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That Perfect Gift: Investing In Your Relationship

This holiday season, how have you invested in your relationship? by Sara Slater, LICSW

Shopping in crowds? Wrapping like a maniac? Stressing over the ‘perfect gift?’ Of course we do these things in the effort to communicate to those we love that they matter. But it may leave you snapping at the very person you’re trying to show love, or retreating from the connection you seek.So what does it actually mean to be investing in your relationship?

Whether it be energy, resources or intent, there’s always an expected return on that expenditure. Searching for that ‘perfect gift’ involves all three, yet with no certainty of what the return will be. And if it triggers disappointment, misunderstanding or resentment, then you get the opposite of what you intended.

What if the gift you give instead is to tell your partner exactly what it is that you want? As in “I want us to be close and connected, for us to know and understand each other’s thoughts, feelings and needs. To feel safe with you. To model for our children the kind of relationship we hope for them.”

If that idea scares you or feels unimaginable to articulate, well that’s because it IS vulnerable and scary! Nobody said investment was without risk.

Here’s the thing: With most of the significant investments we make in our lives, we seek information, guidance and resources. We hire personal trainers, financial advisors, piano teachers and so on to improve ourselves and the things we want to grow in our lives. Oddly though, rarely do we choose to seek this sort of information and support for the most important commitment we have made to ourselves and in our lives.

Sometimes we do so in the sanctuary of a therapist’s office, but usually alone, without our partners, and therefore without the possibility of collaboration and connection in our partnership.

Often we fly by the seat of our pants, springboarding off the “falling in love” phase into becoming “family” in the form of commitment, a home, and maybe pets or children, falling next into whatever patterns we learned in our childhood homes. Usually this involves plenty of triggering of that old stuff by the very person you chose–and guess what? You are likely doing the same triggering of your partner, whether intended or not.

Rarely do we stop to identify the components of our dynamic, nor exercise the capacity to articulate and modify what feels difficult. Hasn’t occurred to us that it’s actually changeable, and that it might be worth the risk. Or that help in doing so is even an option. Even less do we stop to think of relationships we admire, and risk asking for their support. Usually we get stuck in a morass of shame and embarrassment, unable to admit that this relationship stuff is HARD. Instead we often invest in individual coping, by adapting to the story we have adopted about how we think it is just going to be. We don’t challenge ourselves and each other to say, “I think we can be better than this and I want to work on things with you.”

Investing in your relationship brings change.

Perhaps it goes without saying, but Carolyn and I truly believe in the possibility of change, especially when two people dare to share an intention. Our work is built on the belief that creating the relationship you want is learnable, logical even, and often fun. It starts with the willingness to be curious about one another in the way you once were, with understanding that you are in each other’s care, and that whatever the elements of your dynamic may be, it’s something you can see as a predictable outcome of your experience prior to ever even knowing one another.

Secure Connections Retreats is the outcome of our belief in a couple’s potential, of what’s achievable when two people commit energy, effort and resources. Time, for instance, is one of those resources. Imagine what could occur when you literally set aside a block of time away from the daily details, committing to do so with the express purpose of learning and growing in your relationship. Consider also the potential inherent in spending that time with other like-minded couples, also willing to risk the vulnerability of shared experience.

IslandWood as the perfect setting for our retreat:

We believe the setting is another of those important resources. Consider how the mind and body relax, how your heart opens, when inspired by clean air, soaring trees, beautiful gardens and paths that invite exploration. We chose IslandWood, a 250 acre outdoor retreat center on Bainbridge Island, as the setting for our inaugural retreat not simply for its natural beauty, but for our shared perspective that human potential is awakened and connections enhanced by place, both outdoors and within the common rooms and lodgings of this unique facility.

It is in this setting that we will come together, wander off, and gather again to explore the capacity for growth, harmony and love within each couple’s relationship. With a balance of guidance, experimentation, sharing and support of one another, together we will cultivate a mutual ability to deepen connection that starts with a commitment to simply say that’s what you want.

It’s going to take one of you to go first, to believe in possibility, to risk vulnerability. To say, “I want to invest in us.”

What could be a more perfect gift than that?

Read our interview of each other here.


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