by Neil Rosenthal
NOTE: This is the first of a two part series.
Dear Neil: How do I deepen my relationship with my boyfriend? We are in a four month relationship, and I am plagued by the feelings that this relationship is, in many regards, superficial. I don’t feel like I know him very well, and I don’t feel like we as a couple are building momentum for the future. Assuming he is interested and willing, how do I help our relationship deepen? – Wanting to Go Further in Utah
Dear Utah: Deepening a relationship is a multi-faceted endeavor that takes time, energy and patience, and it is not for sissies or the faint of heart. It requires that you give yourself to another-heart, soul, spirit and gut-as well as being consistent, sensitive, cultivating a friendliness to each other, a willingness to compromise, good communication skills and even better listening skills.
The following is an extensive a list as I can create in a two column series of how to deepen a relationship. Take turns talking together about your feelings, concerns, wishes and expectations regarding:
• What do you consider romance to be, and how important is it to you?
• How do you want your partner to take care of you? In a crisis, how do you want your partner to behave, and what do you not want him/her to do?
• What are your expectations regarding your partners relationship with your family? Your children (do you want children-or more children)? Your friends? Colleagues or co-workers? How to behave socially?
• Assuming the two of you were to eventually commit to each other, how is money to be earned, and by whom? Is one partner’s career/job more important than the other partner’s? Who would control the money and pay the bills? What if one person feels there’s a basic unfairness about how money is divided or spent? What if one person wants to save and the other person wants to spend? How should financial disputes be settled between you?
• How are your ideas about how major disagreements to be resolved? What words or behaviors step over the line?
• Are there any questions, concerns or agreements that the two of you want to consider regarding drug/alcohol use?
• How do you wish to be loved? That is, what behaviors feel loving to you? What should happen when one of you feels there is an imbalance between the giving and receiving of love?
• How much entertainment/TV/sports/family get-togethers/social engagements are enough, and how much are too much?
• How do you want it to be handled when one of you is anxious, fearful, hurt, depressed, becoming addicted or is otherwise consumed by negative emotions? What is the distressed person’s responsibility for getting help and fixing him/herself?
• Of what importance is exercise and fitness, food, choices and habits, nutrition and weight gain? How should it be handled if one person is dissatisfied with the other person’s choices or habits in this realm?
I will continue these questions in next week’s column.
Neil Rosenthal is a licensed marriage and family therapist in Denver and Boulder, CO, specializing in how people strengthen their intimate relationships. He can be reached at 303.758.8777, or e-mail him from his website, heartrelationships.com.