Tina discusses the 3 lessons she has learned about building and sustaining a successful romantic relationship. She takes a look at the beliefs passed on from her parents’ marriage and the knowledge and wisdom gained from an unsuccessful previous relationship.
Lesson 1: Both partners need to be committed and both partners need to work together to feel connected, engaged and happy.
Lesson 2: You have to be with the right person from the start.
Lesson 3: Success in a relationship is not about ‘making it work’, it’s about nurturing the love you have to make it grow and deepen through the years.
Sometimes other people’s stories can serve as an inspiration to us. I hope my story does that for you.
Here it goes.
They say that you learn a lot about love through watching your parent’s relationship. That was certainly true for me… but I was completely oblivious to the unconscious messages I was getting about Love and relationships.
The year my dad died, my parents would have celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary. And I would have said that you could still tell just how much they loved each other! My dad still had that sparkle in his eye when he would tease my mom, and my mom would still pinch his cheeks lovingly as she often reached for a kiss. You could just tell… feel their love for each other.
This is pretty amazing, since I also have lots of memories of tremendous hardships they faced through the years, and a lot of it made their connection very fragile. I witnessed many moments of fighting and tears as they tried to survive life’s major stressors that was thrown at them: years of work and financial stress, bankruptcy, 3 cancers, alcoholism, and major depression. There were so many twists and turns in their 40 years together that my mom even wrote a book about it after my dad died. These ‘events’ naturally took a toll on them individually and as a couple.
But what kept them together in my mind was their commitment and loyalty to each other. What kept their love coming through in spite of the challenges was pure dedication to each other. Never for a second they did think of quitting.
So unconsciously, I got this STRONG belief that this is all that is required to make love last.
I entered my first real adult relationship in my second year at university with little life experience, but unconsciously with this strong message ingrained. My boyfriend and I moved in together a year after, but not for the right reasons. Mostly out of convenience since we both needed a roommate. But for me, once we moved-in, that was it… the loyalty and commitment kicked-in and it became my focus to just ‘make it work’. In spite of us just being 20 years old and still in university- I was committed to making this work.
We were 8 years together ‘trying to make it work’ and it was hard. For the last 2 years of our relationship I felt I was constantly trying to find ways to retrieve the connection that had been lost through all of our fights and disappointments. We were growing apart and it was scary. We would get swept away in these fights where really my whole goal was trying to get some sign that he loved me and was as committed to me as much as I was to him. And the more desperate I got, the more he pulled away from me. The more he pulled away from me, the more scared I got.
We were caught in this negative vortex that I wasn’t even aware of at the time. It was a cycle that we both created through habitual reactions when our fears got triggered. All I knew at the time is that it sucked! It was extremely painful and I felt lost… helpless in how to fix it. But I kept trying… I was committed to ‘make it work’. And he was just in denial about how bad things at gotten.
Neither of us were reaching for help. I was way too embarrassed to say anything to anyone… and never even thought about getting professional help. Just tried to do this all on my own. That’s how I felt- on my own. And in that process, I lost myself. I lost who I was and what was important to me because the only thing that felt in my control was changing my expectations. So I started thinking, ‘well maybe I don’t really want kids’- because he didn’t and it would create fights. And ‘maybe I’m asking too much by doing things together as a couple and being adventurous and travelling’- because he was depressed and low energy all the time.
And then one day… after 8 years, he gave up. Without notice, he ended the relationship… and I was crushed. All of a sudden, my whole belief system got shattered… commitment and loyalty wasn’t enough after all…
Both partners need to be committed and both partners need to work together to feel connected, engaged and happy.
I have since learned that I wasn’t completely off with my belief- commitment and loyalty and determination IS important for a relationship to last, but it has to be on BOTH sides. Both partners have to be committed and BOTH partners have to work TOGETHER to make it work. That’s the key ingredient my parents had that my partner and I did not have. Commitment on his end was always what I questioned from the start.
Turns out my partner leaving me was the best gift he could have given me, because it spared us both more years of pain and disappointment. And by leaving me, he gave me a chance to get in touch again with who I really was, and what I really wanted in my life. And I think he was able to do that for himself, too. Turns out I really did want kids! And I really did want a partner that was my best friend!
And turns out, I found him 😉
You have to be with the right person from the start.
When I met my now husband, I realized another key ingredient in ‘making a relationship work’. You have to be with the RIGHT person from the start. It sounds like such an obvious thing right? But it’s not… Often we fall in love with the ‘idea’ of being in love and we don’t really know what we are looking for. When I met my husband, early on I felt a depth of love, admiration and respect I had never felt with my previous partner.
You know the feeling when you meet your ‘right person’ because it initially feels like they can do no wrong… you love everything about the person and you feel so connected to them that you want to spend all your time with them?
When I met Michael, I admired him for who he was, what he stood for and I respected his thoughts and opinions. I wanted to learn more about him and just respected him as a person and I totally felt that from him as well. I could feel his keen interest in me and how much he appreciated who I was. And when this love, admiration and respect is there from the start, it just has the potential to grow through the years.
So here I was at the beginning of my relationship with Michael at 27- thinking I had a good love recipe figured out now. It was clear that 1- I had found a person I loved, admired and respected (and felt this from him) and 2- that he was also a person who was not afraid of commitment and hard work in a relationship. He actually asked me to marry him 5 months after we met… need I say more about commitment?
Knowing in my gut that Michael was the right person for me, I accepted his proposal whole heartedly and confidently. It felt right. I was so happy and fulfilled.
So I was good to go right? It sounded so simple, almost too simple.
So maybe the unconscious part of me that had gotten hurt before was fearing possible abandonment… I at least wanted to be sure I wasn’t missing something this time. Something deep inside me was feeding a curiosity to find out more about this mysterious thing we call Love. I wanted to know how to keep it forever. Because what I was feeling with Michael was something I did not want to lose.
By this time I was a young new therapist just a few years out of graduate school, and my curiosity about love got directed to a therapist in my office who worked with couples. I asked him about couple therapy and what that looked like. How did he help couples? What does he teach them? I was trying to see if there was anything there for me to learn?
Little did I know back then that this simple curiosity and need to understand how to make my own relationship work would lead me to a lifetime journey that would be so fulfilling.
I asked this colleague of mine if I could observe some of his therapy sessions with couples to learn more. To my great delight a few couples granted me permission to witness their work in session. What happened next was something I never could have imagined… It totally changed my whole perspective of love and relationships… and it even changed the course of my own career path.
The very first couple I observed had been working with this couples’ therapist for a while now, so they were not in their reactive initial state of distress that brought them into therapy in the first place. So what I witnessed in session was not just how you problem-solve your way to ‘making the relationship work’… what I witnessed was the potential that a relationship has to grow to a DEEP place of emotional connection that I had NEVER witnessed before in my life. I did not even know that you could ever be so vulnerable, real and authentic with a person! And I certainly had no clue of what happens when you do this with a person you love and trust.
Wow! I was blown away! I vividly remember watching this couple share their most vulnerable fears and longings with each other in that counselling session. As one partner was taking that emotional risk, the other partner was holding their hands, completely tuned-in, taking in her every word and being there for comfort and support. She was crying and he was holding back the tears… and so was I. Shivers went through my spine even… I was filled with this deep awareness that love can be FAR DEEPER than I had ever experienced, and in that office that day, I never expected to learn the most important Love lesson of all.
Success in a relationship is not about ‘making it work’, it’s about nurturing the love you have to make it grow and deepen through the years.
I had it all wrong whenever I thought about ‘how to make a relationship work’. Now I knew that this mentality was just scratching the surface of the potential of living your life with someone you love. Now I knew that there is SOOO much potential in a relationship that has true love. And that my mission is not just to ‘make it work’… it’s about nurturing the love you have at the start to make it grow and deepen through the years.
There’s a beauty in the kind of profound connection that can settle in a relationship that has been nurtured. It’s a deep connection that is rich with vulnerability and authenticity, where each person can be totally themselves in their relationship and they are fully seen and accepted by their partner.
And I knew one thing in that moment. That day in that office when I was having shivers down my spine, moved to tears with the kind of real connection I was witnessing in that couple… I knew I wanted to nurture that in my own relationship with Michael. And to my surprise, I also knew deep down that I was called upon to help other couples build that in their own relationship. I knew that I wanted to be the best darn couples counsellor I could be!
So I studied, studied and studied for years this therapeutic approach to couples counselling called Emotionally Focused Therapy. An approach that is internationally renowned to be the most effective couples counselling approach and has scientific research evidence to back that up. It’s so important to me to constantly continue to learn and grow as a therapist so I can better support couples.
And I also keep learning through the couples I worked with over the years, feeling forever grateful to be on their journey to save their marriage and build happier lives. And of course an added bonus is to get this knowledge to apply to my own relationship with Michael. And he has also taken training himself as a therapist to help us grow further.
This is why we decided to come together with our knowledge and experience as a couple, but also through our training. We feel we have a purpose to help others on this journey of making love LAST- not just make it work. We know first-hand now how powerful and fulfilling this kind of deep connection can be.
If you want to know ALL our secrets and lessons learned to create this kind of deep lasting love, we’ve written a blog about it: ‘Our 10 Secrets to Lasting Love’.
But even better, we’ve created a 90-minute video where we give you all the ins and outs of the Top 10 secrets to Lasting Love, where we share our own personal lessons, but more importantly, concrete tips and strategies to incorporate more of these important strategies into your own relationship.
Bottom line, we are so passionate about helping others find this kind of connection- our kind of connection – that we have found multiple different venues to do that.
If you want the most ultimate support from us, join us at our next Couples Weekend Retreat. You will get all the important information that will offer clarity into your own relationship and where you need to improve. And you will learn how to CREATE and SUSTAIN this kind of connection WITH your partner there. You’ll do this as a team because there needs to be commitment from both of you to create lasting love.
And to do this, you get us as a team, supporting you every step of the way so you don’t have to do this alone.
I know what that’s like to try to get out of a negative pattern that has slowly crept into a relationship- bringing loneliness and helplessness.
I know what it’s like to try to do this alone.
I know the end result is never positive when you try to go at it alone.
This is why we are here! Let us help you! Nothing will ever change until you both come together to try to do something different.
I know you can do this! You deserve a real, profound, lasting love.