D’Bunked: How to be good at relationships


Author: Todd Baratz

Let’s look at some things partners can do to maintain a happy and fulfilled relationship.

We can’t expect our partner’s to know us if we don’t know ourselves and if we can’t share who we are. When we develop self-awareness we can take responsibility for own happiness and the role we play in our relational dynamics.  Without this, we are left with blame, impulsivity, and perpetual conflict. When we are self-ware we know our boundaries, wounds, trigger points and can better collaborate and negotiate the terms of our relationships. When we show up as ourselves, open, aware, and vulnerable the chance of creating satisfaction are great.

Be curious and actively seek out an ongoing process of discovery, get to know what makes your partner tick. This includes their history; from the contours of their internal world to their biggest fears and the major life events that define their history. The more you know and understand about your partner the stronger the connection.  

Verbal and nonverbal communication are the tools that create love and connection. This is how we feel seen, respected, and build intimacy. A touch, caress, or a hug can be the difference between crisis and calm. If you can’t communicate your needs, boundaries, hopes, fears, and fantasies you will not experience what it is you seek period. It is our actions and words that allow for our relationships to evolve and grow. 

Lose the expectations
We should all have baseline expectations of kindness, respect, compassion and consideration. But all others around how we believe our partner’s should or always treat us are likely hurting your ability to cope with and accept your partner’s limitations. Modern love puts too much pressure on relationships. Develop the ability to understand a need versus a desire. We don’t need our partner’s to always provide validation but we do need our partner’s to treat us with respect. The less rigid your expectations are the less likely you are to develop resentments and disappointments. Our partner’s are not here to serve us. The sooner you’re able to soften the long list of expectations you have the sooner you will feel connected and safe. 

Be open and flexible
Change is inevitable. If you’re not able to approach change with openness and flexibility you will be setting you and your partner’s up for major disappointments. In order for a connections to grow and evolve over time couples have to be skilled at coping with whatever life challenges and differences arise. Whether job loss, pandemics, or family dysfunction stressors create barriers to change. And difference quite literally defines a relationship – if we aren’t able to be flexible and open to honouring those differences the relationship simply will not last.

We get into relationships for fun and satisfaction. You don’t have to be a stand-up comedian but being able to laugh together is so important – especially laughing at your own shit – because every individual and couple has a ton of shit! Humor reduces stress, resolves conflict, and creates pleasure. 

Sexually aware 
If you’re in a sexual relationship, your sexual connection is a huge part of the intimacy that defines your relationship. Sex is a tool for repair, expression of love, and more connective experiences. If you’re sexually aware you are able to show up for partnered sex in a respectful and fun way that allows for discovery and shared pleasure. In order to foster this, work through shame, masturbate, know your turn ons/offs, and explore eroticism together. 

Cropped shot of mature male couple with arms around each other at coast

Things get boring fast if you aren’t creative. Creativity spans all of the characteristics and experiences listed in this post. If we aren’t creative we cannot explore and discover our connection with ourselves, our partner’s, or erotic selves, and are ability to laugh. We must be able to create shared experiences that feel fun and evolving. Put your thinking cap on and develop ways of surprising yourself and your partner. Change it up! Always. 

Keep in mind you definitely don’t have to be an expert relationshipper in order to get into a relationship. You don’t have to be 100% self-aware or healed. The only thing you need is the commitment and motivation to engage, relate, self-reflect, and grow. That is it. 

Don’t put too much pressure on yourselves or your partner’s to enact these experiences perfectly. Relationships are evolving and growing. Part of that growth is challenge. Embrace the challenges as opportunities. Not red flags.

Todd Baratz is a licensed personal and couples psychotherapist, podcast host, and writer who specializes in relationships and sex.

D’bunked strips down the myths surrounding gay sex, intimacy, relationships and love and is brought to you by The GLUE.

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