We all have a perfect vision of what love is, but there is also a lot of pain and worry about not fulfilling that vision. We never enter into relationships with a blank slate; we enter with a strong survivor self that ensures our defense mechanisms protect the wounds we have collected over the years. Intimate relationships often challenge and frustrate us, but they also open us up to the possibility of growth like nothing else. This is where the real value is.
Stretching in a relationship
Britta and I have been together for 15 years, and our Survivor Selves have certainly shown up in our relationship. I grew up as an only child, and was quite introverted, which means that my Survivor Self appears in the relationship by being protective of my own world.
My personal stretch to connect with Britta is to consciously choose to check in with what she needs, rather than becoming engulfed in my own mind or even the business of COR. As an introvert, it’s important that I reach out to Britta to ensure she feels loved.
Britta, on the other hand, is a more pragmatic German archetype, and she struggles with having a negative bias in situations where she finds herself searching for what is missing. Her personal stretch in the relationship is to acknowledge, affirm, and express the good in me.
For Britta, it’s not just about feeling but consciously expressing a deep appreciation for me and our lives together.
What we struggle with in relationships, we also struggle with in life
There is a clear parallel between what stretches us in an intimate relationship and what stretches us in our lives. As an introvert, I need to come out of my interior walls and think of how I can include Britta in my life. This is also reflected in my own personal development. Britta understands that learning to appreciate and see the good in every situation applies to not just our relationship, but to every experience she has.
How to spot the spot the Survivor Self in your relationship
There are two ways the Survivor Self can show up and impact our relationships. One is through conflict and the other is through disconnection. When there is a pattern of conflict or disconnection, we can ask, what part of our Survivor Self is driving the bus?
As business partners, Britta and I can enter into a power struggle when conflict arises. This disagreement usually happens when we have to make practical business decisions as a team, but have conflicting views. The key to resolving this disagreement is to value and validate the opinion of the other person. We take the conflict as an indication that we need to step into our Healthy Selves.
The second way the Survivor Self may show up in a relationship is disconnection. Disconnect may appear as anger, malaise, frustration or even lethargy.
For Britta and me, it’s our business. For others it could be their children, or even housework. When we associate our partner with something in our lives that is frustrating us, we can unconsciously disconnect from the relationship.
Although conflict can be the more obvious characteristic of the Survivor Self, disconnection can be more important as it can turn into long stretches of time if left unattended. This feeling of disconnection can turn into the new normal very quickly.
The problem won’t fix itself
When we don’t tend to the conflict or disconnection and assume it will eventually work itself out, it will only lead to an opposite reaction. We fall into a comfortable pattern that ingrains itself over time as it becomes familiar to us. As human beings, we thrive on comfort and familiarity therefore the longer the pattern is established the harder it is to see and the harder it is to break.
This is the cost of not tending to it or turning inwards. We also risk our freedom and liberation if we fail to step into our healthy self in a relationship. We all want to feel free and empowered; we don’t want to feel caught in a cycle of tension and separation.
Stretching yourself for your relationship is not easy
In order to find freedom and liberation in a relationship, we need to learn how to stretch ourselves for the other person. This is ultimately the gift of an intimate relationship despite it not always being obvious at the time the stretch is required. Overcoming challenges and learning from our experiences is how we begin to claim our Healthy Self in a relationship and in our lives.
How Britta and I stretch for each other is very different. The stretch won’t always be easy, but that is how we grow and learn.
For me, I know I have to step outside of myself and tend to Britta, even at times when it seems difficult to do. I also understand that I need to meet Britta using her love language and be curious enough to give her love in a way that she finds satisfying.
The Magic Formula
We have a magic formula for you to try with your partner that we believe will bring you closer and build more intimacy and connection.
Ask + Do + Check In = Connection
As an example, here’s what I would ask Britta: “Britta, how can I love you better today?” This simple question instantly makes Britta feel loved and valued. But not just that, I commit to acting on her request, and then following up. I need to understand what I did well, but also how I might improve. And I get to really know her more deeply. And, of course, this formula works both ways so she gets to do the same for me. This is our proven formula for creating connection and intimacy. I encourage you to use it!
If you are interested in diving deeper into any of these concepts, check out our Men’s Immersion Weekend and our Women’s Immersion Weekend. These programs will help you uncover and tend to your Survivor Selves, which will help you meet your initiations in love with grace and fluidity.