I can’t repeat it enough: If you’re not happy in your relationship, then you’re not happy.
With Valentine’s Day approaching, you might be scrambling to get some flowers or that perfect gift for your significant other, but on the day of love the best thing you can do is become intentional about taking your relationship to the next level.
One of the biggest lies believed and repeated in our culture is the lie that good relationships are easy or that good relationships just happen. Relationships, like a sport or your job, are a set of skills that you need to hone for you to be successful.
So while people spend countless dollars on education for their careers, seminars for how to better themselves, and self-care routines, far less people than should invest time and money into their relationship – due to that faulty belief that things should just “fit” between people truly in love.
For Valentine’s Day I’m going to give you 3 tools to understand and improve your relationship. If you use them, you will improve your relationship exponentially:
Do you have a complementary or symmetrical relationship?
Complementary relationships are about difference. Where one person is strong, the other person might be less strong. Maybe one is a social butterfly while the other loves to stay at home in quiet environments. We are often attracted to people different than us because we admire those qualities we don’t possess and we balance ourselves by finding people who can help bolster us where we are weak. When done well, these relationships are truly beautiful. The downside of these relationships is when people stop appreciating the differences they fell in love with. Suddenly, instead of appreciating your homebody spouse for keeping you grounded, you feel like he or she has become an anchor. If you stay out of these negative cycles and continue to view each other as equals, these relationships can thrive.
Symmetrical relationships are about sameness. These couples might both love working out, partying, and crushing it in business. These relationships work because there is so much common ground that it’s easy to find activities that you both love and you can feed off each other’s common passions. Where these relationships struggle is when the commonality turns into competition. These relationships, if not tended to, can become like bickering siblings where the them is “everything you can do, I can do better.” If you can put competition to the side, then romance can thrive.
What Level are you Loving?
Tony Robbins pioneered the idea of 4 levels of love and they serve as an amazing tool to check the quality of love and how much effort people are putting into the relationship.
One thing that holds true with most relationships is that the couple plays down to the lowest level – the chain is only as strong as the weakest link. That means it is very difficult for one person to stay in the relationship at a level 3 while the other person is playing at level 1 or 2.
So what are the levels?
Level 1) Selfish Love: Your relationship is entirely about what you are getting and not at all about what you are giving. You expect to receive everything you need and want and give nothing in return.
Level 2) Trading: You give 50 percent and your partner gives 50 percent. You are giving in your relationship so that you can get. Your giving is contingent upon getting whatever you want out of the other person. People playing at this level are constantly keeping score in their own head and scaling back if they feel they are not receiving enough for their efforts.
Level 3) All-in. You give 100 percent and your partner gives 100 percent without regard for what the other is giving.
Level 4) Saintly love. You give 100 percent even when the other person is hurting you.
Most couples live in level 1 and level 2 and unfortunately, as I’m sure you’ve experienced, these are not usually fulfilling situations. The pitfalls of level 1 are obvious and level 2 relationships can unravel quickly as the amorous feelings wane and people start thinking about the things they aren’t getting rather than asking themselves if they are serving their partner to their highest ability. Strive for level 3 and level 4, though you should certainly not continue in a relationship where you are continually being hurt or suffering any form of abuse.
Live in Service to your Partner
People often get afraid when thinking about living in service to their partner. Going all-in on professional dreams of being a movie star or a doctor are understood and even expected, but when it comes to going all-in on a relationship, people start thinking about the very real potential of being hurt. It’s true that you very well may get hurt when you really open to love, but it’s also true that won’t ever have the relationship you’re craving if you don’t. So if your options are play small, have an okay relationship while protecting yourself; or loving someone deeply and trying to give them what they need while they may not appreciate it and hurt, I’m still going to try to love deeply and encourage you to do the same.
Anyone who works with me or another strategic intervention coach will be well acquainted with the 6 human needs that drive human behavior:
1. Certainty: assurance you can avoid pain and gain pleasure
2. Uncertainty/Variety: the need for the unknown, change, new stimuli
3. Significance: feeling unique, important, special or needed
4. Connection/Love: a strong feeling of closeness or union with someone or something
5. Growth: an expansion of capacity, capability or understanding
6. Contribution: a sense of service and focus on helping, giving to and supporting others
In a relationship, if you want your relationship to stick and be energizing for you and your partner, you need to look at how you are fulfilling each other’s human needs. Because if you’re not fulfilling your partner’s needs for certainty, uncertainty, significance, connection, growth, and contribution, they WILL fulfill them somewhere else and it will splinter your relationship. When the relationship isn’t coming up with healthy vehicles of fulfilling these needs, people tend to vanish and focus on their work, other relationships with friends and family, hobbies, etc.
If your relationship isn’t where you want it, do this right now: write down all the ways you are fulfilling your partner’s need for certainty. Then write down nice things you can add that you’re not doing currently. For certainty, think comforting rituals that are routine and dependable. Something as simple as making sure you kiss your partner every time you leave and every time you get home can make a world of difference in your partner’s sense of certainty.
Repeat this for every need until you have a list of what you are doing and what you are going to add to improve. Most importantly, these things you’re adding must be meaningful to your partner and NOT just to you.
These three tools, if you use them, will help you understand and improve your relationship almost immediately. Good luck at making your breakthrough in your relationship and please reach out if you need help with implementing any of the concepts.
Your life coach.
The Andrew Warner Podcast: