Three Steps to Balance Your Relationship
Restoring or creating balance in an intimate relationship is vital if you want to maximize your intimacy, peace, and happiness. While creating balance is complex and multifaceted, these are three things that I have found to be among the most important that we can do to improve communication and balance within our relationships and get rid of that dreaded codependence. Most of us have heard of codependence but few of us can describe it. In short, codependent relationships are imbalanced, with a high level of drama. Sometimes called “relationship addiction,” codependent relationships frequently have a “hero” and a “victim,” with one person taking care of the other in an unhealthy way that does not allow the other to grow and solve their own problems. Codependence expert and author, Melodie Beattie, describes it as an obsession with wanting to change the other person. In short, it’s an intimacy killer and a setup for a toxic relationship full of resentment and blame.
Speaking of resentment, my study that led to the book, Sexually Woke, found this was the number one libido killer for both men and women! If you want a better intimate life, I encourage you to give this a try.
This is not something that you can throw together in a few minutes, so spend some quiet time with yourself in deep reflection and be very honest with your answers. If you worry that your truth may not be acceptable to your partner, then you are exactly on the right track. Sharing your truth needs to push through that barrier and go exactly to those scary places. If you are stuck in a relationship that does not value your truth as acceptable, you are learning some really important things and creating awareness that will help you to get “unstuck.”
Creating balance takes two, so ask your partner to complete the same exercise. Find a time that you mutually agree upon when you are both relaxed and in a peaceful state of mind. Recognize that this may be perceived as a “difficult conversation” but consider lightening the mood by offering that these are things designed to really help you to get closer and even to improve your sex life. If you can’t find a time that you are both in a peaceful state of mind and ready to have an open, loving, and potentially difficult conversation, that is also some great awareness to help you to get “unstuck.”
A couple of potential red flags to look for may show up when you check your intentions. Are you trying to shove this down your partner’s throat when they have no interest, in an attempt to change them into the person that you wish they were? If they truly have no interest, and discussions about improving your relationship start a fight, you are almost certainly in a toxic relationship already. In that case, doing this exercise alone can still be helpful to clarify this fact for yourself and help you to articulate what you need to do and how not to fall into the same trap again.
With permission, share these three things in writing with your partner, and set aside a time to discuss them and circle back regularly to see how things are going:
- List your personal boundaries- Things that are unacceptable for you in order to be happy and peaceful. Everyone’s are different, but here are some examples: I will not accept you having an intimate sexual relationship with anyone else while we are together; I will not accept you talking negatively/critically about my children; I will not accept name-calling or using intentionally hurtful words when you are triggered; I will not accept you texting while we are having a conversation; I will not accept living in a sexless relationship; I will not accept you drinking excessively, etc.
Notice your own thoughts and emotions when you consider setting boundaries. Do you feel confident, scared, powerful, unreasonable, free…or how does the concept land with you? Many women have been conditioned not to set boundaries, and to allow unacceptable behavior and “keep quiet and be nice.” If this comes up for you, can you create awareness of this conditioning and recognize how it is preventing you from living in your full aliveness? An important part of boundary setting is establishing consequences that both parties agree upon if the boundary is broken. Crossing some boundaries may be immediate deal breakers, while others may have some flexibility and time for patience (to a point). Remember, these are things that you NEED. If you speak your truth, and your boundaries are repetitively broken, it’s time to renegotiate the relationship. If your partner is not willing to honor your boundaries, or you are not willing to honor his, that is a vital conversation to have. And it’s time to move on.
- Make commitments for what you personally are WILLING to do to improve the relationship and work on your own personal development. There is a very important difference between WANTING and WILLING. There are many things we want to do, but we don’t do them, because we are not WILLING to give up habits or make the difficult changes that will need to take place. Perhaps you want to have sex twice a week, but you are not willing to make yourself vulnerable and available to try new things. Perhaps you want to have intimate conversations, but you are not WILLING to put down Facebook. Be very honest if you really are not willing to do something. Commitments are real- and you will be holding yourself to them. For example, I commit to not using alcohol to numb my feelings when I am struggling; I commit to not blaming you for my own life circumstances which are 100% my responsibility; I commit to putting my phone down when we are talking; I commit to scheduling at least one fun/play activity with you every week; I commit to actively trying to stop correcting and controlling…etc.
Notice your thoughts and emotions when you consider making changes to improve the relationship. Does your mind start telling you it’s actually not your fault, and that it’s not you that needs to change? Or do you find yourself offering more than your share of changes to try to “save” or “hero” the relationship and take all the blame? If this comes up for you, can you create awareness around this potential lack of balance?
- Make a list of things that you love that your partner does and that you wish they would do more often. Letting your partner know how they can help the relationship is giving them a gift and a place to start. Most of us want to do things that are appreciated, but often we are left in the dark about what those are, so communicating them is incredibly important. For example, I love it when you do a surprise car wash for me; I love it when you write me a little note before you go on a trip; I love it when you rub my feet when we’re watching a movie; I love this particular thing in the bedroom…etc.
Notice your thoughts and emotions when you consider stating what you want. Do you feel bossy, controlling, like he/she should already know this, excited, or hopeful? Whatever comes up for you, can you create awareness around the practice of clearly stating what you want, and how this may have helped or harmed your relationship in the past?
With these three deeply heartfelt lists you can address the most important things to make our relationships vibrant and balanced, because:
- Setting and enforcing boundaries establishes a balance of power and eliminates codependence.
- Making commitments establishes your belief in your own responsibility in the relationship and your desire to work on making it better.
- Making a wish list allows the other person to know exactly how they can go the extra mile to make the relationship everything that you want.
I encourage you to give it a try and share the results!!