Watch any movie, read any book or listen to any song and chances are there’s a love story somewhere embedded in it. Love is everywhere. But so many of us don’t even know what it is and/or what to do with it when we feel it. But this article actually isn’t focused on love, instead I’d like to ask you to think about all the other important ingredients in a healthy relationship. While love is often wonderful, blissful and sometimes even ordinary, love in and of itself is not enough to sustain a fulfilling relationship. So what else is needed?
A couple I knew, (identifying details changed for confidentiality purposes) who we will refer to as Ben and Marissa, described feeling true love for each other. Having had been married for 15 years with 2 young children, it was clear they did still love each other a great deal. So what could possibly go wrong? Why would they end up in a marital therapist’s office if they both truly loved each other?
Ben would describe feeling misunderstood, no matter how he would explain his needs in the marriage, it seemed to him Marissa just ‘didn’t get it’. Marissa, on the other hand, would say, he just doesn’t listen to me. In other words, neither of them truly felt ‘heard’. Ben spoke about times he was ‘only trying to please his wife and no matter what he did, it was never good enough’. Marissa, said, if only he listened to her when she described her needs, he would ‘get it right’ the first time. In the work we did together, I was able to help them slow down the process of communicating and for her to see his efforts as a sign of love and wanting her to be happy. For him, to see how important it was to her for him to hear the details of what she needs. The next time he went to the store to pick up some groceries, for example, he reviewed her list a couple of times and asked questions to be clear that they were on the same page. Success at last!
Communication is so critically important in all relationships and yet it is not something we often learn in school. All the geometry, algebra and Spanish classes we take are important but many educational programs do not offer classes on how to create and sustain healthy relationships or marriage, which may be equally or even more important in life. The movies, books and pop culture may suggest that we just need to ‘find the right person’ and then we will ‘fall in love’. I beg to differ. Instead, we need to ‘BE THE RIGHT PERSON’ and ‘CHOOSE’ to love that person, every day. In doing so, it means we communicate our needs, thoughts and feelings clearly and respectfully and in a way our partner can hear it. This is much of what I do in my practice, RELATIONSHIP EDUCATION, an education we could all benefit from
and one that doesn’t come from the movies or love songs. If you are interested in learning more about Relationship Education, feel free to reach out. And remember, it takes more than love.