap to a happy marriage that lasts?
Big thanks to Nate and Ben for the real talk and proof-reading.
With courage, love and intensity,