We have some crazy ideas about romantic love in our culture. Wanting to feel seen, heard and understood by at least one person in this world is a natural and beautiful longing. Connection is really where it's at, and of course that doesn't have to happen in the context of romantic partnership. Nonetheless, that seems to be the quest of many, and also the place where people tend to tap into their most raw and vulnerable places.
And for those who believe the story ends and the happily-ever-after begins once that special someone is found, reality can be a rude awakening. The beginning of the story is almost always beautiful, heady and exciting, just like it looks in the movies. But when the hormones die down and the dust clears, it's really easy to get derailed and crash into a brick wall, wondering what happened to your fairy tale. The fairy tale takes nurturing and effort.
Here are some ideas to keep your romance alive and your connection deep, whether your relationship is new, or you've been with your partner for years:
1. You can't save people, but you can love them.
Nowhere is a person's "stuff" more likely to show up than in an intimate relationship. Closeness requires vulnerability, and for some people, tearing down those walls can be very scary. Protecting your heart may be something you've needed to do, but if you want someone to really know you, you're going to have to stand there, naked. With all your beauty and all your pain.
Because if you edit stuff out, or push things down, you'll understand in your heart your partner doesn't really know you. If you want to be seen, you have to be willing to show yourself. And in order to create something healthy with someone else, you really need to know yourself, too.
Otherwise how can you articulate what's true for you? What lights you up, or scares you, what you need or want in your heart of hearts? And how can you be accountable when your stuff comes up, which it will?
The ability to recognize what is yours is vital so you can apologize when you need to, so you can explain yourself clearly, so you can work on those areas that may be holding you back, that's one of the huge gifts of relationship. That's the path to true intimacy.
You can't save anyone, but you can create a safe space together to work on becoming your best selves if you're willing to make the space between you sacred and full of love, patience and forgiveness.
2. Everyone is changing all the time, so there's never a reason to get bored.
Did you know one in three traffic accidents happen a mile from a person's house? You could argue that this is because people drive around their own neighborhoods more than anywhere else, but many studies that suggest a person feels a false sense of security in their own 'hood.
Many people do this in relationships. I know this person, I've been with them for years, so I don't really need to sit up and take notice.
Here's the thing: Your partner is changing all the time, just as you are. You are not the same you you were five years ago, one year ago, or even last week, and neither is your partner.
Do you remember how you felt when you met your love? I'm sure you thought they were amazing. Special, kind. You probably noticed things like their hands or their smile or the way they looked at you. It's so easy to stop noticing.
I have a blog and I also stream yoga videos online, and as a result, I get countless emails from people who write in complaining about their partners. If only they'd change, everything would be wonderful.
Really? Because it's easy to focus on someone's faults, just like it's easy to focus on our own.
You can't change your partner, but you can change what you're doing. Are you taking them for granted? Could you do something thoughtful and unexpected today, just because? That's a tangible way you can shift the energy between you, and you might inspire your partner to surprise you in unexpected ways.
3. Listen with your heart.
Infatuation is easy, intimacy is hard. In the middle of a disagreement, so many people wait for their turn to speak, instead of really listening to their partner. Years of history can bubble to the surface in an instant.
The need to be right can be deafening and blinding, and sometimes people dig their heels in so deeply there's no hope for honest communication. As if it's a fight, and their partner is their opponent, and the object is to win.
But a relationship is not a game, and there are no winners when you and the person you love are in pain. You protect your ego, or you protect the relationship. If you want to truly love, that requires your vulnerability, and it takes guts to be naked like that.
So many people confuse love with control and manipulation. But love is about acceptance and a celebration. That doesn't mean there won't be things to work on, because of course there will. It just means that you see people as they are, and you accept them and celebrate them, while also loving yourself.
If you keep nurturing a real connection, doing those things simultaneously, that is, loving your partner and also making sure you're honoring yourself will be natural.
There's so much beauty in true partnership, but it takes effort. For whatever reason, that part doesn't get covered in the fairy tales or the romantic comedies.