How Stable is Your Relationship?
Take your typical 4-legged wooden stool. It’s nice and stable…if it’s got all 4 legs. You can probably even manage with 3 solid ones. But fewer than 3 and there’s instability…you don’t want to sit on a 2-legged stool. Although I’ve heard that employees of nuclear power plants sometimes sit on 1-legged stools. It’s impossible to sleep on a 1-legged stool.
The 4 “Legs” of Your Relationship
And you probably won’t get much good sleep if your relationship is balancing on one leg, either. There are 4 “legs” to your relationship: attraction, respect, communication, and trust. Being physically attracted to your partner, and having a certain amount of chemistry is a “necessary, but not sufficient” factor for a good relationship. Attraction won’t guarantee a relationship…but it’s hard if not impossible to maintain a relationship without attraction.
If you’re not physically attracted to your partner, then do something about it. No, the answer is not to leave them…it’s to tell them: here’s why.
The Leg of Respect
So let’s say you’re not completely repelled by your partner…a very good thing…but not enough! You’ve got to be able to respect them and feel respected by them. Without this “leg”, you’re going to have feelings of resentment, or that you are” settling” for someone not good enough for you. To be able to show someone respect and feel respect coming toward you, you need the…
The Leg of Communication
You and your partner have to be able to communicate your real and authentic thoughts, feelings, needs, wants, and don’t-needs and don’t-wants to each other on an ongoing (yes, daily) basis. Without this “leg,” your relationship destabilizes. There is no way to know what’s going on with your partner, no way to resolve conflict and work toward compromises, no way to feel you truly know one another.
And you’ll never really be able to get that last leg…
The Leg of Trust
You have to know your partner well enough and long enough and have weathered just enough crises together to know that they are trustworthy, their words match their deeds, and they can be counted upon and relied on. You need to know they will share anything with you that matters to them, that is relevant to the relationship and its health, and that they are not withholding this information out of fear of your judgment or fear of your reaction.
An Unsteady Stool
No one wants to sit on a stool that you have to constantly adjust and try to sit on “just right” so it won’t topple over. And no one really enjoys being in a relationship where there is a lack of respect, communication, or trust. You might be able to stay in it, but it’s going to be unsteady and uncertain and require a lot of work. There’s no ability to relax, knowing you can take a load off and know there will be stability and security for you.
A Secure Relationship
With all the legs under you, you can do this. There aren’t stressors or strains on the relationship that cannot be managed if you and your partner approach it as a team, with mutual respect for each other, trusting that you will get through it together, and sharing with each other the whole time. That’s the opposite of lonely, confused, overwhelmed, and disconnected.
If one or more of your relationship “legs” is a little shaky or missing, take the time to work on it. And don’t be afraid to get it to the shop if necessary! 🙂
Dr. Anita Sanz, PhD, Psychologist
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