In my book, Love Tips and Trips for Gay and Lesbian Relationships, I have identified 50 Ways to Keep Your Lover. My post last Friday offered strategies 7-9, this week I am sharing strategies 10-12. Look for more strategies next Friday!
50 Ways to Keep Your Lover: # 10-12
10. Respond to Your Partner’s Feedback. Oh how I wish I had a dollar for every partner I have heard say to the other, “You knew I was this way when we got together.” Here’s the deal. Committing to a relationship is not an agreement to stop growing. OUTstanding couples realize that each partner is expected to continue developing as a human being and improving as a partner.
Securing a relationship is not an invitation to stop growing. In fact, you might find yourself kicked to the curb if you are more attached to remaining the same than you are attached to becoming the best version of yourself possible.
When you fall in love, you fall in love with both the person you see in the here and now, as well as the vision you have for who that person will become. You are making an investment in your future, and good investments grow.
Two key ingredients affect how you grow in the context of your relationship. The first key to personal growth stems from the personal observations, insights, lessons, experiences you have, and the work that you do to grow yourself. This might occur through intentional efforts such as completing a degree, advancing your career, staying physically fit, learning new hobbies, engaging in personal growth activities such as reading, journaling, or therapy. The choices you have to enhance your life are endless!
The second key to personal growth in the context of your relationship is through the observations, insights, lessons, experiences and the work that your partner invest in herself or himself to grow.
Often, your partner will observe in you characteristics with which you are not comfortable. You may reject his observations and actually accuse him of being mean or insensitive. If you reject your partner’s observations and feedback, you are rejecting one of the most valuable gifts your relationship has to offer you.
Your partner has the capacity to see you in ways that no one else can. Because of this front-row view into your life, your partner is able to mirror for you parts of yourself that you do not always want to see. You may hear complaints such as: “you are too generous,” “you work too much,” “you need to stop drinking so much,” “you are sleeping too much,” but in reality, these observations are invitations to improve your life.
These invitations don’t always come in nice envelopes; sometimes they are wrapped in emotions such as anger, frustration, and disappointment. If the delivery of this feedback is insensitive, it can be hurtful. Though the facts usually remain that there are areas of your life that are in dire need of improvement. You can resist out of spite, hurt, or anger; or you can grab a hold of this gift, the gift of honest feedback, and use it to improve your life.
The question I encourage you to ask yourself, when your partner makes a request of you, is this: “Will doing this add to, or take away from, my life?” If the answer is “add to” then it seems like a win-win. What do you have to lose?
If you are struggling with the concept of what “taking away” from you means, you can ask yourself this question: “If I honor this request, and work to change in the ways my partner is asking me to, am I compromising a core value that defines who I am and what I am about?” This helps separate the things that you simply don’t want to do—like clean the house or take out the trash—from things that take away from your core values or your core sense of self, such as asking you to change your religion to hers.
Be sure to clarify the difference between something that doesn’t feel good, and something that is not good for you. If you justify not changing because it is no fun or you don’t like to do something, then you are likely rejecting an important opportunity to become a better version of yourself!
11. Show Respect. Respect is a fundamental ingredient in all relationships. Respect is the ultimate form of gratitude. Respecting your partner at all times is an act of love and gratitude. Respect is honoring your partner at all times—not just when you feel good about him.
12. Regular Check-ins. I recommend that every couple set aside a minimum of thirty minutes each week to do what I call a “check-in.” Though there is no “right” way to check-in, here are some guidelines to help you in the process:
Summarize your feelings about how you experienced the previous week. For example, “I feel like we’ve had a great week, and I feel really connected to you.”
Share your observations—both the good and the frustrating—about how things unfolded. For example, “I noticed that we were both taking more time to talk together, and I think that really helped me feel more connected to you.”
Communicate your insights about how you can use this as information to continue improving your relationship. For example, “I think it would be a great idea for us really to commit to spending more time just talking because I really want to feel connected to you on a regular basis.”
Your Partner’s Turn Now. Once you complete steps 1-3, then your partner shares her observations. Discuss any differences in your observations. This is simply a time where you literally observe how you are doing as a couple and what you like about how things are going and what you would like to see be different.
Helpful Guidelines: This time is NOT about 1) problem solving; 2) being defensive or sensitive; or 3) criticizing or attacking. This exercise is designed to create a much more conscious relationship by being as aware as possible about the influences on your connection with one another and on your relationship’s happiness.