Barbie and Ken know them. Lucy and Ricky knew them. Heathcliff and Clair Huxtable certainly put them into practice (watch The Cosby Show now and see how many hidden secrets you can find). Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip have mastered them.
And no, we’re not talking about THE “facts of life.” But, these are facts you do need to know in life! Even though you may have been dating for “umpteen” months or married for a few silver anniversaries, we all need relationship reminders. I think that hidden deep, deep down beneath the commercialism of Valentine’s Day is a message of taking time to celebrate those we love in our lives. But like I said, that’s deep, deep down there at this point!
Relationships are the stuff dreams are made of.
It’s hard to open any book that’s been printed (yes, even in the Bible) without seeing stories of love. Even crime shows on TV have love triangles between the police officers. And from the time we’re kids, we’re playing and acting out stories of love (I hope my brother won’t kill me for sharing that his Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles rescued Barbie and Ken from all kinds of evil forces that threatened their happy home-it’s not just a girl thing).
So if we all crave satisfying relationships, why are they so hard to create?
If you’re reading this post, then you obviously value love and relationships (otherwise, you wouldn’t waste your time or your click on this link). But deeper than that, you want to know how to improve your relationship and how to make it even better than it is.
Here are seven dirty little secrets the Huxtables and the Monarchy know that you may not know…
1. Even after years together, hearing “No” from your partner still stings. Remember how you used to rack your brain to find delicate ways to get your point across when you first met? Don’t forget that now. Not ever! Just like the early stages of a relationship, partners often hide the sting from us and we don’t realize it. That hidden sting can turn into an “emotional cancer” cell, that grows and spreads over time. One day, you may find your partner suddenly exploding at you out of nowhere. You may find a gap between you that’s grown to a fault line. You can still say, “No!” But just remember to share it with care.
2. “Connecting” means one thing to men and another to women. Both are essential. Generally speaking, men crave sex more and women crave talking more. It’s how the two sexes connect. When we as women need connection and reassurance, we want to talk about it. Then, we are more likely to feel the urge to do the deed. Men, on the other hand, need sex to feel that reassurance. It’s often easier for them talk afterwords because they feel reassured. Turning them down repeatedly leads to violating dirty little secret #1.
3. Getting engaged or married doesn’t automatically equal eternal security. While dating, we often worry they don’t really love us, they may be drawn to someone else, or a whole host of other things. “If only he’d propose, then I’d know he really cared about me.” Worry doesn’t end with “I do.” Once married, when we feel like we can take a sigh of relief and feel secure in our relationship, we still find things to worry about. Sadly, worry can become a “self-fulfilling prophecy.” The secret to getting rid of this worry is feeling confident in who you are. Confidence has often been reported as a top quality that men are attracted to in women.
4. Love’s roller coaster doesn’t end at the alter. Just because a bump in the road comes along, it doesn’t mean that you’re growing apart or that you’ve fallen out of love. Those bumps are “opportunities”- opportunities to connect or opportunities to pull apart and lose trust with each other. Just like babies act fussy when they are teething, relationships also have very predictable times of distress and growing pains. How you handle those bumps determines the future tone of the relationship. If you navigate through them, both of you will trust that you can navigate through those rough waters again.
5. Conflict and Confrontation are not bad “C” words. We often picture a confrontation scene with raised voices (or maybe even a smashed vase). “Confrontation” in healthy relationships is really a very common, very mild thing. Confrontation is really about bringing up a topic of concern. Something as simple as reaching over and putting your hand on their knee to help them pause and wind down is considered confrontation. With practice, confrontation becomes part of conversation, “Can you please try to (fill in the blank)?” See? Confrontation!
Like confrontation, conflict doesn’t mean you have a bad relationship. Just because I hear that a couple never disagrees, I don’t automatically think, “Gee, they have a great relationship.” Lack of conflict in a relationship can be a very bad thing. It often indicates that someone isn’t sharing. They’re holding back their feelings just to keep from having a situation. Research has shown that how you handle the conflict in a relationship is the key to a successful relationship.
6. Context gives understanding. It’s impossible to not communicate something. Even silence and ignoring send a message. But because we’re human, we often misinterpret just what that message is from our partner. Maybe we’re taking their silence as “not caring.” When in reality, it means they’re nervous or scared or need more information. When we have that extra information, instead of stomping off and muttering under our breath and feeling like we have to do everything, we now know they need a connecting conversation (See? It’s not always sex they need when we know what to look for). Knowing the context changes everything- how we view their needs, how we view the situation and how we handle what’s at hand.
7. Create your own rules. For some reason, there’s an imaginary progression. If you’re dating, people ask when you’re getting engaged. When you’re married, they ask when you’re having kids. We think that dating couples have more dates (and sex) than married couples. The reality is, the most successful couples have created their own expectations for what worked and what fit their relationship. Instead of following everyone else’s standards, they did what they needed. Barbie and Ken may be the only couple in the history of the world who’s had 1,752 marriage ceremonies and not a single divorce or separation! But yet, as kids, we didn’t question that. We played and did what we wanted! Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip are certainly not equals. She outranks him 10 ways to Sunday. But they’ve made it work because she’s been valiant at creating new rules where none have existed before.
So where do you want to start?
Pick one dirty little secret to put into action over the next week. Even if your significant other hasn’t read this post, you can still try one out and see what happens. You’ll find it hard to keep these secrets all to yourself! SHHH!