Through her training and life experience - 3 families, 3 continents, 3 careers (law, marketing, psychology) - Pip has come to believe we all write our own life story. Pip is a Transactional Analysis psychotherapist creating our product and service design.
How do relationships start? Friendship? Chemistry? What does it mean to fall in love? Is it a fluttering heart, a buzz that goes through us when they’re around, or falling into a pile of nerves? Or is it a slower more gradual realisation?
It all has to start somewhere.
And many of us hope for a spark. Chemistry. We meet someone we're drawn to, who feels magnetic, someone we like and warm to – and whether at first or later, someone we want to touch, kiss, go to bed with… Of course.
When we make this kind of connection with someone it can feel ideal, perfect, like we have truly met our match. As Elvis Costello sang:
She may be the mirror of my dreams
The smile reflected in a stream
But, let’s pause for a moment amidst the heroin-like chemicals that are stirred up and consider…
We tend to gravitate towards “people like us”. So when we feel a strong reaction to someone – positive or negative – it’s often because there’s something about them that is familiar: like us, or like someone who has been significant to us.
There is always something valuable to be learnt when we meet someone we feel inexplicably drawn to. Each time we have a big reaction to someone, in some sense we always meet our match – someone who matches some element of our past experience.
However, instant attraction is different to long-term love. Can you both sustain it? If not, why not?
In the buzz of a new connection, it’s easy to forget our heads. So it’s well worth the self-control to take the time to see how things play out.
We use the phrase “falling in love” – yet real compatibility involves getting to know all parts of someone's personality and treating them, and making sure they treat you, in a consistently positive way over time. See our article on ‘Learning to love‘ for more on this.
It always takes time and experimentation to establish a good relationship.
The degree of emotional involvement should be monitored and guided by what you learn as you experiment.
The closer the relationship you want, the more time and experimentation required.
All parts of each person’s personality need to be fully explored to see how naturally the two of you fit together.
We need to mourn the end of one close relationship before being able to freely start another.
How much do you know about the person you’re falling for? Hobbies and interests are irrelevant. What’s important is character. Not just personality – but the fundamental characteristics you both demonstrate that will run right through your relationship.
Considering these characteristics will help you discover how capable your relationship is of sustaining love, without fear and self-protection ruining it.
Ask as many questions as possible and take all the time you need to find out about the following characteristics:
Commitment to learning about themselves: This is listed first for a reason – because with this genuine commitment the other 5 character traits will follow. Does your partner try to understand their feelings, thoughts and actions? Have they considered their own conditioning and the baggage they carry in life and into your relationship? Are they willing to reflect, read, talk, have therapy? If you both have this commitment, you’ll both be willing to acknowledge and work on the relationship, understand each other and yourself, and talk through the issues. Without it, you’ll just hit one wall after another.
Integrity: Honesty and trustworthiness are essential. How will you ever know where you stand, what’s going on and be able to relax if your partner cannot be honest and act with integrity? Lying, secrets and evasiveness kill love surely and steadily. Firstly, are they honest with themselves? With others? And are they open and honest with you?
Emotional openness: Check your partner has feelings, knows what they’re feeling, shares those feelings and knows how to express them. Receiving only a tiny sliver of someone’s heart is not much fun.
Responsibility: Does this person do what they say they are going to do? Are they able to be accountable for themselves and their choices in life? Are they respectful? And the practical signs: do they earn enough to support themselves? Do they know how to look after themselves – their health, their home, their belongings? If not, you’ll be dating a child in an adult’s body.
Self-esteem: We all have insecurities. It’s part of being human. We don’t need to be brimming with confidence to love – however, people tend to love others only as much as they love themselves, and can hurt or neglect others as much as they themselves are hurting or neglecting themselves (however inadvertently). Do they take care of themselves inside and out? How do they treat people and allow others to treat them?
A creative attitude toward life: Do they turn mistakes and adversity into lessons? Trust that things can get better, that they can change things? Focus on solutions, not problems? Use their vision to change their reality? We bring our attitude to life into our relationships, and love is a creative force; it will wither in negativity.
Forget how much money they make or how many followers they have on Insta – considering the above is the one occasion where some box-ticking is no bad thing. Once we have established that enough of these basic building blocks is present, we’re ok to go ahead – knowing we’ve explored the evidence and that things are basically ok.
As you go through each of these with that potentially special person in mind, remember to also ask yourself the same questions. For we must never forget to ask of ourselves what we ask of others. This way we find out if we too are ready for real intimacy. Building a relationship will be a hell of a lot easier when you’re both ready for it. And if we desperately want someone who isn’t ready, chances are we aren’t ready either.
It may take time, it may take some “failed” relationships, dead-ends or heartbreaks along the way. But once we find the above… then the real magic begins.