I have been writing about toxic relationships. These are relationships where you are negatively affected physically, emotionally and spiritually because of the cruel, self-absorbed, neglectful or dependent behavior of an intimate partner. Stagnant relationships can also affect us in negative ways by leaving us bored, frustrated and less emotionally alive. So what do these 2 kinds of relationships have in common with good relationships? In all three, there is room for improvement.
It is easy to see how the first two kinds of relationships can improve. Maybe the partner who is “toxic” can grow up and become more kind and sensitive, more interested in the partner’s welfare, more engaged and more independent, (maybe with the help of a skilled therapist). The stagnant partners (maybe with the help of a skilled marriage therapist) could learn how to leave their comfort zones and create the passion and excitement they once had (or even more). Now here is the most important sentence of the article. Good relationships can always get better. Think of relationships as any other arena where you need to develop some skills and some aspects of yourself. Professional athletes who are on the top of the game still practice, do drills and learn from coaches. Doctors, psychotherapists and other healthcare practitioners, many of whom have many initials after their name go to conferences to learn more. Personally I recently went to the first of several three-day trainings to learn EMDR, an effective approach to treat trauma. I can always become more effective to help clients towards positive change and eliminate blocks.
Relationships are no different. You and I can always learn how to create more aliveness, more passion and better communication. You and I can always learn how to be more interesting, sensitive and adventurous lovers. I cannot tell you how many formerly toxic and stagnant couples that I have helped to have good relationships stopped the therapy prematurely. The idea they lived by was- being out of crisis is as good as it gets. But being out of crisis and having a good relationship is the best position to launch into an even better relationship. Don’t stay too comfortable for too long. Keep on risking, keep on learning, keep on making sure the relationship is fresh and that you are interpersonally creative. And most of all- keep increasing your capacity to give and receive love to and from your partner! Your relationship can continue to get deeper and more satisfying even through the inevitable ups and downs of life and intimacy.