You cannot get enough of that person. Your conversations can go on and on, even if it’s about nothing in particular. You find yourselves even completing each others’ sentences.
That emotional high that comes from dopamine rush in the brain.
You are in Love!
However what really makes romantic relationships work? How do intimate relationships really serve us as human beings?
From my humble experiences and understanding, here are 3 reasons why people seek intimate relationships.
1) To Connect
This might sound obvious enough, but in truth it is not so easy. True connection takes real work.
Many couples have illusions that they have connected. They may say things like “We both share several common interests such as diving, golfing and even have similar tastes in music, so we must connect!” Some even fall into the trap of thinking that “since we’ve slept together, so we are connected.” I am not saying that these are not desirable, in fact, they might aid connection. What I am saying is that there’s a danger in thinking that way because common interests and physical intimacy by themselves do not signify there’s deep connection.
Most couples don’t engage in difficult conversations about deeper things that matter, such as their values, principles, attitudes towards money, family. Some might even use physical acts as a substitute for true intimacy.
Another common trap in relationship is what is known in psychological term as blending, or merging. When this happens, one or both parties in the relationship lose sight of their individuality, and “blend” into a single entity called “the relationship”. It’s no longer “you” and “me”, but “us”. This is a danger because one, or both parties have subordinated their individuality (right to love oneself, and to make conscious choices) in favor of seeking their identities through the idealized relationship. In this way, they are not really connecting with their partners, but merely “connecting” to the relationship to seek their sense of self-worth.
To really connect, first of all, recognize that you are two individuals relating to each other. Each individual brings his / her needs, wants, values, principles and attitudes. Secondly, be prepared to bring these topics out for discussion, and really listen without judging. Thirdly, be prepared to set boundaries, and maintain them. It may not sound like the most romantic thing to do, but setting boundaries protects both parties in the relationship, and help them understand each other’s needs. This sense of safety pave the way for true intimacy. Finally, be prepared to put your partner’s needs on your utmost consideration. That’s where true connection take place.
2) To Heal
Whenever I share this point, some people get defensive about it. Some of the common responses I get are,
“Heal? That sounds so negative! Isn’t intimate relationships about finding happiness?”
“You make it sound like we are all broken and we need to be fixed!”
When I say “heal”, I am not saying that we’re all some neurotic, depressed individuals looking for that one special person to be our salvation. Things don’t work that way!
What I mean by healing is that everyone of us have been hurt at some particular time in our lives. It could be in our childhood, youth or in adulthood. At that point of hurt, we may have been ill-equipped to deal with the emotion, and we’ve either developed a story to explain it, or developed a coping mechanism (likened to machineries) to deal with it. The problem is, as we’ve grown up, we’ve not updated our coping machineries because we’ve been conditioned to use them all the time.
Think about this for a moment – two people, each from different families with different upbringing and backgrounds, they each bring years of vastly contrasting experiences into the relationship. When they come together and relate in an intimate relationship, they bring their respective well-honed machineries into the relationship. They are not relating heart to heart, person to person, but machinery to machinery!
It is during these moments of conflicts that help individuals in the relationship better understand themselves and each other. It is during these moments of conflicts that couples hold up the mirror for each other to “see” themselves and their own dysfunctional ways of coping with uncomfortable situations. It is not until couples learn to accept their partners for their flaws that healing takes place. It’s the feeling that “I am loved, no matter what” that allows us to come to terms with our own flaws, heal our insecurities and grow.
I quote one of my favorite writers, Marianne Williamson here:
People don’t grow because they are nagged.
People don’t grow because they are criticized.
People don’t grow because they are made wrong.
People grow because they are LOVED.
3) To Grow
Whether we like it or not, life happens. From moment to moment, we cannot choose what happen to us, but we can either choose to grow or to stagnate, to contract in fear or to expand in love. Deep inside everyone of us is an innate desire to grow. That’s why we want to experience more, that’s why we travel, that’s why we meet new people.
A key purpose of an intimate relationship is to allow both parties to grow in it. This may sound obvious enough, but more often than not, it’s not the case.
In my coaching experiences, I’ve seen many examples of dysfunctional relationships where one or both parties in a relationship does not want the other person to grow because of their own insecurities. For example, a domineering man may not want his partner to grow and learn to make independent decisions for herself because he wants her to remain dependent on him, so that he can be in control of the relationship. Likewise, I’ve seen women getting into co-dependent relationships with excessively needy men because they want to feel needed. In these situations, the one thing in common is the vested interest (most often subconscious) that one party might have for his/her partner to remain small where they are instead of growing.
“If you are not growing, you’re dying”
~ Tony Robbins
The above 3 Reasons why we get into romantic relationships, even if we are not consciously aware of them, are conscious reminders for us that there’s work to be done to maintain relationships. They also remind us that if we can nourish ourselves and each other, heal in each others’ hearts, and support each others’ mutual growths, then the payoff is definitely work the hard work!
Open your heart… Connect… Heal… Grow…