The first installment of this series talked about understanding and communicating what your needs are in a relationship. This second part deals with trust and flexibility in your relationship.
Are you willing to make the changes I need? Am I willing to make the changes you need?
This question comes from the pre-marital checklist from Integrated Therapeutic Solutions. A relationship requires an ability to change. Relationship expert John Gottman writes in his book, What Makes Love Last, that the foundation of relationships is trust. People in a strong, mutually loving, and mutually satisfying relationship need to trust one another and be trustworthy with each other.
Gottman writes that you can be trustworthy by expressing a willingness to discuss and enact change with your partner. Doing so allows the relationship to grow. Doing so also allows each partner the safety to grow as well. Not doing so can result in a perceived betrayal of trust.
Betrayal is the opposite of trust. Gottman writes that betrayals don’t have to be the tabloid headline types of betrayals but can be small, like saying you will pick up your socks and then not do it. These betrayals can be repaired by accepting responsibility and amending with your partner. Your commitment and follow through in the future demonstrates to your partner your ability to be trustworthy.
Being able to trust and to be trustworthy requires flexible boundaries. Flexible boundaries provide space for the needs of each partner. Each partner has a responsibility to respect his or her own needs as well as his or her partner’s needs. A committed relationship is a constant act of balancing the needs of both partners.
How do I make the changes I need? How do I make the changes my partner needs?
As a partner, you have to actively and regularly listen. Try to understand what your partner is asking for and figure out how to make appropriate changes. Sometimes what your partner says is hard to figure out. Be kind, loving, and patient with your partner and yourself. Get extra support.
It is important to know that we all change at different times in our lives. You might not be ready or even know how to make changes in your life. Discuss doubts, fears, and concerns. It is okay not to know what to do. It takes faith in yourself and faith in your partner to make the leaps.
In his book, The Art of Loving, Eric Fromm writes: “Love of others and love of ourselves are not alternatives. On the contrary, an attitude of love towards themselves will be found in all those who are capable of loving others.” Here is a film interview Fromm did with Mike Wallace in 1958 courtesy of the University of Texas Harry Ransom Center.
Needs aren’t always recognized or met immediately. Everyone has a limit for change at any given time. Remember that expectations you have in your relationships need to be realistic and jointly agreed upon.
Change, growth, mistakes, betrayals, and grief are parts of relationships. Dealing with and repairing these parts of relationships is hard work. But your relationship is definitely worth it.