The Magic of Nourishment

 


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Remember the magic of a new relationship, that special time where everything seems to flow smoothly? You are glowing with excitement and all is right with the world. Your partner seems to anticipate your every desire and tries to meet it. It is a time when you both rush home from work to spend the evening together - laughing, playing and enjoying one another's company. It fills your heart with joy to do things that will make your partner happy.

This article is about the magic that results when one nourishes their relationship. Most of us start out wanting to do this. We would give anything to keep the passion alive. We love the way a new relationship feels and want the passion to continue. But something happens along the way. We find ourselves gradually getting into a routine where our relationship is no longer our main focus. Other priorities take its place - job, friends, children, community - and the relationship gets less and less attention. It starts to become routine. We no longer rush home to be with our partner, but spend longer hours at work trying to get ahead. We stop off on the way home to have drinks with colleagues or work out at the gym to stay fit. When this happens, our partner can end up feeling bored, angry or hurt. This does not mean that we cannot do these things. It means that we cannot allow them to slowly erode our relationship. How then can we keep the magic alive?

It has been said that if each partner in a relationship nourishes the other, then both partner's needs will automatically be fulfilled. Nourishing your partner means knowing what makes them happy, anticipating their wants and needs, and then fulfilling them. In our practice, we often hear women complaining that what they need is a wife. This is because women tend to be sensitive to the needs of others. My best friend used to joke with me that we should move in with one another and let our husbands get their own place. Her reasoning was that when one of us came home from work exhausted, the other would notice immediately and volunteer to make dinner and watch the children while the other could go for a swim at the beach or have a tall wine cooler and relax. . . no questions asked! It was very tempting. We all need this kind of nurturing.

How can we get the nurturing we need from our partner? We have found in our relationship that it is the simple things that make us happy. Some examples include: greeting one another at the door, saying good morning when we wake up and good night when we go to sleep, leaving notes for one another to find in the morning or after a long day at work, calling to say hello and especially if one of us will be late, not going to bed angry, and hugs, kisses, and smiles throughout the day. These simple acts of kindness are done effortlessly at the beginning of a relationship. With a little attention, they can become thoughtful habits that will keep your relationship alive with passion.

As you can see, nourishing your partner does not mean giving up your individuality or becoming dependent on this person. Many of these nourishing behaviors are simply common courtesies or little acts of kindness. What it takes to nourish a relationship is making it a point to know what your partner likes, to become more aware and observant. For instance, Chuck hates to walk as exercise. I love to walk. When he sees that I am really stressed and wants to do something special for me, he will suggest that we take a walk. This makes me feel that I am special and loved. When we do nice things for each other we feel more love, are happier, and want to be together more.

Marilyn: Being a strong, newly independent woman, I protect my independence fiercely. I want to be appreciated for who I am and what I am, independent of a man. I never again want to be someone's show piece or maid. I also want a loving relationship, one that nourishes the new woman I have become and supports my continuing growth. I love the excitement and passion of a good relationship, the way my heart opens and allows me to take in the beauty of the world.

This is what I have with Chuck. There is a respect of individuality as well as a warm and tender love that nurtures and allows each of us to continue to open to life. It is such a pleasure to be in this relationship, a relationship where the simple things in life - a greeting, a smile, an encouraging word, a hug - are common place. Having come from a relationship where the cold war was ongoing, where competition was the cornerstone, and words of encouragement were rare, I really appreciate the difference. I now love coming home and I look forward to being with my partner. When I think of him during the day a smile brightens my face. This is what a relationship should be.

Our relationship is the result of years of work, years of nourishing behavior. When it began, I was wary of this man who cared about how I felt and went out of his way to show me. I used to say to him: “Is this how you really are or are you acting like this so I'll fall in love with you?" The “problem" was, Chuck valued me. Given my previous relationship, this was a hard concept for me to believe and trust. It took lots of repetition for me to begin to feel valuable. After much work on our own relationship and many hours of work with clients, we have come to the understanding that relationships can be used in one of two ways: we can re-injure our partner by repeating previously wounding behavior or we can lovingly work with our partner to heal old wounds. Our choice is to work lovingly to heal, and teach others to do the same.

Chuck: What does nourishment mean for me? One example is our practice to greet each other at the door. After a long day at work supporting others in counseling sessions, it's just what I need when I get home: to have someone care about how I feel. To be able to have a smiling face, wide open arms, and some loving words to fall into as I walk through the door allows the daily stress to melt away quickly. It sets a very nice tone for the rest of the evening. I also realize how much it means to me because when it doesn't happen, I feel lousy. This little ritual takes about one or two minutes. It makes me feel like I am the most important person in Marilyn's world.

Nourishing behavior is not hard to give. It is all little things. I am sure parents can relate to how a child will stop crying, smile, and be able to go back out and play after getting a hug because he or she fell down. Men and women can relate to how they feel when the boss comes by and says “great job!" Contrast this to the feeling you get when you have completed some work and your boss/wife/husband/partner can only see what is wrong. You feel unappreciated. When you truly care about your partner and put them first, nourishing behavior comes naturally.

Marilyn and Chuck: Nurturing your relationship is important, however, it is not always possible. At those times when you are too busy or too angry or too tired to nourish your partner, honoring those feelings in yourself is valuable. The analogy of watering a flower is appropriate here. To have flowers thrive and bloom they need continual water and fertilizer or nourishment. If you don't give your relationship enough water, it will wither; if you don't give it any water at all, it will die. But, like the plant that has been without water while you were away, a little attention when you return home will bring it springing back to life. In the same fashion, when you have developed a habit of nurturing your relationship, it becomes much simpler to reconnect with your partner after being apart.

Copyright © 2001 the Relationship Specialists, Inc. All rights reserved.

Great relationships don't happen by accident. Learn the secrets to having successful one. Marilyn Hough and Chuck Schmitt, the Relationship Specialists, are licensed Marriage and Family therapists in the Portland, Oregon area. Visit their website at http://www.relationshipspecialists.com for tools and tips on how to improve your relationships. You can also sign up for free bi-monthly relationship hints.

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