Love and romantic relationships can be a very hard thing to understand at times. They're complex, irrational and emotional, and without a proper foundation, they're fragile. Sometimes, no matter how hard you try to explain a feeling or emotion, your partner just can't seem to process a word you're trying to express. Confused, you are pegged as being overly sensitive or emotional. For the times when you're trying to find the words to explain the unexplainable, here are some metaphors and examples that can help put perspective on things:
Delivery: A wise man once told me that when you are asking your partner to do something, the delivery is the most important thing. Just like if you were a boss wanting your staff to come to work an hour earlier each morning, you can do it by force, fear or threats, or you can approach it in a more effective way. Offer them muffins in the morning and tell them what a fun and rewarding change it will be, and you're likely to get a more enthusiastic turnout for your earlier work start. Not only is how you communicate your needs important, but the timing is critical, too. You shouldn't bring up serious relationship talks the minute you feel the emotional urge to do so, but rather when there is an appropriate time and place, and ideally when you aren't in a heightened emotional state.
Time: Relationships can be compared to the growth of a garden: they need to be watered, groomed and tended to. If not, the flowers will wilt, and unwanted weeds will grow. Two people need to invest time, energy and effort into a relationship in order to keep it alive and healthy. Just like gardens, they do not run on auto-pilot, and no matter how busy or stressed you are in your life, if you don't tend to it, the relationship will suffer in one way or another. On the same token, relationships often take time to bud and grow. Plant seeds today and expect a beautiful rose garden by tomorrow, and surely you'll be disappointed. Sometimes, if you take a leap of faith, plant the seeds and allow them to grow and breathe, you may be pleasantly surprised by what a beautiful force of nature can grow out of it.
Trust: Trust is the glue of a relationship. Without it, many other issues will arise, but the root will often trickle back down to trust and security. It takes only seconds to break trust and what seems like a lifetime to build it back. It's not impossible, and if two people are committed to making it work, both have to work damn hard to get that foundation solid again. It means taking a leap of faith and not living in fear and anxiety for the shoe to drop. And for the person who betrayed the other, it means making that extra effort to be sensitive and considerate of how actions (or lack of them, for that matter) affect the partner. It means that reassurance and affirmation are needed, even if they seem tiring at times. Because when trust is in a fragile state, it's a lot easier for the pieces to fall apart than when it's stable. But it takes both people to do the work: if one person allows suspicion and paranoia to take control, and the other doesn't take that extra step to act and communicate in a way that reassures, the trust doesn't come back. Period.
Compassion: When one person gives and the other person gives, there is a beautiful balance in the relationship. This is not reality though, because there will always be someone who gives more and times when it's unequal. This is normal; however, if left unequal too long, the relationship can fall into a negative spiral. Suddenly, one person feels like they give too much and wants to hold back. Then the partner feels like not giving at all in response to the other's lack of giving and warmth. Sooner or later, both people in the relationship are in a vicious, negative cycle, and blame and disappointment seem to be inescapable. If one person doesn't eventually give up the ego, the fight, the resentment and angry charge, the relationship will combust. But if both take a step back to try and understand the other, take off the fighting gloves, show compassion (be it a nice gesture or even a really warm, reassuring hug), it can make a world of difference. Suddenly, one partner feeds off the positive energy and compassion, and it becomes contagious. But it takes two to tango, and even if there's a strong lead, both people need to take the steps.
A positive, healthy, loving relationship requires hard work and a lot of adjustment and negotiation. There are some battles just not worth fighting for, some differences that you have to accept will never change, and times when you have to agree to disagree. It's important to remember that we are all unique in how we receive love, give love and communicate love. Just because your partner doesn't show you love in the way you're used to doesn't mean they love you any less. Learning your partner's style and figuring out how to meet in the middle takes time, compassion and understanding. And if two people have the commitment and desire to make it work, and see the potential and value in the other person, then in time, it can become a very strong, healthy and peaceful union.
Amy Chan is a blogger and a columnist for the 24 Hours newspaper. To read more of her articles, visit www.amyfabulous.com.