The Art of Relating: Your Spring Roadmap To Love

By Christine Kniffen, MSW, LCSW

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Spring is just around the corner. It’s a time for rebirth, renewal and the awakening of your inner-self. Are you listening? What is your heart telling you that you want? What would you like to be different in your life this year as it pertains to love and relationships? Contrary to the scenes that play out in many wonderful romance movies, great relationships don’t just drop from the sky. I have often said that great relationships are no different than anything else that we want to achieve in life. We must set a concise goal, identify and enact your action steps and stick with the process while incorporating what you have learned along the way.

When it comes to setting a concise goal for achieving a good relationship it starts with defining what we need. This takes some real thought and insight. We will all have some concrete personal needs based in part on our past relationship experiences. If you had a past relationship where you paid for everything because the other person had lots of debt and didn’t try to do anything to be able to carry their weight, you will probably have financially responsible as one of the needs on your list. I think you get the picture. Then, your list will have to include the things that everyone needs to be happy in a relationship.

This would include something such as willing and able to compromise. If you have lived the joy of being in a relationship where the other person refused to compromise or getting them to do that was an incredible hassle, then you understand the universal necessity of this need. Lastly, there will be needs that are tailored specifically to you such as affectionate, if you are the touchy feely type like me. List your needs and you have set a concise goal for what you want to achieve by landing someone who meets this criterion.

The next step in achieving a great relationship involves mapping out the action steps. This seems to be the part that people struggle with most. The reason that we don’t achieve our goals is often a result of not mapping out the path to getting there. What are you going to do to reach your goal? Make a list of simple, tangible steps with a timeline attached. Perhaps you will join an on-line dating service this week. Then, you might send 3 e-mails per week to the person attached to a profile that you find interesting. Or, perhaps you will find 4 events taking place over the next month (lectures, food & wine tastings, etc.) and attend at least one each week in order to make your effort to get out there and meet people. Don’t fall into the trap of feeling victimized because mister or misses right isn’t magically appearing despite having created the best needs list on the planet. Nothing is achieved without action. Thinking in and of itself does not get you what you want. Remember that there is great benefit to action. We feel much better psychologically when we are doing something rather than being stagnant. We feel stuck and unable to effect better things onto our lives when we set idly by, rather than feeling like the director of our destiny.

The final step in getting a great relationship involves learning and persistence. No, your last relationship was not for the purpose of somehow punishing you, despite how awful it’s ending felt. You were supposed to gather some knowledge along the way about how to travel on your journey. Did you get distracted in a relationship with someone who was emotionally unavailable? If so, you are supposed to learn not to go down that path again as you move forward. Did you get involved with someone with a serious addiction problem and bury your head because you didn’t want to face the reality that someone with an active addiction is not able to give his or her everything to you. If so, then you need to learn that you took a wrong turn and make sure you don’t do that again. This is how we navigate our journey and stop getting side-tracked on the wrong path to getting what we want. And yes, we can be exhausted and emotionally spent after getting so side-tracked down the wrong path. However, it is essential that we all pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off and start moving towards our goal. Don’t give up. Stop the negative thinking in which you tell yourself, “There is no one out there for me”. It’s not true.

Anyone who has ever experienced success in anything will tell you that you must be persistent and move through the temporary setbacks. So, get back out there, get back on that dating site and get back to the action steps that will take you down the road to a great relationship.

Christine Kniffen, LCSW is a Relationship Coach and Therapist in private practice. For a free consultation call 314-374-8396.