How to build a meaningful relationship
So, you meet someone and start dating, the attraction is mutual, one thing leads to another, and then you're 'together'. But now what?
This is a tricky stage for a lot of people. Here we'll focus on the basic elements that help to bring meaning into a relationship, and give it more potential to last.
First of all, what would you like the relationship to become? What does the idea of 'being together' really mean for you? Then, when you've figured that out, how does it fit with what the other person would like from a relationship? What's their perspective?
If you don't get clear on the above basic points, then your hoping for relationship success is somewhat like a little seed floating along a river, hoping that chance will somehow lead it ashore so it can grow into a tree, before it gets washed out to sea to become fish food. It might happen, but the odds aren't great.
Different people have different ideas of what a 'meaningful relationship' is, and that's fine, there's no one right answer. But here is a short (and by no means complete) list of possibilities, some of which might resonate with you:
- Being mutually loving and supportive.
- Doing things together you both enjoy, which make you feel more alive and connected.
- Sharing simple moments of togetherness, and enjoying the things you have in common.
- Learning from each other, embracing your differences, seeing how they may be complementary.
- Accepting each other as you are in the present moment and sharing what is 'real' for you.
(Actually by nurturing some of the above qualities from the early stages of a relationship, we naturally come to know someone a lot better - which helps to avoid that 'what now?' feeling, after the initial infatuation starts to ware off.)
So, with a better idea about what you're aiming for in a relationship, what other things help you get there? A few things are key for lasting success:
- Helping each other to meet each others needs.
- A balance of giving and receiving.
- Being willing to be flexible and compromise sometimes.
What does 'meeting each others needs' mean? This is about offering love and support to someone to help them achieve what's most important to them, because you're happy to, not because you feel obliged to. It's not that we're responsible for someone else's happiness, but that by offering our love and support in their service, a relationship grows stronger and deeper. That is, providing there is freely given reciprocity.
A balance of giving to and receiving from each other (in terms of love, support, affection, time and other resources) makes for healthier and more sustainable relationships. If each person aims to make the other person's life more wonderful, then there's a much better chance of that happening for everyone.
Even with everyone having the best of intentions, sometimes it will still be hard to satisfy everyone's needs together. That's where flexibility is required. Again, it's important that it's a willing act and that there's give and take here too. Without occasional compromises, close relationships don't last very long. If you want a robust relationship, learn to be a little flexible.
So what else is important for more a meaningful relationship?
Relationships are all about being connected. We connect through communicating, so our ways of communicating and the skills we have in that area are fairly important.
It's through our ways of communicating that we are able (or otherwise as the case may be) to develop the above helpful qualities in our relationships. There are some ways of communicating that make it easy for others to be receptive to our feelings and needs, and other ways that make it much harder work! Similarly, there are ways of communicating that really help someone open up about their feelings and needs, while other ways tend to result in them closing down.
"Healthy Loving Relationships" looks in detail at how meaningful relationships are made and how they are built to last. From the 5 key ingredients of beautiful and intimate connections, to in-depth coverage of interpersonal communication and developing emotional intelligence, to smart ways to be flexible, to making commitments; it's all in the book.