If you want a plant to grow, you have to water it. You have to tend to it, nourish the soil, give it the right amount of sunlight, protect it from the harsh winds, and give it love and energy every single day. Otherwise it will die. This principle applies to your relationships too. The more love, time and energy you invest in them, and the more consistent your efforts are, the more your relationships will grow.
Phil and I are coming up to almost eight years of relationship and we have learnt so much about in the process - about ourselves, about each other and about what it means to be human AF. Relationships require us to wear our hearts on our sleeve, they require openness and vulnerability, and they require us to be open to working on ourselves. One question I get asked a lot is the following:
Do you think it’s possible to work on ourselves as individuals while we are involved in an intimate relationship?
The reason we get asked this question is because I was in the absolute depths of my eating disorder when we met. Like, rock bottom city. The poor guy had no idea what he was getting himself into, and let me tell you, I made him go through A LOT.
The inherent problem with this question is that it suggests being in a relationship doesn’t allow us to focus on ourselves and our own needs. It’s as if we think a partner will take over our life and stunt our self-growth. This can obviously be the case in a toxic relationship, but in a healthy relationship this absolutely isn’t the case. In fact, being in a relationship provides the opportunity for us to learn heaps about ourselves. If we allow it to. Which brings me to my first point…
A relationship can be ultimate self-development tool
That is, if you let it be. Your partner is your mirror, the person who has the power to show you everything that is holding you back. The person who brings you to your own attention so you can change your life. This person will tear down your walls, embarrass your ego, break your heart open and smack you wide awake.
Having Phil by my side during my eating disorder, there was never a place to hide from my emotions. He forced me to confront feelings head on, and more often than not they hit me with a severity like nothing else. I wasn’t used to someone poking and probing, and albeit it hurt and bruised my ego, it was cathartic and I learnt things about myself that would have otherwise remained buried in my subconscious. Phil taught me to honour my feelings, no matter how much it would hurt.
In your romantic relationship, or any relationship for that matter, ask yourself if that person is being a mirror for you. Are they bringing out the best in you, or are they allowing you to sit in your mediocrity and hide away behind a wall?
Everyone knows that communication is key in a relationship. But do we actually know how to do this? I’m the first to admit that I used to be horrible at communicating what I truly wanted and needed from our relationship. It can be scary, raw and make you feel incredibly vulnerable.
But it truly is the keystone practice of any relationship. When you communicate regularly and deeply about what is on your mind, things don’t build up but instead get addressed before it gets the chance to develop into something more serious.
Which is why, a couple of months ago, Phil and I developed something called our “weekend check in”. This check in is in our calendar for Sunday’s 6pm, and ever since we integrated it, we have barely ever missed a sesh. The idea is to create a dedicated space for us to openly share how our week has been and what is on our mind. Most of the time, we go for a walk and each of us get about 20 minutes to work our way through a list of categories: health and fitness, relationship, mindset, finances and one new thing we’ve learnt that week. This may sound contrived and rigid, but the whole thing actually flows quite naturally and the categories are simply there as suggested touch points.
Most people don’t listen with the intend to understand, most people listen with the intend to reply. This check in however creates a sacred space where we are simply there to listen to the other person, and I think that’s a beautiful thing.
In your romantic relationship, don’t just ask “How are you?” but have regular check in’s where you ask “How are we doing?” Or create a weekly check in like the one suggested with your loved one and watch as this new ritual brings you closer together.
Nothing good comes from closing down
This one is straight out of Melissa Ambrosini’s text books. I first heard Mel talk about this in her book Open Wide and later on tour with her husband Nick Broadhurst. The concept resonated with me so deeply, and it’s been pivotal to how Phil and I deal with any conflict.
During some of our most trialing times, I would completely shut Phil out and not let him in on what was going on. He’d try but I’d push back, get mad, angry, cry, demand for him to leave me alone. Sometimes days would go by like this. He’d walk on egg shells around me, too nervous to further upset me and trying to respect the fact that I needed my space. Some nights I went to bed completely ignoring him and not even saying good night. And bear in mind, this wasn’t because we were fighting and I was upset with him, but simply because I was dealing with my own inner daemons and thought it to be easier to close down than to be vulnerable.
God, how wrong I was. Nothing good comes from closing down, literally n.o.t.h.i.n.g. It only prolongs the pain and suffering, adds confusion and fosters resentment. I also never really comprehended how horrible it was for Phil to watch me self-inflict so much pain, and demand of him to leave me in my misery. It took us a while, but I now allow Phil to break me wide open when I’m in negative headspace, and vice versa. It’s not always easy, but we’ve learnt that it’s the only way forward.
If you notice yourself shutting down when feelings get too intense, ask yourself what past experience and/or limiting belief could be contributing to this, if and how shutting down is serving you and how else you could perhaps approach the situation?
It’s OK to be attracted to other people
Not only are we capable of finding multiple people attractive at the same time, but it’s a biological impossible not to. Even when we are in a committed and loving relationship, it is completely human and normal to still be attracted to other people. Unfortunately, the general consensus is that if we experience any such feelings, that there must be something fundamentally wrong in our relationship. This can trigger a lot of guilt in some people and cause unwarranted jealousy in others.
I’d like to argue that it is in fact healthy to allow ourselves to feel those feelings and then let them go. Rather than feeling shame around it and suppressing a thought, acknowledge it and bask in the positive energy. People who suppress these urges are the ones who are likely going to project them onto their partners and become unnecessarily jealous in the long run. This obviously does not mean that you act on it or should lead the other person on, but I do believe that you can experience sexual attraction and still honour healthy boundaries while you are in a relationship. I also think it’s sad when a person immediately shuts down conversations with the opposite sex (or same sex or both sex, whatever your jam is) because it could be considered inappropriate; what missed opportunities to meet some really great people!
I had an incredible experience last year that I would like to share: I met a random guy at a party, and we ended up having a really beautiful conversation. No boring small talk, straight into the deep juicy stuff. He was an attractive guy, but even more so I was attracted to his character and the way he carried himself. Phil eventually came up in the conversation, but it was only after another 30 minutes or so of us talking that he said he was a bit disappointed to find out I had a boyfriend.
It was at this point that I remembered a chapter out of “The Way of The Superior Man” by David Deida, which turns out we both had read. In this chapter, David talks about this idea of how feeling attraction for people outside our relationship is healthy and should be embraced. I told the guy about this particular chapter and how it was really fitting for our conversation. He agreed, we basked in the mutual attraction for another couple seconds and then parted ways.
Had I been someone filled with guilt for even allowing myself to have such a deeply personal conversation with a strange man, or if Phil were a really jealous guy, this great encounter might never have happened. But luckily it did, because it really enriched my evening and simultaneously served as a reminder why, out of all the fish in the sea, I choose to be with my boyfriend.
Ask yourself if suppressing your sexual attraction to others is helping or potentially harming your relationship? Is the concept mentioned above something that you can consider bringing into your relationship?
Learning about the interplay of masculine and feminine energy helps mutual understanding
The concept of masculine and feminine energy is something I’ve read and researched about a lot in the last three years and I’m obsessed with it. It resonates very deeply with me and I find that immersing ourselves in the concepts has helped Phil and myself understand the dynamics of our relationship a lot better.
We are all born male and female, but we are not born masculine or feminine - we all have both energies within us. There are men with more of a masculine energy and women with more of a feminine energy. But there are also men with a strong feminine energy and women with a strong masculine energy. It has absolutely nothing to do with gender.
The masculine energy is firm, yang, strong, sturdy, driven and determined. It is focused and goal-oriented. Let’s get sh*%t done kinda vibe. It wants to solve problems and move on to the next thing. In contrast, the feminine energy is fluid, yin, flexible, flows with the wind and fuelled by love. It wants to be free, to flow, to create and to nurture. It doesn’t want to analyse the problem, but rather sit in the feeling of it listen to the divine wisdom of intuition.
Have you ever noticed that the masculine and feminine don’t quite communicate on the same wavelength? The masculine energy is going down a straight line from point A to B to C, one thing at a time, in a slow and calm manner. Feminine energy goes from A to D to B to F back to A. It can do 20 things at once while it swirls and curves and changes its mind in random spurts of emotions.
This difference is precisely the reason why it’s so important to understand the energy that you and your partner are putting out in a relationship. It will help you elegantly dance between the masculine and feminine when needed and communicate on a deeper level. Once you understand the energy you’re putting out, you can better understand the energy your partner is receiving and giving in return. The point is to note when you are in your masculine and when you are in your feminine, and when what energy is needed.
For example, when I come home from work in a masculine energy mode, but have a romantic dinner date with Phil, I know I want to drop into my feminine space beforehand – by going for an ocean swim, being in nature, getting out of activewear and into a dress or simply a cleansing shower experience. Sometimes I need Phil to step more into his masculine energy by communicating more firmly and telling me straight up what he wants. Other times I crave for him to be softer and rather than trying to ‘fix me’ to just sit there and listen. Either way, we tell each other what we need in that moment because we have the self awareness and mutual understanding of the intricate interplay between masculine and feminine. Being able to put these needs into words through this terminology has really allowed us to grow together.
Could it be that some of the conflict in your relationship is due to an imbalance of masculine and feminine energy? Are you currently more in a masculine or feminine state, and what do you think your partner most needs of you right now?
I could keep writing but I feel like this blog post would get too long and too heavy otherwise. For the time being I’d like to leave you with some of my favourite books and podcasts that have helped me to understand myself in regards to our relationship better. I hope they will serve you too.
The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman
The Way Of The Superior Man by David Deida (Mind. BLOWN.)
Dear Lover by David Deida
Open Wide by Melissa Ambrosini
Mating in Captivity by Esther Perel and her concept of “erotic intelligence”
The Queen’s Code by Alison Armstrong
The Power of Erotic Intelligence with Esther Perel - School Of Greatness with Lewis Howes
Where Should We Begin with Esther Perel
Balance Your Masculine and Feminine Energy with Melissa Ambrosini
Hope you enjoy! WSS, ⋒☽