“Pain and love cannot be in the same space. You can never love anyone in pain. You cannot truly love yourself in pain. The more pain you carry in your heart, the harder it becomes to love anyone including yourself.”
― Kemi Sogunle
We all know people living in long-term relationships where those involved have become distant, quarrelsome, tedious, and/or unromantic. Some people believe this is the natural path of relationships and continue this trend through every subsequent relationship, bringing this attitude with them. However, couples can keep their love and connection alive throughout their lives. You don’t have to settle for a mediocre relationship.
Keeping this in mind, staying in love forever doesn’t happen accidentally. In my years of teaching ways to heal relationships, I repeatedly encounter about five choices that the best couples consistently make.
A Sense of Openness and Curiosity
Throughout your life, you are consciously choosing to learn, or you are unconsciously choosing to protect yourself against pain. Most people who are protecting themselves against pain do this using some form of controlling behavior, such as anger, withdrawal, compliance, or resistance. All these forms of control foster detachment rather than encouraging feelings of love and affection. Control is no way to establish intimacy.
The best relationships stay healthy and fresh by bringing newness into them. When people start out, everything is new.
Over time, if you aren’t careful, you can grow bored. The experience of newness is dampened when we try to control love and avoid pain. Controlling behavior leaves no room for intimacy and respect and, in fact, is antithetical to them both.
Newness only occurs when both people remain open to learning about each other and most importantly, about themselves. Being open to this kind of growth enables both partners to grow and remain respectful. It is growth that creates newness. Conversely, controlling behavior prohibits growth. Chose to renew that sense of openness and curiosity and see how quickly things improve.
It is a big risk, but learning how to keep your heart open to connection rather than protecting against pain through emotional distance is fundamental to feeding the growth of your life together. We can connect intellectually when we are focused in our heads, and we connect emotionally only when we are openhearted. Brene’ Brown refers to it in her now famous Ted-Talk as ‘whole hearted living.’
Emotional connection creates and maintains intimacy and passion. While sharing your heart makes you feel very vulnerable, it’s this very vulnerability—realizing it as one of the sources of your loving feelings—that fosters intimacy.
Be Responsible for Yourself And Your Feelings
When you make your partner responsible for your feelings, you are attempting to control them, manipulating them into giving you what you believe will make you feel secure, valuable, and loveable.
One of the most important choices you can make to keep your loving relationship alive is to learn how to be responsible for your own feelings. Learn not to blame your partner for your own pain and fears. When you try to manipulate your partner into giving you the love and attention you need to give yourself, you guarantee the loss of both.
Self-abandonment: Ignoring your own feelings, judging yourself, choosing to be numb, and making your partner responsible for you, is the single major cause I have seen of relationship disasters. Give yourself the power of choice and strength to grow in yourself and your relationship
Be Present, Live Now
We connect with each other when we are present, not when we are focused on the past or future, or engaging in various activities and addictions. Distracting ourselves when we are together will result in disconnection and boredom. It will remove attention from the “now” and place it elsewhere, resulting in distraction and loss of focus. You don’t do your job with an eye only on the past or future; you pay attention to the tasks at hand. You focus on them, do them well and prosper. Relationships are like that; focus on the now and flourish.
Gratitude Improves Your Attitude
I run across people who use their relationship like a garbage dump; complaining and judging their partner, wondering what happened. Complaining and judging can also be forms of manipulation that create detachment rather than connection. Although you might feel close when commiserating, be mindful that complaining isn’t what created newness and passion in the first place. We all know that we should lovingly comfort each other during difficult times. Supporting one another by playing the victim only produces more pain.
Expressing true appreciation and gratitude for your partner’s wonderful qualities—the qualities that led you to fall in love—will bring you joy, and is critical to maintaining a loving relationship. It’s impossible to hold both negative and positive thoughts in your head at the same moment; gratitude is one of the strongest positive thoughts.
It takes practice and serious commitment to consistently make these loving choices consistently when you have learned to protect yourself against pain and limit your vulnerability. Two people repeatedly practicing staying open to learning about themselves and each other, to opening their hearts, staying present, appreciative, responsible for their own feelings, and most importantly, grateful, will not only stay in love for the long haul, their love and intimacy will grow and deepen over the years.
You see couples that have been lovingly together for 20 or more years, and you wonder how it happened. Give this blog some thought, and you will find the answer.
SEE A LIFE COACH IN BATON ROUGE
Frank Hopkins is a certified Professional Coach (CPC) and certified by the Institute for Professional Excellence in Coaching (iPEC). He is a certified Master Practitioner (ELI-MP) of the iPEC proprietary assessment tool, the Energy Leadership Index and offers seminars on Energy Leadership. He maintains memberships in the International Coaching Federation (ICF) and the Institute of Coaching (ICPA).