What makes a relationship successful?
Fundamentally, a successful relationship is a relationship that feels mostly good, most of the time. That’s it. Simple right? So how do you make a relationship that feels mostly good, most of the time?
How do you make successful relationship?
1. Figure out how to feel mostly good, most of the time.
2. Bring that to the relationship.
Again, simple, yes? So what trips people up? Here’s where it gets interesting!
“I’m OK if you’re OK”
Many people look to their relationship (to their partner) as their source of feeling good. If this is you, then you have probably attracted a partner who also does the same, though perhaps in a different style from you.
This leaves you in a position of having to negotiate feeling good between you, i.e., “I’m OK if you’re OK”. If you’re accustomed to this style of relationship (many people are, it is modeled and promoted as “normal”) it can be hard to imagine an alternative, but I can tell you with absolute certainty that a wonderful alternative exists.
The key is to realize that your feelings can be generated from within you regardless of your circumstances or outer “reality”, including your partner.
Since I discovered the truth of this, I could no longer continue working with clients the way I had been.
A new kind of couples work
I’ve been a couples therapist and marriage counsellor for fifteen years. I love my work, and I love my clients.
I love my work and my clients so much that when I discover a better way to do relationships, I have to update my methods and professional approach. I won’t rest on my laurels and teach something that people want to hear but that is no longer resonant for me.
And so I have changed how I work. Not entirely; I had emphasized individual responsibility and emotional differentiation (what I now call “self-satisfaction”) rather than partner negotiation and emotional enmeshment for many years, but my discoveries of the past two years have taken this to a new level of clarity.
I no longer see relationships through the lens of meeting emotional needs, resolving issues, healing wounds, trauma, attachment styles or anything else that puts emotional power and responsibility into collective hands.
I increasingly view relationships through the lens of two individuals discovering themselves in front of each other, and exploring the ever-shifting resonance between them. This is so much more easeful, fun, and interesting!
The third factor: Source
Conventional couples therapy often includes a theoretical “third” element: The relationship itself. There are the two individuals, then there’s the relationship, and all three elements get equal consideration. I do not subscribe to this model, but I do include a special third factor –
Each of us, I now recognize, comes from eternal, non-physical, infinite source energy, and each of us maintains this connection to source energy throughout our lives. This connection to our source is, must be, our primary relationship if we are to reach our full emotional potential.
When the physical (“ego”) aspect of you is in harmony with the energy (“spiritual”) aspect of you, you experience this as positive emotion. When these two aspects are at odds, or misaligned, you experience this as negative emotion.
Our relationship with a partner or spouse is determined by our relationship to source energy, and our relationship with source energy feels only good.
Contemporary psychology replaces source energy with “mother” or caregiver, placing this at the centre of the human journey. I won’t offer any resistance to this point of view, but I will offer an alternative that I believe is infinitely more satisfying.
Setting off on a relationship journey that has you trying to heal a “mother wound” or an attachment need from childhood can provide much richness and some fascinating twists and turns, but unless it ultimately connects you to your true source, it’s actually quite limited. I’ve always been a seeker of the deeper truth, and it lies in the relationship between the temporal you and the eternal you. Get that lined up, and everything follows.
How’s that landing? Any resonance?
Now back to the original question…
Let’s circle back to the question I asked at the top of the page: What’s the secret to a successful relationship?
And the answer I offered: Figure out how to feel mostly good, most of the time.
Now let’s tie this all together –
The way you feel mostly good, most of the time, is to get yourself living in alignment with your source, to get the human “you” befriending and loving the infinite “you”, not as a concept but as a living truth; not once and for all, but now, and now, and now. When you connect with your deepest essence, you feel good, unconditionally, and your relationships become an easy reflection of this good-feeling connection.
So how do you do this? Hint: incrementally, through your understanding and skillful use of the three human operating systems: sensation (body), emotion (heart), and cognition (mind).
Yes, my friends, this is where fifty years of living and fifteen years of working with couples professionally has landed me. I know it’s going to be too far out for some of you, but I know it’s also going to be VERY resonant and timely for some of you too.
All My Best,
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