The Ideal Relationship? Think Three Circles!

The amount of advice you can find on what makes a good relationship is overwhelming. Just about anyone you ask will have a different opinion based on their own experience and relationship. We create a different dynamic with every person we decide to try with but some things stay the same and move from one relationship to another. This includes our never-ending ability to absorb ourselves and effectively lose our identity for the ‘one’.

We are not even talking codependency here, which we all know creates a complex situation all by itself. Codependents will naturally put everything about them in the background and adapt to what they think their partner wants. This attempt at control for their own security usually leads them into relationship with emotionally and physically distant, often abusive and manipulative individuals who have an agenda of their own. Codependents see this as a challenge, wrongly thinking if they can ‘fix’ this person, they will be fine. It never works.

Most of us will become engrossed with a new partner in the hormone driven early stages of a relationship. This is the normal process of attraction where inhibitions are dropped and our brain chemical changes. We have all experienced that feeling where our world seems a lot better than it did before we met this new person. However, as we all know, that honeymoon period will always end at some point and we are left to deal with the real person. This doesn’t need to be negative but it will be different and needs work if the relationship is to move on. This is the contemplation phase where we decide whether to stay (and what we need to do top make that happen) or go.

This is a difficult time for a new couple and the answer is not as clear-cut as we might want to imagine. The traditional honeymoon phase is very addictive and we like to keep it going and we mourn its ending. We are suddenly confronted with routine, no surprises as the ‘real’ person comes through. Just how do you keep a relationship going under these circumstances? It takes hard work and frequent discussion as to how to move forward (if at all). Some at this stage will try to recreate the honeymoon phase with others, trying to maintain this heady feeling. Most will go into the next phase and quickly adapt to new circumstances, however unprepared.

In my opinion, one of the greatest factors of any successful relationship is what we do in the time spent with our partner but crucially, what we do when are not with them. Society and tradition says that we need to give all to our partner but that is not sustainable. Wes need to keep something for ourselves. I like to look at it this way: See your relationship as three circles. One for you, where you spend quality time with yourself or friends, pursuing your individuality, one for your partner doing the same and a third circle for the relationship where quality time is spent together.

Sounds ideal and individuality within a relationship is essential but many of us give that up in order to jump into the circle of the other. I have known people who start relationship who give up everything they held dear about themselves and take on what their new partner does. As I said in a recent article, the one question you should be asking on initial dates, is what do you do for yourself, how do you work on yourself?

Getting to know ourselves is often a difficult concept when we are taught and conditioned that our sacrifice and denial of this will bring the rewards in a relationship. It is a process that we need to follow and it often means getting to know how we think and react, changing habits and behaviour and setting values for our life. A reasonable question to start this process could be: ‘What have I been denying myself’. Of course, this question can be answered many ways but ideally it might start off a discussion with yourself about what you have been giving up in order to please or control. It is important to mention that this individual focus is healthy and not associated with narcissism or selfishness. Stephen Covey often said that an ideal relationship is formed by two balanced individuals who create a special place for a relationship without losing their personal goals and ambitions. I fully agree with this.

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Dr. Nicholas Jenner

Dr. Nicholas Jenner is a counseling psychotherapist in online private practice working with individuals, couples and groups, dealing with codependency issues, severe depression, bipolar, personality disorders, anxiety, PTSD, eating disorders and other mental health issues. He has been practicing online for many years and recognized early that online therapy was a convenient method for people to meet their therapist. Working outside the box, he goes that extra mile to make sure clients have access to help between sessions, something that is greatly appreciated. He also gives part of his spare time up to mentor psychology students in a university setting.

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This Post Has One Comment

  1. Andrea

    Thank you so much for continuing to write these blog posts. The posts are always so helpful and insightful. I truly haven’t come across anything like it.