To understand what makes for happy relationships, and it applies to all interpersonal relationships, we need to understand why we form them. What do we expect to get out of our relationship? These expectations are typically at the foundation, and if they cannot be fulfilled, the relationship will end or turn destructive.
What we usually refer to as love is a depth of appreciation for the other, and while love can take on many powerful forms, this valuing appreciation remains at the core of all of them. It sounds very noble and romantic to talk about unconditional love, but chances are this is only hinted at in parent/child relationships, and perhaps in the first blush of new love. Our happy relationships are likely very conditional and dependent upon an ongoing appreciation of our relationship partner, and if we are to have a happy relationship, these expectations need to be met on an ongoing basis.
Generally speaking, we value and appreciate in others those qualities that we value in ourselves, and wish to experience more of. In practical terms, this translates into a partner who seems to possess qualities that we recognize, because they are in fact present within us, but which we have not been able to adequately express or experience. For example, an extrovert may be drawn to an introvert, or an intellectual type may be drawn to a feeling type, etc.
So, in the appreciation of, say, an emotionally expressive person for a partner who is more grounded or logical is in the expression and experiencing of those qualities, and whether we want to admit it or not, the expectation is that we will experience this. There is also the subtle, and often unrealized expectation that we will become more of those qualities that the partner seems to express.
One of the reasons a partner may fail to fullfil our expectations is if our image of that person is not accurate. In our desire to find happy relationships, we sometimes form fantasy images, which are often reinforced by the partner as he/she begins to understand what it is you are looking for. At some point, this fantasy is bound to collapse and then there is an unhealthy relationship.
Another reason authentic happiness may be compromised is when it is realized that experiencing these valued qualities in the partner is not at all the same as being able to experience and express them within ourselves, as they are not our dominant mode of being in the world, and are in fact in opposition, resulting in a degree of internal conflict. Attempting to integrate more latent qualities into our expression can be a very difficult process, and if this fails, then what was originally appreciated in the partner may actually become a source of resentment.
Last but not least, happy relationships can be compromised by the expectations themselves, which both partners are going to feel the pressure of living up to. The ideal relationship, in fact, requires nothing at all of the other, and when this becomes the foundation, then there is genuine Love, harmony, appreciation, gratitude and enjoyment of all that is expressed.
This level of authentic happiness requires a well rounded integration of both partners such that need fulfillment is no longer at the core of the relating.
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