Is Your Relationship As Strong As You Think?
Sometimes the relationship with our partner is not as strong as we would like it to be. But simple things can help to strengthen the bond with those we love.
Numerous factors determine how and why a relationship develops, or, in that respect, if it can persevere over the course of time. The determinants that make up who we are and how we see the world, what we expect from life, and what we have learned so far in building our relationships are crucial to our close associations’ foundation. Wouldn’t it be great to have a partner who is not only always there for us but enhances our very being, for better or for worse?
Our first critical task, according to the thesis of ego psychologist Erik Erikson’s Stages of Psychosocial Development,1 involves trust versus mistrust. It would follow that our first target in life is to master trust as the basis for any relationship you might consider going forward.
Many of us adopted a trusting attitude because our earliest experiences have been largely positive. Some, however, have great difficulty with trust. Perhaps as a result of social or economic instability or even the threat of maltreatment or isolation. For those, this can manifest itself in mistrust and avoidance of intimacy.
After sufficient trust is acknowledged, our focus tends to shift to deciding who we want to share our lives with and commit our exclusive attention, energy, and time to. Commitment is only for those who have shown to be loyal and willing to stick around for the long haul. They should be eager and able to share themselves with us.
Those dear to us deserve this, as, in return, do we. However, in intimate relationships, one tends to mirror emotions, feelings, and beliefs mutually. This commonly results in holding important the same values for your partner as you do for yourself.2
Now that we start to care and are comfortable enough to start sharing our innermost secrets, we wish to open our soul to this particular someone without feeling vulnerable. As a result, we tend to spill our guts about our weaknesses, neuroses, and everything we hate about ourselves. Our profound desire to convey our vulnerabilities stems from our need to feel accepted by those we are intimate with.3
Being able to feel and understand anyone other than oneself – being able to walk in someone else’s shoes, so to speak. Once you are familiar with understanding and experiencing another person, the ability to feel what they feel, know what they think, and understand how they process what is happening to them, becomes easier.4
During the course of any relationship, the division of chores may vary. But equality implies that essentially each partner carries the same (structural) weight and burden. Each one participates in decision-making about essential values you live by while defining the ideals and beliefs both partners have. No one should ever overshadow the other; each should be flexible and willing to compromise.5
This includes any type of interaction between people, including non-verbal. Oftentimes our communication is faltered by mutual misunderstanding. Couples are talking but not listening, each with their own agenda being fundamentally too important to include anyone else’s.
Great communication is enabled by trust, commitment, and respect.6 Trying to express how we feel and what we believe in, we should have a common purpose to interact usefully, preferably in a judgment-free environment that is safe, supportive, and loving. This is your chance to let your partner see a new side of you, deliver the contents of your soul, and in return, expect the same of them. Abstain from criticism, alienation, or anguish, and do not settle for short and quick answers but discuss what is going on in your mind and life.
Ultimately, I would say that, first and foremost, each of us must learn and apply all these qualities to ourselves. When we are confident enough to respect and honor ourselves, we can commit to being the best we can be and stay the course for a lifetime, practicing openness, honesty, and integrity. As soon as we feel equal and blessed to all other beings, we can enter into a partnership with another person to the most satisfying extent.
- Erik Erikson was an ego psychologist who developed one of the most popular and influential theories of development. While his theory was impacted by psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud’s work, Erikson’s theory centered on psychosocial development rather than psychosexual development. (Verywell Mind)
- Psychology Today – Study: When Partners Are Ready for a Committed Relationship
- Intimacy: The Art of Relationships – How relationships are sabotaged by hidden expectations.
- The Emerging Study of Positive Empathy by Sylvia A. Morelli1*, Matthew D. Lieberman2, and Jamil Zaki1
Stanford University – University of California, Los Angeles
- Renewing the push for equality – Women in psychology are still paid less, hold fewer leadership positions, and are harassed more than their male colleagues. By Amy Novotney
American Psychological Association
- Findings and Theory in the Study of Fear Communications
Advances in Experimental Social Psychology, Volume 5, 1970, Pages 119-186