The wilderness is a dangerous and scary place. It is easy to get lost and find yourself in trouble. Love relationships can find themselves in unknown territory surrounded by marauding packs of singles who want to separate you two and make you easy prey.
Relationships have certain basic needs in order to survive. So how can your relationship not only survive in this dark and scary wilderness, but flourish?
Here are ten things relationships need to survive:
1 – Fresh Air and Water
Nobody wants to breath polluted air. Whether that air has been polluted from smoking, an unwashed body, or just being around each other too much. It can be suffocating. Just ask the Apollo astronauts. Relationships need to breathe fresh air occasionally. Get out of your routine. Spend some time with a friend. Visit nature and cleanse your soul. Go for a swim, in a tub, and add some bubbles.
2 – To Hunt and Gather
The fastest way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. Food is essential, so important that without it we die. Good, healthy foods and drinks keep our bodies balanced, energized and our emotions stable. Food has been used to celebrate, to mourn, and bind people together for thousands of years. Do not underestimate the effect of having lunch or dinner with your partner regularly. No phone, computer, tablet or TV. Just the two of you, some good food and good conversation.
3 – A Warm Fire
Imagine trudging though a heavy snowfall on a stormy winter night. In the distance, you see light shining through the windows of a house. When you get to the house you step inside into the glow of warmth from the fireplace and the love of your partner. A relationship needs love like a fire needs oxygen. Being with your partner should be like snuggling up next to the fire on a cold winter’s night. Daily acts of love keep that fire burning hot. Take out the trash without being nagged about it. Make sure the laundry is put away. Little things add logs to that fire but you have to tend it diligently because if you get slack and forget to feed the fire then the fire dies and you will both freeze to death. So find something everyday to toss another log on that fire and keep your love burning.
4 – A Sturdy Shelter
Nature is a beautiful but cruel and uncaring mistress. Life’s storms will try to blow us off our feet and rain on our parade. All of us need shelter sometimes from the harsh realities of life. Your partner’s kindness and compassion can shield you from the storm. We all need a place to retreat to, dry off, recover, and rest before venturing back into the wilds. Be that sanctuary for your partner. If they had a crappy day, listen to them with compassion and empathy.
We need to feel safe in our relationships for them to last and grow. If there is physical or emotional abuse, then the relationship is doomed. But just as important are concepts of respect, appreciation, vulnerability and trust. Untrustworthy partners and partners who do not respect or appreciate us make us feel insecure. We should be able to feel vulnerable with our partners and trust them not to hurt us when we do.
So, now that we have survival down what do we need in a relationship for it to flourish? For it to reach the actualization of its full potential? The next five things are critical for a relationship’s full self-actualization.
6 – Acceptance
First, you have to accept each other for who you are. If you want them to change into something more acceptable, then you don’t really want that person but an idealized version of that person. Our past and our quirks make us who we are and if you like someone enough to pursue a relationship with them then accept that person as they are, warts and all.
7 – Commitment
If you are with Mr. or Ms. Wrong, then there is no room for Mr./Ms. Right. If you can’t commit to someone, the relationship is fundamentally wrong. Long term, serious relationships need commitment from both parties to survive. Your partner must know you will be there for them when the chips are down. Back to back, you two against the world.
8 – Compromise
Two partners must be willing and able to find a middle ground when confronted by disagreements. If your view is “It is my way or the highway,” then good luck walking that highway by yourself. You have to be able to find a way where both people get enough of what they want to be happy. Healthy relationships engage in give-and-take and negotiating with each other to find a happy middle ground.
9 – Forgiveness
If you are with someone long enough, you will occasionally hurt each other’s feelings. If you just can’t let things go, if you feel the need to remind your partner about mistakes or slights from weeks, months or years ago, and keep a running tally of their failures, then you may need just to let that stuff go. Carrying all that baggage will sap your strength and drag you down to drown in your misery. Everybody has bad days or makes mistakes. Forgive them and move on.
10 – Honesty
You must be honest with your partners about what you want and need upfront. If you make a mistake, then man up and admit it. Then work through it and past it. Honesty builds trust slowly but can be lost with a single untruth. Besides, if you are honest, you don’t have to remember much.
Psychotherapist Donna Wood wrote in The Inspired Caregiver:
“When enforcing our boundaries, first and foremost, we are caring for ourselves, but we are also helping others to have a clear understanding of what we consider acceptable behavior. We are reflecting back to them what is not acceptable and, therefore, providing them an opportunity to consider that information and make necessary changes. If we ignore the behavior or accept the behavior, not only are we undermining ourselves, but we are denying the other person an opportunity to learn about themselves and to grow, and ultimately, we deny them the opportunity for a healthy relationship with us.”
Final Thoughts on Nurturing Healthy Relationships
Healthy relationships require us to be respectful, honest, compassionate, and loving. It’s important to have vulnerability and courage in being ourselves to our partners. Relationships are never perfect. It’s all about finding the person who can see past your flaws and utilizing those imperfections to help each other heal together.