You've lost yourself in someone. You've had your heart shattered. You've started over. You've learned how to draw boundaries and the experienced the consequences of not expressing yourself. You've been controlled, unheard, and cheated on. You've felt confused, lost, hopelessness, and done.
But love is love is love and we can not live without it. We were meant to love and be loved. It's what makes us feel whole. It brings life into our life. Love is air. Without it, we start to suffocate.
So you started looking inward. Asked yourself some tough questions. Started reading self-betterment books. Attending workshops and meetings. You started doing what we call "inner work" in my world. And you learned that healthy and sustaining relationships are built. They don't just happen naturally. What happens naturally is codependence, dysfunction, enmeshment, and toxic dynamics that stem from your past - wiring from how you were raised and the unhealthy love experiences you've had.
Now, armed with more tools, a healthier better version of yourself, you venture out again. A new you. Wiser. With new definitions. And you have some better love experiences. Break some patterns. Finally, you're able to draw some hard lines. But then find yourself falling into similar situations which leads to more heartbreak. But it wasn't like the first time. You were closer this time. You felt something different. You know it's possible. You can build healthy love.
You're not just curious anymore. You are willing to do the work. You've realized that curiosity won't change your life. You're done with all the bullshit and want to build something that actually has legs. You know relationships take work and you're willing to do it. To take some ownership. You now understand that working on yourself is a responsibility, not a gift to the other person. You believe you can build something healthy and sustainable. No love is perfect. But you can experience a new love, one that won't destroy your life.
Don't protect your heart.
Protect your relationship.
Create a safe space (relationship soil)
Healthy relationships can only be built in safe spaces. Period. If the space is not safe, you are building on sand. How do you build a safe space?
Your conscious choice to be highly aware of your thoughts and actions and how they affect others. Not just once. As a practice. So you're not just verbally or emotionally vomiting on people. Most of us are walking reactions in our relationships. Self-awareness means being metacognitive, thinking about your thinking. Understanding why you feel the way you do and where it's coming from. And finally, taking ownership by processing your own shit and not putting it on others. You are responsible for you and your story. Your partner is responsible for him and his story.
A safe space is created by expressing how you feel. If not, you have two people doing life around each other. Not with. Many leave their partner in the dark. Because they are afraid it's going to hurt the relationship or there will be consequences if they express their feelings. And / or they are not used to expressing their feelings. It's a muscle they never exercised. They didn't grow up in an environment where expressing yourself was encouraged or accepted. Communication is everything. Not just for your partner. But especially for you. By expressing yourself, you are telling yourself that you matter. You have value. You exist. It builds trust and closeness, not just with the relationship but with yourself.
So many of us bring our past into our relationships. Usually without even knowing it. We bring in our old definitions, how someone should love us, our triggers, our fears, and residue from our previous love experiences. This means we come in loaded, at an angle, with expectations and judgment.
It is impossible to come into something with a blank canvas. We all have a story and can't undo our love imprints. But if we want to create a safe space, we have to take a self-inventory. We have to know what we want to keep because it lines up with our truth and who we are and what we want to toss because it's not healthy nor who we want to be. Loving without your past means to sort that out and leave what no longer serves you.
If you don't fight in a healthy way, your partner won't trust you. She won't feel safe to express herself and opinions. This doesn't create a safe space. Remember, it's not about how many times we fight. It's about how we fight. We can fight everyday. Disagreements can actually bring people closer, as long as they are done in a healthy and loving way. You must fight fair. You must fight with an open heart. You must try to understand before trying to be understood.
Every relationship has fights. There will be arguments. There will be conflicts. That is unavoidable. So if you don't fight in a healthy way, it's just a matter of time before what you've built starts to crumble. You can be in the hottest, dreamiest, haven't felt this way since high school relationship you've ever had. But if you guys can't fight healthy, in a loving way with compassion where both people feel heard, understood, and loved, your relationship will not be protected.
I get it. We all have egos. We want to be right. Mostly because it's tied to our worth and value. But if two people are always trying to be right, you're not in a relationship. You're in a tug of war. You're not going to agree with your partner on everything. That would be weird. But always trying to prove that you're right is poison for a relationship. Your relationship should be the one place in this world where you don't have to prove everything. Do you want your relationship to be a courtroom or your safe tree?
This doesn't mean you have to bite your tongue or don't express your views and opinions. It just means you're not just trying to be right all the time for the sake of being right. Because for most, it's not about whatever they're disagreeing about. There is something underneath that is driving the unwillingness to back down.
Instead of always having to be right, always be curious. Curious creates safety. Safety creates armor.
Simply put, this means be present. We drift often. We think about work, bills, todo lists, food, food, food, yesterday, tomorrow. And the longer we're with someone, the more things become routine and the more we live in our heads. If you want to build a relationship, you actually have to be there. The more you drift, you more you will both drift. Until it's too late and people start wondering what it's like to be with someone else. Being engaged and present keeps the relationship close.
But being present isn't a light switch. You don't just turn it on and it's done. Being present requires a practice. This means something you work on and do daily. Life causes us to drift constantly. Be present by practicing mindfulness every single day. Take in your partner using all your senses and seeing her like it's the first time. Notice things you haven't before. It's in the crevices where you fall in love. Again and again. Notice the small things. Because the small things become big things when you're in a relationship.
It's easy to take each other for granted. It's easy to see everything someone is not. We are wired to find what's wrong and lacking. That comes naturally to us. It requires effort to notice the positives, how far someone has come, remember what you've been through and built. It's hard to accept someone, especially if they are a place in their life where they're not the best version of themselves. It's easy to forget why you choose to love this person in the first place. To practice gratitude means to remember. And if she has changed so much, you can't. Then practicing gratitude means to discover.
A safe space means to give each other space. Many times in relationships, we grab. We think love means ownership. When we grab the relationship, the relationship is not safe. To create safety, you have to love with your palms open. You have to love without attachment. You have to allow people to be them and you be you.
To protect your relationship, there needs to be two lives. Not two lives coming together to form one life. When those boundaries are blurred, your relationship is vulnerable. Not in a good way. No boundaries means no protection. Remember, you're doing life with someone. Not for someone.
You need your own life if you want to love someone in a healthy way. You need your own friends. Your own hobbies. Your own routine. Your own opinions. Without all these, you'll start to lose your own sense of self. This will make the dynamic of the relationship change. Chemistry will fade. People will drift. The love will change.
None of what you just read is the work.
It's just information.
Work means action. Work means homework. If you want to do the work, I have a nine hour audio course called Bulletproof Your Relationship.
Listen to a free lesson to see if it's for you.
If you want to be a life coach, check out our life coach training program, The Catalyst Coaching Intensive.