The 5 essential ingredients for a happy relationship, part 3
Updated: Mar 15
Well, here we are! In part 1, as the best Valentine’s Day gift ever, we talked about the importance of knowing what to focus on to make your relationship better and we introduced the 5 essential ingredients for a happy relationship. And we went in depth on the first ingredient, feeling safe. In part 2, we talked about the next two ingredients, respect and fun.
Now for the last two ingredients: easy intimate connection and affection. Let’s dive in.
Easy intimate connection
This is often the first thing people pick up on when they meet. “He was so easy to talk to!” It’s often the first thing to go when things turn sour. What is it?
It’s your ability to get very close very easily. Out of nowhere, you’re suddenly talking about things that really matter to you, you’re showing your real selves, and you’re doing this without feeling you’re walking through a briar patch or that you’re walking on egg shells. No games. No “can’t go there” places. No masks.
Now you see why we talked about feeling safe, respect, and fun first!
The thing is, it’s normal if you never really had this. Not fully. Most couples, for all their easy back-and-forth and sharing of deep secrets, are wearing masks at the beginning, and it’s hard to take those masks off. All too often when those masks come off, all hell breaks loose.
So how DO you get to this place of easy intimate connection?
You look at the very first moment when your talking about something gets hard. And you ask why. Why did things suddenly get tense or go haywire?
It’s almost always because someone said something that made the other person feel hurt, scared, or angry. And the secret of happy couples is that they push through these moments. They figure them out. “What just happened?”
“Things were going along well. Then I said X and then you suddenly seemed hurt and distant. What just happened?”
Or, “Things were going well. But when you said X, it made me mad. We need to talk about this.”
And you tease it out, all for the purpose of figuring what to do, or not do, next time.
This can be hell when you do it with anger and blame, with accusations and labels flying all over the place. And yet it’s surprisingly easy when you do it as problem solvers. “How did we get off track? What do we need to do to get back on track?”
Happy couples maintain their easy intimate connection by doing this every time they run into a glitch. In fact, doing this is how you deepen your intimate connection.
Yes, this is where sex comes in, as well as the whole physical part of your relationship, as well as verbal affection.
The thing is, they’re all part of the same package.
Generally. I knew one couple... They hated each other. They got divorced. But all through that process, in the midst of all the hatred they hurled at each other, there’d come a moment when their eyes would meet and their loins would heat up and pow!—they’d collapse in a heap of passionate sex. After which...back to loathing.
But this is a HUGE exception. For most couples, one or both people need to be feeling affection. The pot of affection has to be over at least a small flame all the time. How? Again, do-able.
You say nice things to each other. You touch each other in affectionate ways: ways the otherperson finds affectionate! You kiss and hug without it necessarily leading to sex. You make sure your teeth are brushed and you smell good overall.
And then you reach out to each other in a mirroring way. Gesture responding to gesture. Act responding to act. Being careful not to accelerate too far too fast. If two people are tired out after a long day, a hug and kiss may be just what they want, but anything that’s interpreted as pushing or grasping for sex can so easily spoil the good thing in the moment. If I move forward an inch, you move forward an inch. That’s all it takes to go the whole distance. But if you move forward an inch and I don’t, then that needs to be okay too.
Sex needs to finds its place within your world of stress and the search for safety.
In the end, it’s all about both of you making the happiness and wellbeing of each other just as important to you as your own.