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3 Ways to Stay Engaged in Your Relationship

“Do not let the fact that things are not made for you, that conditions are not as they should be, stop you. Go on anyway. Everything depends on those who go on anyway.” Robert Henri

If ever there was a cliché to take to heart when it comes to our relationships, especially in these weeks before our annual holiday reunions, it is this age-old mandate to “try and try again.” Yet sadly it is usually in our relationships that we are most often tempted to give up.

1. Choose to Go All In, Every Day

We live with the people closest to us with one foot out the door, or spend hours overthinking what we should have said instead of just speaking. Or worse still, we lose our nerve and don’t show up at all.

Our loving relationships provide the master level coursework for our lives and the curriculum never really gets less challenging. Even in long-term marriages like mine, it is astonishing to me how much effort I still put towards our daily interactions. Falling in love is easy. Learning the skills to remain loving over time requires that we continually expand our capacity to listen, to not judge, and mostly to hold ourselves in high esteem.

The world in our heart depends on the courage of those of us who “go on anyway”, in spite of the pain and injury that daily relating often imposes on our best intentions. Without realizing it, many of us create the dramas that compromise our commitments by living with one foot out the door in our relationship. Thoughts like “I don’t have to put up with this…” or “I could be happier if…” quietly eat away at the loving intentions that we work to embody.

The interesting and weird thing about this one-foot-out-the-door phenomenon is that you never really know how the relationship could be or what it could evolve into if you are only halfway in, so you quit on something before it is even real. Doubt is not a leader in life; it needs to be dealt with as you would a small child: reassured and put to bed.

2. Choose to Communicate and Listen in an Authentic Way

Just as challenging and maybe even more prevalent in our digitally directed lifestyles is the ways in which we overthink tiny text messages, gleaning meaning that probably isn’t there and limiting our own capacity for real communication.

My son was just going on in this way about a new girl that he really likes. We get thrown off by a single-word text reply, one that somehow seems more reflective of the relationship than the nights they shared together. Playing communication games is not really trying again although in our confused digital overwhelm we think it is a real substitute for listening and feeling heard.

  • Trying is when you sit face to face with someone. 
  • Trying is hearing not only the words they are saying, but the feelings they might not know how to articulate. 
  • Trying is when you listen again to what you have heard maybe a million times before, but the person you love needs you to hear it again.

3. Choose to Love Yourself

Most tragic of all in this trying game is when we have such a small hold on our own self worth that we lose our nerve and don’t show up at all. There are always excuses of why we don’t go, why we don’t reach out, why we can’t be bothered. But underneath them all is the truth of where our capacity for love begins — with ourselves.

Of all the things that are worth trying for over and over again in this life, it is this: the evolution and strengthening of our esteem for ourselves.

My all-time favorite Buddha quote is one that often springs to mind when I am chastising or doubting myself. He said…

“You can search throughout the entire universe for someone who is more deserving of your love and affection than you are yourself, and that person is not to be found anywhere. You yourself as much as anybody in the entire universe deserve your love and affection.”

So try that again and again and again. All the other loving relationships in your life depend on it.