Turning towards one another is the bravest and most forwarding thing we can do for our partnership. (Julie Estrella)
Ahhh, the passion and excitement of new love. This photo is of my husband Sergio and I right before our wedding ceremony. We were so enthralled with one another, it seemed like the world was our oyster. We met at 30, so we weren’t spring chickens, and we thought we knew exactly what we were signing up for—a great adventure!
And it has been, although we are not the same people in that photo. We’ve grown through SO much in the past decade, taking unexpected twists and turns, deepened our awareness and appreciation for one another, both going back to school, adding two kids, buying a house and growing some more!
Purpose of Partnership
We are standing on the horizon of a new year, a new decade, and we’ve been talking a lot about what we want to create together in 2020. We keep coming back to how much our needs have changed in some ways and yet in other ways remain constant. We are entering into business with each other, and noticing that this brings up an important conversation—what is the purpose of our partnership or coupleship?
It’s becoming more and more clear to me that this is a critical intention to declare with one another BEFORE things get tough. Because they will get tough. So often couples will come in about a sexual issue and it very quickly shifts to how there’s little emotional connection or safety in the marriage. We hold our pain and shame deep inside and often miss out on the healing that is possible when we vulnerably share as well as ask for feedback from our partner.
It’s in those moments that we want to be able to look to our relationship for support, reassurance, and feedback. Yet depending on how we relate to the purpose of our relationship, we may or may not find what we are looking for. The way we approach our partnership often reveals our values, or what it is that we hold important.
What would you say is the purpose for partnership in marriage or long term commitments?
Here are some of my favorite descriptions of the purpose of a coupleship.
Some think of their relationship as a mirror, whereby we reflect back to each other from up close and personal how we’re really showing up in life, as well as all the parts of our self that still need tending to, shifting or growth. We see the parts that others aren’t privy to, the good the bad and the in-between.
Jenny Glick, a relationship coach, describes your relationship as your growth curriculum that is giving you exactly what you need so that you can learn and grow into a more evolved version of you.
Another woman likened it to an ashram, thereby making our partner our greatest guru. Someone to learn from and with in life.
Rumi wrote that “Love is the bridge between you and everything”. That we have a universe within us and that our task is “not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it”.
The Recovery Couples Anonymous symbol for relationships is a powerful one, a three-legged stool. The purpose of partnership is to meet both the needs of each individual and the unique needs of the coupleship. In fact, it is from this group that I learned we can call our romantic relationship our coupleship. The goal is to find balance between all three.
One of my favorite relationship experts Alison Armstrong identified 4 more styles:
This is where the union exists to create and nurture a legacy. A long line of children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, etc. They focus all their time, energy and resources into their family and community.
Some enter into a couple for the intoxicating allure of romance. Life seems brighter and more fulfilling for at least a little while with the new beau. This type often doesn’t last very long.
Others see their relationship like a team huddle, as they are both out in the world doing their own thing. The relationship offers a safe place of refuge, support and perspective to regroup and then head back out independently. Divide and conquer.
Another might see partnership as a companion, or witness to share in life together. They see their partner as their best friend, someone that they might work with, play with, cry with, and growth with together.
Iron Sharpening Iron
There’s another ancient saying in Proverbs 27:17 that I find myself bringing into conversations with clients a LOT as 2019 came to a close, “iron sharpens iron, so does one man another”. One Christian author Mel Walker highlights that much like one tool is used to sharpen the other to be a more effective tool, in this type of partnership we are to look for ways to 1) help our partner excel, 2) mutually hold one another accountable, 3) work together to enhance life, 4) foster a attitude of heart that is willing to accept feedback and take action.
And there are countless others, yet each of these has struck something within me as of late.
As a recovering pleaser, the idea of iron sharpening iron keeps coming up when I think about our struggles individually and as a couple. Over Christmas, we visited our family up north who are big skiers. Still nursing a meniscus tear from earlier this year I didn’t think twice when my husband declined trying it out, citing an older knee injury. And yet, my mother persisted. She bought three day passes for both my 6yo and my husband, “because you just don’t want to miss this opportunity to do this with your kid!”. And they BOTH loved it! In fact, he confessed afterwards that he has secretly been scared to try skiing having watched a friend in college come in all bruised and beat up when learning to snowboard. What?!! My brave and honest husband was holding out on me!
This opened my eyes to where we have been quietly agreeing not to challenge each other over the last couple of years due to high stress, making babies and even physical illness. It’s easy to fall into old patterns of being ships in the night, enablers, roommates—you name it, when raising two toddlers and working full time.
STEPPING BOLDLY INTO 2020
Confrontation and challenging my partner, along with offering comfort and support, is becoming something I am choosing to lean into more and more this year. The benefits of being mutually vulnerable, open, authentic, and trusting with my partner are profound. He sees things I just can’t, and visa versa. And if we’re honest with ourselves, we can tell when they are sitting life out, or jumping into the arena. Whether it’s as a mirror, home base, or iron sharpening ion, I invite you to take a moment and get clear what intention are you committed to stepping boldly into your coupleship this year?
PUT IT INTO ACTION
A great way to start is to ask your partner, to set some time aside to specifically talk about your relationship and sex life and what you’d like to create together in 2020—preferably when you won’t be likely to have interruptions from kids or be too exhausted to stay present.
Then, take some time to journal and meditate alone on it, and feel free to use the questions below.
Once you sit down, set a timer for an hour, and then check in with each other with any of the questions below. It may not all get resolved in one conversation, yet it can help spark an intentional commitment for making 2020 the best year ever!
One note, if you’re at all like me, you will want to ask LOTS of questions to your partner. Try out a tool I learned from Alison Armstrong, relationship expert, called the vault. Start with one question, then literally count in your head to at least 30 before you ask another. You see, for many of us, it can be difficult to slow down and drop into our feelings. Imagine it’s like you’ve given your partner the task to go into the elevator (with your question) and if you want the really good stuff, you need to allow them the space to actually go down a few levels. If you want the REALLY good stuff, you might wait a little longer, or after they share ask if there is anything else before launching another question. Trust me—it’s gold!
Questions to help you explore what is the purpose of your coupleship and what your intention is for 2020:
- On a scale of 1-10, how satisfied are you with our relationship and sex life?
- How would you describe our partnership up till now (feel free to use the examples above or make up your own)?
- What’s working, not working, missing?
- What are the top five things you each value and want to create or experience in life?
- Which if any of these overlap? Try to find a top 3-5 values that you can use to guide your decision making this year.
- When sitting at the end of Christmas day in 2020, what do you want to be able to look back on that would make you both proud, happy and fulfilled to have created together?
- How would you get to be with each other to make that happen? Open, loving, trusting, connected, passionate, freed up, etc?
- Make some declarations and take action starting today! Pick your top 3 ways of being and fill in the blanks for both of you
- I am a ________, ___________, and _________ partner and we are creating ___________,______________, and ____________ together in 2020.