Gay & Lesbian Services of Western New York

The Care and Feeding of Your Relationship

The last three years I have facilitated a workshop series for Pride Buffalo focusing on some aspect of relationships. What follows is a key point summary of this year’s topic having to do with refreshing an existing relationship.

1. Be the best you can be for yourself and your partner! or, Why unconditional love is a myth you need to get over! or, If you don’t like you why should they?

As relationships age it is easy to get lazy and let ourselves go and take a lot for granted. Sometimes our issues, or perhaps addictions cause us to think less of ourselves and sap energy, time and money from our relationship. We think that we are together for “better or for worse” however many relationships falter and end when the worse exceeds the better. Work on and work out your baggage or you may be left holding the bag!

2. Communication: Once is not enough!
As time goes on in your relationship day to day living can overtake reflective talk ABOUT the relationship. In fact it is not natural to always be routinely self conscious about your relationship. However, periodically it can be helpful to set aside time to talk about the relationship, how it is feeling for you both and your expectations. It is a change to review what is working and to address dissatisfactions and disappointments before they become too embedded in the fabric of the relationship. Think of this as being on a road trip and periodically checking the map to adjust your course and make needed corrections so you wind up where you want to be!

3. Unconditional Affection: Let me show you that I love you!
To my way of thinking affection, the casual touch, a hug, caress or peck on the cheek are part of the connective tissue of a relationship; part of what we cannot provide for ourselves. As such these small but important gestures need to be always present. Sometimes when we are hurt or mad we withdraw affection but this only increases the gulf between us. The resulting increase in tension and disconnection only make the path to resolution harder.

4. Future talk and planning.
It is important for us and those we love to feel and believe that we are a part of the future and not just the now. Make future plans and references that take the idea of being together out into the foreseeable and further future. This suggests a permanence and enhances security and trust.

5. Togetherness/Separateness.
The degree of each of these change as the relationship ages and changes with separateness being more accepted usually once the we/us is firmly established and trusted. Encourage your partner’s individual/separate interests as long as you are confident of the we/us bond. Your partner will love your generosity of spirit and willingness to see beyond your own needs.

6. Spontaneity vs Obligation.
The best surprises (and the ones that are felt and remembered) are true surprises. There are many events that occur in the life of a relationship like birthdays, anniversaries and holidays that are expected to be noted and therefore are remembered if they are forgotten or were otherwise disappointing. What is truly noted are the things that are unexpected and given with no obligation. The little spontaneous gestures of love like a card, gift or flower are what we think of when we consider how we are loved.

7. Rituals: Relationship affirming!
Routines are a part of life and the predictability and familiarity of them are part of the security building in a relationship. Beginning and ending the day together, a regular meal(s) together or whatever the routines are they are some of the more important gifts that a relationship uniquely provides and are part of what define our sense of being TOGETHER.

8. Sex.
Each person in a relationship is responsible for there own pleasure: Knowing what satisfies you and communicating this clearly to your partner is YOUR responsibility. If you are working out of the Crystal Ball or “If they love me they should know” theory it is time to Get Over It!

9. Fun.
Relationships are serious but ought to feel often like fun, like playmates did. Make it happen.

10. Family and friends.
Although these relationships shift during the course of a relationship remember that family and friends where there before, during and after you. You may not like everything about these people but you are not in competition with them and if you play that game you may lose. We pick our partners but then have to live with and accept their luggage. Your partner will notice your acceptance as a reflection of your love for them. The exception to this is when the other party is clearly toxic such as being alcohol or drug dependent and abusive and hurting you or your partner.

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