I don’t just mean financially or intellectually, but as though my views matter.
Alex feels the same: it’s important to me that we can both bring an abundance of knowledge to the table. One thing I’ve learned over the years is that I need to be mentally stimulated as well as physically, but maybe I’ve always prioritised the physical side because I thought I was unworthy of both… or doubted that it was truly possible to have both.
Like others, I’ve brought my own crap (a huge backpack of it) with me.
We all have past traumas, unresolved grief and problematic ways of communicating. But I recognise my crap isn’t Alex’s to resolve. It’s mine. This is a very different dynamic than I’m used to.
For example, every time he compliments me, I respond with something negative about myself to counter it, which he very lovingly pulls me up on. He says, ‘This needs to stop’.
It’s the first time someone actually gets me, sees what I’ve been through, but also won’t allow that to sabotage our relationship. We have healthy boundaries where he says ‘Izzy, I see what you’re doing, and I’m not taking that on.’ So when I’ve projected my stuff on him (or vice versa) we’ve found ways to call each other on it and work our way through it. That takes strength and strong self-worth from us both.
The other crucial relationship advice that has stuck with me is around how important listening (rather than talking) is in communication.
Psychotherapist and relationship guru, Esther Perel, says we need to “Listen. Just listen.”
“You don’t have to agree. Just see if you can understand that there’s another person who has a completely different experience of the same reality,” she advises.
So as we head towards another major adjustment, stepping into post-isolation life, I feel fortunate enough to have worked at creating strong foundations based on the relationship ingredients that don’t just depend on love, but actually strengthen and deepen it.
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Feature image: Supplied/Isabelle Silbery.