You gotta take the bad with the good.
What is it that really strengthens relationships?
Consistent (mutual) effort? Of course.
Talking about the hard shit and revealing the secrets that you’ve never told anyone else before? Absolutely.
I think this is a big problem with relationships these days — we’re not willing to be vulnerable enough.
We’re so caught up in image, appearance, and how we’re projecting ourselves that we refuse to come across as anything less than perfect.
But, we’re not perfect. I’m not perfect, and neither are you.
Sorry to burst your bubble.
That’s a good thing, though, because “perfection” (albeit nonexistent) doesn’t allow space for personality. Your flaws and insecurities are often the very things that make you unique. They’re what make you you.
To build a real, strong, lasting foundation with someone, they need to know, love, and accept all pieces of you. That means you need to have some difficult conversations to show them what that really means:
1: Past hurt or trauma.
All of us have a past, some of which are prettier than others. The older we get, the more of life has accumulated behind us. Starting a relationship with someone new is a journey of learning about what that history has looked like for them, and how it has shaped them into the person they are today.
Their past hurt and/or trauma changes the way they see the world. It shapes their expectations of their relationships and dictates how easily (or not) they open up to you.
It can be a benefit or a challenge, depending on how it has been addressed and processed.
I’m not just talking about heartbreak, abuse, betrayal, or other serious emotional or physical struggles — it could be something like fear of rejection or abandonment. It could be a memory from their childhood that they’ve held on to. It could be an expectation they’ve carried from their parents or family…
Regardless of what someone’s past has brought them through, it is our responsibility as a good partner in a relationship to understand and accept it.
It helps us understand who it is that we’re with, why they do the things they do, and how we can best love them.
It may be difficult to divulge these secrets to someone, but that’s why trust is so important in a relationship.
If we cannot discuss our pasts with the person we’re with in the present, we’ve got much less hope for a future together.
2: Sexual desires.
Let’s be adults about this: Sexual connection in a relationship is a vital part of overall happiness.
And, each of us have our own little “quirks” or things that we like (or dislike) in the bedroom. Or…whatever room you choose.
This can be a difficult conversation because it requires us to reveal our most intimate desires to someone without knowing how they’re going to react.
Will they think we’re weird? Judge us? Break up with us?
Or, maybe they’ll embrace, love, and accept what we like. Hell, maybe they’ll also like it, too.
And even if they don’t like it, maybe they’ll roll with it because they like you.
If we keep these desires suppressed, though, we’ll never be able to fully connect physically with our partner. We’ll always feel like there’s something missing and it can begin to form a wall between you.
ALL sexual activity in ANY relationship must be 100% consensual, so talking about a quirk or desire is important before just diving into it with someone.
Real intimacy is 70% emotional and 30% physical, but even though the emotional is so much more important, it cannot stand on its own without a healthy and happy physical aspect, as well.
3: Visions for the future.
If you’re serious about building a future with someone, you need to make sure you’re moving in the same direction.
I believe that a lot of people end up too far into the wrong relationship because they weren’t fully honest about what they were looking for in the long run.
Either that, or they didn’t even know in the first place.
They just sort of…went with it.
It’s easy to do if someone is interested in you, likes you, or pursues you. It feels good to be wanted and we gravitate towards that.
But, unless you’re just having a casual fling with someone, it’s important to make sure that you both want similar things down the line.
Do you want to live in a city environment? Country? By the water?
Do you want any kids? Do you want 12 kids?
Do you want to spend your life traveling the world or are you perfectly content staying in your hometown forever?
If you have irreconcilable differences in these (or any other) arena, finding a common ground is very difficult.
It takes a level of maturity and openness to have a conversation that you know might not go well, but avoiding it does nothing but push it down the line — and finding out you’re incompatible after a year is a lot harder than finding out after a month.
Capitalized because we’re not talking about wants, we’re talking about needs.
What is it that you need from your partner in a relationship?
Affection? Reassurance? Communication? Support? Respect?
Perhaps you’ve struggled with confidence issues in the past and feel insecure or distant if you’re not receiving reassurance from your partner…that’s okay…it just needs to be communicated to them so they know how to express their love to you.
Perhaps you need to feel safe with someone but your current partner’s inconsistencies are making it difficult to trust them — that is a need that must be discussed if the relationship will continue.
Some people don’t like talking about their needs because they don’t want to seem…well…needy. But we all have needs, and when they don’t get met in a relationship, things go south.
Having needs isn’t selfish, it’s human. It’s normal. And, it’s mutual. Your partner has them just like you do, they just might not be the same ones.
A mutual effort to understand each other’s needs, and work to fill them, though, is paramount to the success if your relationship.
5: Responsibilities and finances.
You want to build a real life future with this person, yes? That means having real life conversations about adult topics like life responsibilities, and money.
This will likely happen further down the road — not during the beginning, fun, romantic stages of dating.
But, eventually, when conversations happen about moving in together, having kids, getting married (IF you want to do any/all of those things), then everything becomes much more real and it’s helpful to know where each other stands so you can join forces to build a life together.
Furthermore, how do things look around the house? Who cooks? Who cleans? Who picks up the kids? How do you divide responsibilities and chores? How do you split the utilities, rent, or mortgage?
If you can both approach these conversations maturely and pragmatically, it’ll help you solidify a foundation that you can both stand strongly on, and build from, together.
Openness and honesty is how teammates build trust with each other, and at the end of the day, the team wins the game.
Joseph A. Cornacchia