It’s not sexy or romantic. You can’t place them in a box or wrap them in a silky bow. But they are the essential ingredients to making a partnership both work and thrive. A relationship for the ages. One you deserve. One that creates a legacy for generations to follow.
Let’s do this.
First, self-regulation or emotional regulation – the control of one’s self by one’s self. It is the ability to manage one’s behavior and emotional expression in the pursuit of long-term goals, e.g. committed partnership. We must think before we act. Self-regulation refers to the ability to manage difficult emotions and impulses. It also reflects the ability to rebound after hurts and losses and to act in a way consistent with your deepest held values.
Think resiliency. Bouncing back to center when life’s stressors pull you off track. Not too much, not too little, but just the right amount of emotional response to match a specific situation.
In order to self-regulate, we must manage our inner world. We must be the driver of the car, attending to our internal daycare in the backseat. The one that buckles in our wounded inner child and our adaptive, coping child. Those parts of us that like to take hold, tantrum, hide, control, isolate, deny, spew and criticize. If those needy, small children are in charge, we wreck any chance at an adult mature relationship.
Rather, we must attend to their needs to keep them calm that we might stay centered in our wise, adult self. Emotional regulation requires mastery in self-soothing. Ready for the plain, ugly truth? It is not your partner’s job to take care of you. It is yours. He or she is your back-up team. So, learn to self-regulate. It is a requirement for relational success.
Second, insight. We cannot navigate a deep, intimate relationship without knowing the landscape. So, study yourself and study your partner. What is the narrative by which you each operate? What are the trigger points? Potholes? What makes you tick? What do you hunger for? What makes your heart sing? What are your deepest fears and points of resistance?
Your learning is never over. It is not a one and done. You are on a lifelong path of education to know more and more about yourself and your partner. Deeper and deeper. Like the colored stack of trays in the middle school lunch line, the unconscious has a multitude of layers. So, give it space. Listen to its wisdom. It wants to reveal itself but you’ve got to be a willing student. This knowledge is essential if you want a successful partnership.
So, raise your hand high. Sharpen your pencils and bring extra paper. Go after the insight of self and your significant other. You’re going to need every ounce to go the distance.
Third, mutuality. Your partnership has to benefit both parties or why bother? At the end of the day, the energy of the “we” – our relationship – has to be greater than the sum of its parts. We both make the other a better person. We give, we take. We share, challenge, grow, comfort, hold and stretch in a trusting, random ballpark of intentional equality. My life is not greater or less so that yours can be less or greater. It’s not about math but rather about meet, match and rise. We reciprocally operate for the betterment of all.
So, there you have it. A recipe for relational prosperity – self-regulation, insight and mutuality. Not a bad way to start a new year.