By Dr. Laurie Betito
People often ask me what is love, what is intimacy? You would think the answer was simple, but there are many myths we buy into that actually hurt us.
Many of us think that love in a relationship should be unconditional—but this is not so. The only love that is unconditional is the one you have for your children. When we talk about love in the romantic sense, we are basically trying to embody something that is pure and perfect within two individuals who are neither perfect nor pure themselves.
We often look to love as the answer– the solution to all of our problems. It’s as if because we think love is perfect, we feel that once we have it, everything in our lives becomes perfect. This is the story that we were told growing up. This is the story that we continuously see portrayed in books, movies and TV shows. Our culture feeds us an ideal and urges us to find it for ourselves.
The problem is that such an ideal doesn’t exist.
We are also led to believe that there is one perfect individual out there for us. A person who fills the void that we feel, making us whole. Who completes us, shall we say. We are told that there is someone out there who will make us better individuals, who will make us happy beyond belief. Unfortunately this puts our happiness in the hands of someone else, and sets us up for failure.
Love is not a feeling, it is a set of actions—love is a verb. It also doesn’t just happen, nor does it fix all of our problems. Love is not magic. For love to be magical, you have to make it so. Love also evolves. It deepens. It does not stay the same as it was in the beginning. This is why we often hear people say things like, “I love my partner, but I am not in love with my partner.” You cannot stay in the in love phase forever. That’s just not realistic. To sustain a relationship long term, you have to let go of this notion and accept that love changes. You need to put effort into your relationship. You need to prioritize your couple, always trying to make your partner feel loved and desired. Complacency is not an option!
It’s also important to maintain your individuality in a relationship. Remember, you don’t become one—you are two interlocking individuals that form a unit. This means each maintaining a level of independence (activities, friendships, etc.). This differentiation makes you interesting to your partner which in turn breeds passion.
Good communication is another must for a healthy long term relationship. There are 3 elements to good communication:
- Have compassion for your partner
- Don’t assume your partner is out to hurt you
- Accept each other’s differences (even in the way you communicate)
In resolving conflicts, don’t argue to win. If your goal is to win an argument, then everyone loses. Think of it as cooperation rather than competition. Strive to understand your partner’s point of view. Listen with empathy rather than preparing a rebuttal in your head. And finally, don’t try to change your partner (you will most certainly be met with resistance!) You can only change yourself.
Successful long term relationships require effort. It is possible to “live happily ever after,” but only if you work at it.
Dr. Laurie is a clinical psychologist with a specialty in sex therapy, and has been a practicing psychotherapist for close to 30 years. For the last 27 years she has been doing radio and television, dispensing sex and relationship advice. She is a regular contributor to various magazines, newspapers and television shows. She is the host of a nightly Canadian syndicated call in show called Passion, where she discusses issues related to sexuality with her listeners.
Dr. Laurie is also President of the Sexual Health Network of Quebec and Past President of the Canadian Sex Research Forum.
Dr. Laurie is the author of The Sex Bible for People Over 50, and the Director of the Pornhub Sexual Wellness Center, an online sexual health information platform.
Dr. Laurie has given two TEDx talks on the subject of sexuality. Visit www.drlaurie.com and in social media @drlauriebetito for more.
If you have any questions or comments for Dr. Laurie, please leave them below. She will be reading. What do YOU think is the secret to a successful relationship?
Happy FEEL GOOD FRIDAY, friends.