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What gets in the way of deep, sexy, empowering connection with our partner over time?
It’s the thing everybody wants, yet few couples pull this off in an empowering and freeing way.
So, what is the secret that these few couples have?
I was determined to figure out this secret formula! So, I spoke with some of the most empowered, thriving long-term couples I know. I combined their answers with knowledge from my own study and education. I also considered my own personal experiences. And, from all of this information, I compiled a list of the top five keys to lasting, thriving connection.
Key #1: Share your full, undecorated truth with your partner.
Something these couples had in common is that they all learned to speak openly and truthfully with one another. They share, even when one person needs to share something that might hurt the other person’s feelings.
These couples value truth over care-taking someone else’s feelings.
At first glance, you might be thinking that it sounds pretty unkind to not consider your partner’s feelings. And, I understand that thought pattern because many of us have been programmed to believe that it is our job to manage other people’s feelings through controlled action and minimized self-expression.
Don’t be too happy, you’ll make other people uncomfortable.
Don’t be too big and bright, you’ll cause others to feel small.
Don’t celebrate your wins, that’s just bragging.
And yet, what these couples have realized is that “censored truth” often times leads to resentment, misunderstanding, and disconnection. So these empowered couples have chosen a different path.
Even when the truth is hard to hear, they share it with each other. Then, they come together as a team to process and find clarity around the truth. The truth unites them rather than separating them.
Key #2: Create agreements instead of expectations.
Each of these badass couples made a point to share with me how they intentionally come together to create agreements in their relationship.
See, agreements are the “healthy relationship” version of what most people carry into relationship anyway—expectations.
It’s so tempting to start creating silent expectations for our partner once we begin dating.
I know if he stops drinking, he’ll be healthier and happier. I’ll help him quit.
Once we get married, we’ll have sex at least once a week.
Of course we’re going to split the housework 50/50 once he moves in, that’s how I’ve always done it!
Each of these examples (while well-intentioned) are a toxic poison to your relationship if they are not discussed and agreed upon.
We’re so scared to open up and talk about agreements and expectations because many of us fear that our love will leave us if they knew what we really expected and desired.
And yet, by silencing our expectations but still measuring our partner up against them, we create dissonance.
An agreement is much different. Create agreements by sharing your expectations and your desires with your partner. Then, you two get to work together as a team to shift and co-create an agreement that works and honors both of you.
Agreements = team work. And then both parties get to be called forward, to show up in a way that nurtures and supports our individual souls and our union.
Key #3: Badass communication skills.
Language is a powerful amplifier, and the way in which I deliver a message can have massive effects on the way my message is received.
That is, badass communication skills can be the difference between a resourced and connective conversation and a blown-out, repetitive fight.
Every single couple I talked to had taken some kind of course, program, or one-on-one training in order to learn the communication skills that most of us were never taught.
Sadly, the “communication skills” we learned in public school likely won’t cut it. In order to have a deep, fulfilling, long-term connection with a single person, we need some advanced communication skills.
Because over long-term intimacy, two people will address some challenging, confusing, and painful topics. These conversations require the skills to guide it in connective way.
What I’ve found is that there are communication skills and tools, practical hacks, that we can use. To add to that, we can use what I’ve coined as a “culture of caring communication.” These are the backbone elements to how these couples communicate. The culture includes principles like:
Invitation instead of blame.
Curiosity instead of judgement.
Separation of personhood from behavior.
These are fundamental pillars of communication between the individuals in these power couples! Even when they were upset or triggered, they were able to see the person in front of them as human.
It is clear, when I witness these couples during conflict, that they have practiced hard to communicate with such clarity and kindness.
Key #4: Love your partner in the way they want to be loved, not how you prefer to be loved.
Many of us have heard of “the five love languages.” Now, while I don’t believe that the five love languages are the end-all, be-all, I love the concept behind it. The principal of the five love languages says that not everyone likes to be loved in the same way.
Despite the explosive popularity of the concept some years ago, many people tend to forget this principle in their day-to-day lives with their partners.
For instance, a woman might try to surprise her partner by cleaning the house immaculately, only to feel frustrated when he comes home and doesn’t notice her efforts.
This woman would have made her husband feel more loved with far less effort: a simple cooked meal and a living room to himself to watch the game. But instead, she tried to show him love in the way that she wants to be shown love. And so, she didn’t get the reaction she was expecting from her partner, and now she feels frustrated.
My challenge to you is to ask your partner about the different ways in which they like to feel loved. Follow your genuine curiosity and explore their love preferences in depth. The moment you decide that you know your partner fully, you destroy the space between you, which breeds curiosity, mystery, and desire. As humans, we are ever changing and evolving, and that includes your partner!
Key #5: Conflict mastery.
Because conflict is inevitable when you sign up for a lifetime with one person, it is essential that couples learn how to do conflict in a way that nourishes the connection instead of depleting their connection.
Most people don’t consciously think about how they do conflict. Rather, they just “handle it as it comes,” which usually looks like defaulting back to programs and patterns that don’t serve a deeper connection.
Couples who master conflict use conflict as a means of deeper connection, understanding, and growth. A more disempowering view sees conflict as a nuisance, a problem, and a means of disconnection.
There’s a variety of ways these power couples create a nourishing culture of conflict in their union. Badass communication, mutual agreements, and regulation are all tools that make the experience of conflict more ease-filled and graceful.
Mastering conflict is essential in your long-term relationship so you don’t fall into the pattern of yelling at each other for 40 years. When you master conflict practices with your partner, you two are equipped to handle any challenge together, no matter the depth.
Because life will hand you plenty of challenges along the journey—the question is: do you allow these challenges to unite you two or to separate you?
Decide, right now, to nourish these five key areas of your relationship and you will experience a deeper and more ease-filled, sexy connection. When two people truly want to change their relationship dynamic, they will.
I know that any two people can have an extraordinary partnership, even many years into the relationship. I am certain that anybody can experience exciting and fluttery desire with the same person over time. I know this because I am living this in my life right now with my beloved Warren.
Remember, love is your superpower.