|PHOTO BY STEVEN UNDERHILL
By Dr. Illana Berger
â€śHow do I love thee, let me count the waysâ€ť
â€“Elizabeth Barrett Browning
I remember the first time my partner and I kissed. It is emblazoned in my mind because it was the first time I ever kissed a woman. I had never dated a woman before either. There was a spark that had been ignited between us that I did not fully understand and didnâ€™t try to. She asked if we could try dating each other and see what would happen.
That first date, when she leaned in for that fateful kiss, I remember thinking, â€śOMG, she is going to kiss me! I am going to be kissed by a woman!â€ť For her it was like kissing a toad. My lips were like solid stones. My eyes were wide and full and I had stopped breathing. For me, all my cultural mores flooded my mind and I had no idea what to do. She asked me if I would rather not do this, to which I replied, â€śNo, no. Give it another try.â€ť The rest is history. Eleven years later (almost to the day), we are still growing and discovering the gems and gifts that are inherent in a loving committed relationship.
Love often happens when we least expect it and usually when we are not looking for it. The same can be said for epiphanies and awakenings.
We fall into them. An opening appears in our regular routine, and then what follows doesnâ€™t seem to fit into our regular life. We donâ€™t fit in our regular life either. That opening changes your entire frame of reference. It changes the biochemistry in your body and the energetic frequency of life and then anything might happen and often does.
Valentineâ€™s Day is a day set apart by custom for celebrating romantic love. When you meet someone you are attracted to, your pheromones are activated and you become magnetized by the other. It is as if the universe conspires to bring you together. The magic of that attraction is nothing short of miraculous. Once the attraction has been made, the mystery of the relationship begins to reveal itself.
From that moment of connection, the opportunities for growth and transformation are put into place. Some of you reading this have been in a relationship for a long time; some of you may have just met someone you are interested in; some of you are probably looking for that special someone, and some of you are ending a relationship or marriage. What most of you might have noticed is that there are recurring themes that show up for you in the relationships you have or have had. What you may not realize is that whatever shows up in your most intimate relationship is all about you and entirely for you. Your most intimate relationship is a mirror reflection of you. Whether you find yourself struggling with control issues, abandonment issues, anger issues or fear â€“ each of these are taking place within you and therefore, they are just for you.
Successful relationships require a lot of skill and work. Love by itself is never enough. I often tell clients that the reason they are together is to heal each other. You canâ€™t heal these parts of yourself alone. You require an intimate in order to see where the obstacles and challenges exist within you.
To succeed in relationship you must face old fears and develop new skills. The relationship you have or the one that has just ended provides you with every opportunity to grow, heal and deepen your love for your self and your partner like no other experience.
There is a paradox to relationship. It is essential for partners to accept and enjoy each other with no demand or requirement for them to change. You will discover, however, that you cannot meet your partnerâ€™s deepest needs without growing and changing yourself. Part of that growth and change is a deep embodied realization that you actually must grow enough to meet your own needs!
In most relationships, we tend to focus on whatâ€™s wrong or lacking based on what we donâ€™t have or donâ€™t want, and we often focus on whatâ€™s wrong with our partner. The opportunity, though, that is always available to you is to focus on the positive in each other. When you focus on the positive, your connection with each other deepens, as does your pleasure. The important thing to know and remember is that in a healthy relationship there must be more positive and loving elements than difficult and negative ones in order for the relationship to thrive. Many say there must be a 5-1 ratio: 5 positive interactions for every negative one. Learning to stop conflict in your relationship always begins with stopping it in your self first. It is essential to remember that without cultivating positivity in your relationship, it is very difficult to be intimate and if it is difficult to be intimate it is even more difficult to be sexual or physically close. Emotional intimacy is pivotal for sexual intimacy.
The heart of emotional intimacy is in getting to know each other.
Here is a short quiz to take either with your partner or alone to see how well you know the person you are in relationship with, the one you are ending or the one you are dating.
One of the most important features of successful couple relationships is the quality of the friendship. Do you know your partnerâ€™s inner world? Take the Dr. Gottman quiz below and find out.
Dr. Illana Berger is the founder of Mindful Partnership ~ Mindful DivorceÂ® and is an expert in the field of relationship, separation, divorce and individual transformation. In private practice in Oakland and San Francisco since 2002, she offers workshops, retreats and private sessions for individuals and couples. Please visit www.mindfulpartnership.com.