John Lennon once said “Love is like a precious plant. You’ve got to keep it watered and nurtured in order for it to grow strong and healthy”. Love relationships can be challenging because humans are complex creatures, and like plants, they need nurturing.
A true and fulfilling relationship where two imperfect people refuse to give up on each other takes courage. We don’t develop courage by being happy every day. We develop it by surviving the difficult times and challenging adversity. In the process of becoming, we are always learning about ourselves, and with each relationship a strength or weakness is nurtured within us.
Since unrealistic expectations based on our own exposure to dysfunctional family dynamics in our family of origin can emotionally incapacitate us, we must challenge ourselves to strive for a corrective and healthier experience in our own adult love relationships that doesn’t mimic what shaped us a child and thus created an unhealthy frame of reference.
Relationship courage means to keep working on and committing to our partner, continuing to seek solutions to problems, and staying focused on what’s important in order to foster growth and sustainability. With love, trust, and respect acting as the cornerstones that allow a relationship to flourish, we must allow ourselves to be vulnerable, honest, and kind. We must genuinely like our partner, laugh together often, and be playful. Respect the other’s point of view even if we don’t agree with it. Maintain each other’s dignity when communicating differences. Be an encourager, not a critic. Don’t impose restrictions, conditions, or demands that smother and stifle a relationship so that it becomes inequitable. No one can grow in the shade.
It is also not our purpose to become each other. It is simply to recognize the other and honor them for what and who they are. No one should feel they have to give up an essential part of themselves to make the relationship viable. The significant other should complement who we already are, not try to complete us.
Since in the end, genuine love can only truly be measured by our actions not words, consider the following five “love languages” that can allow a healthy relationship to flourish:
- Words of Affirmation- these are words to build up our partner. Say Thank You often, compliment them for a job well done or a delicious meal, etc.
- Gifts – these actions tell our partner we are thinking of them and in tune with something they admire or need. It does not have to be expensive or extravagant, just thoughtful.
- Acts of Service – doing something for our partner that we know they would like. Cooking a meal, helping with the household chores and / or the children, repairing something broken, etc.
- Quality Time – giving our partner quality time by our undivided attention, talking and listening, planning date nights or weekends, taking a walk together, exercising together, etc.
- Physical Touch – being affectionate, holding hands, kissing, sexual activity, etc.
Discovering each other’s love language and speaking it regularly is the best way to honor our partner and keep love alive!
Irene C. Lebbad, MSW, LCSW
Center for Intrapersonal Wellness LLC
2 North Rd, Ste 3
Warren NJ 07059