As February is upon us, the stores are filled with hearts, cupids, and modern-day reminders of love. Yet one of the biggest problems I have noticed over my fifteen years as a coach, is how our society promotes the unrealistic fantasy of perfect, romantic love. Unfortunately, it’s the comparison of real life to that fantasy that leaves so many people feeling a lack of fulfillment with, and a desire to “check out” of their primary relationships. It is a personal passion of mine to help people dismantle this idea of perfection, and learn to develop a healthier approach to their relationships, both romantic and otherwise. In all of my work, a consistent goal is to help my clients become the best version of themselves.

It is a reality that long-term relationships are hard to keep vibrant and alive over time. It takes effort, planning, and a great deal of thought. It’s definitely more work than most of us imagined. While the work to create healthy relationships is complex, there are two major themes that show up in my work with clients over and over again. The first concept is that we need to invest time to learn to be good partners. We could not imagine starting a new job without training. Yet we approach the most significant relationship in our lives without that same investment. In my “Take Action” for this month, I have given you a way to begin that training.

The second concept is to examine the expectations we have of our partner. Too many of us look to our partner to be our “everything.” This is part of the unrealistic expectation reinforced by TV and romantic movies. Let’s take a look at a real life example of the problems that can arise when we expect our partner to meet all of your needs. Often people are attracted to opposites because they balance each other. Say he is the shy introvert, who is attracted to the “zest” of the extrovert, while she loves the sense of peace and calm that he brings to her life. This can be a powerful attraction. But fast-forward three years, and now she starts to resent him when he never wants to go out. Suddenly, she is holding against him the very traits he always had that she adored. What if she could schedule a “girl’s night out” and meet that need somewhere else, while still appreciating him as her rock?

My advice is diversification. Most of us understand this idea in the context of our investments, but we have never thought of applying the same idea to our needs in relationships. A good practice is to sit down and take inventory of all the needs you have. Then ask if you’re looking to your partner to fulfill too many of them, or ones that they are unrealistically able to meet.  Naturally, within the commitment of a monogamous relationship, meeting unfulfilled romantic or sexual needs outside the union is unacceptable. However, other than that, my recipe is to diversify. If you do this, you can take a lot of pressure off of each other, and have much more love and acceptance towards your mate.

Take Action

This month, I am beginning a new series on relationships. I am using the book The Five Love Languages. This book is a great “101 Course” on how to lay a healthy foundation for your relationships. I will be on the radio each week for seven weeks, starting Feb. 1st, with my good friend, Terry Meiners from 84WHAS Radio in Louisville.

If you’d like to take a big step forward in 2016 to have better relationships, here is what I recommend:

  • Listen to me live on the radio each week. (Mondays at 4:35 EST)
  • Subscribe to my blog, where I’ll post the radio clips weekly.
  • Purchase the book and invest some time in “training” to be a better partner.
  • If you can get your partner to commit to do this with you, even better. However, it starts with you, so don’t use that as an excuse to not get started.