Dear Kiki: Growing up, I didn’t have a lot of people to model good relationships after. My parents were together for the kids but I didn’t see or feel the love between them that I want in my current relationship. How should I find relationship models to look up to when I don’t know of any in my life?
-Looking for Role Models
Good relationship models are there if we look for them
Dear Looking for Role Models,
Even though a loveless marriage is what you grew up with, you are capable and worthy of the affectionate and fulfilling connection that you seek.
Learning through observing others, or modelling, is one of the most effective ways to learn. As early as two years of age, we exhibit the innate ability to imitate adults around us with social understanding. Therefore, it is important to surround ourselves with role models who demonstrate the qualities that we desire, in order to steer us closer to our goals.
You might be feeling a little lost, but your question is a good place to start this journey of growth and self-discovery. Other real-life examples will provide insight into what makes a good relationship; it will also help to shape your own relationship roadmap.
As you explore the landscape of love, I hope you will gain confidence and faith in your pursuit of a happy and healthy relationship while finding positive relationship models to learn from.
LOOK BEYOND AND BENEATH THE SURFACE
If your parents are not the model couple you seek, look within your extended networks to find good relationship models. This includes colleagues, neighbours, friends of friends and other people’s family members, who seem to be in secure partnerships.
Before you declare them as your #RelationshipGoal, get to know them on a personal level! What you see on the outside is not always reflective of what is going on inside. It is easy to be attracted to a superficial image of the perfect relationship. Especially in a digital age, there is a tendency to portray things in a positive light and generate the appearance of perfection.
If they are open to sharing, ask them what does and doesn’t work. There is no need to shy away from discussing challenges and conflicts. How a couple deals with and overcomes bumps in their relationship journey is a strong indicator for success. Another approach is to pay close attention to their daily interactions and dynamics in their natural habitat.
Relationships come in all shapes and forms. You might identify more than one couple with desirable traits to strive for. Take the parts that align with your values and adapt them to your situation. Notice what resonates with you about each couple. Identify values, characteristics and tools that will help you nurture the type of affection you are vying for.
Additionally, I encourage you to draw inspiration from other forms of relationships, like friendship and companionship. Relationships are not only based on attraction. You may find that there are universal characteristics, such as honesty and respect, that transcend these categories.
Relationship goals are not just a hashtag or an appreciation post. Intimacy and love require both parties to embrace the good, bad and ugly whole-heartedly, so you can thrive individually and together.
A GOOD RELATIONSHIP IS PERSONAL
While other couples may have some useful tips to share, it is just as important to understand your individual needs and what will work for you and your partner.
Once you have uncovered positive behaviours and strategies to emulate, start a dialogue with your partner to see how you might incorporate it into your relationship. If something doesn’t work, it is okay to modify it or change course, as long as the other person is willing to go along for the ride.
A relationship is contextual. It requires open and frequent communication. In order to broach these conversations, you must also understand your emotional needs and boundaries so you can articulate them clearly and honestly.
In addition to positive relationship models, negative examples can help to define your boundaries and priorities. For example, you identified that you did not want a loveless marriage like your parents. Therefore, the expression of affection is high up on your list of what is meaningful.
After devoting time to self-introspection, share your discoveries with your other half. While certain types of relationships are portrayed as ideals, a good relationship means different things to different individuals and couples.
There is no one-size-fit-all. It is ultimately up to you to define what works best for you and your partner.
BREAK THE CYCLE AND EVOLVE
There is no doubt that your parents have a lasting impact on your life. Their lack of love and affection affects the way you approach and define relationships. When parents love each other, children are more likely to remain in education and take their time to find the right marital partner.
Even if this is the only relationship you have observed growing up, you are not trapped in its shadow. You have the power to break the cycle and create new patterns. By identifying the behaviours that don’t serve you, you can spark the changes that need to happen.
It is likely that your parents were driven by the traditional and cultural ideas of marriage. Instead of prioritizing their relationship, they decided to put their kids first and maintain, from their view, a stable family structure.
There are many types of families and partnerships that exist. Even when you feel that you have achieved your ideal state, life has a way of throwing curveballs that call for reevaluation and rebalancing.
Life is not a destination, it is a journey; and so are relationships. Regardless of the challenges ahead, the best thing you can do is to communicate and check in frequently with each other.
Relationships will change and evolve. It is up to you and your partner to continue the dialogue, adapt and grow together.
Always here for you,
Featured photo: Rodnae Productions on Pexels
Dear Kiki is Cold Tea Collective’s advice column and it is published in the last week of every month. To get advice from Kiki, submit your questions and comments here. Or, subscribe to our newsletter to get Kiki’s advice straight to your inbox on the last Sunday of every month.
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