13. “The connection-protection balance” is a big obstacle in relationships.
People in relationships waver between wanting to connect with their partner and wanting to preserve their identity and protect themselves. As Solley said: “We want to merge together and feel the bliss of unbounded connection, warmth and security, but on the other hand we want to be independent, to make our own choices, have our own ideas, explore and avoid being hurt.”
Here’s a simple example: You say to your partner, “You’re driving too fast.” They respond with, “No I’m not.” Here, you’re being protective of your physical safety and they’re being protective of their skills and against your criticism. “Both are leaning on self-protection at the expense of connection.” The better alternative? Discuss your feelings (e.g., “I get scared when the car is moving this fast” and “I’m hurt that you don’t trust my driving.”); or empathize (e.g., “I know you’re confident in your driving but I need to feel safer,” and “Is my driving making you nervous?”).
14. “Your passion in your life should not be your relationship. [It should be] one of many different passions,” Batshaw said.
For instance, “very successful couples have high job satisfaction,” he said. “They get a lot of nutritive, sustaining and emotional self-esteem outside of their relationship from their work.” Partners also have their own hobbies and time to be with friends.
15. Relationships require “continuous work and maintenance,” Morrison said.
In our culture, couples aren’t taught how to maintain healthy relationships, Blum said. Instead, we think that love just fuels the relationship and it’ll somehow work out. Morrison agreed: There’s “this unrealistic view of relationships that once you say ‘I Do,’ you’re riding into the sunset.”
But relationships require “a lot of skill, attention and energy,” Blum said. Which is surprising to people, even though, for instance, everyone knows that continuous physical activity is key to good health. But we don’t “have the same mindset about a relationship.” In fact, you may need to work harder over time as your relationship experiences changes like kids, health problems and new careers, Morrison said.
Experts also underscored the importance of being compatible and participating in new experiences together.