With Valentine’s Day on the horizon I’ve been thinking about relationships and love. Not because I am a fan of the day, as I’m not, but because it can be rather difficult to avoid – it gets everywhere! So much so that the whole of February has become synonymous with love.
I’ve never been a fan of Valentine’s day because the commercialisation and marketing messages can leave many feeling like they’re not desirable or loved. Or it reminds them that they’re single and on their own. Even if you’re fine with being single, you can still be affected by old conventional programming that’s embedded deeply into your psyche. It can be a challenge then, not to get worn down by the persistent messaging about being part of a couple. This messaging can trigger deep seated beliefs about not being good enough or desirable – as if there’s something wrong with you.
As a happily unmarried single woman without children (a radical status I know!) I’ve thought about this over the years. I’ve had people take pity on me, saying it’ll be OK, I’ll meet someone or asking when I’m going to settle down for a family or suggesting I change something to attract a man. At times, I did end up questioning if I should be searching for love – it’s crazy how deep this stuff goes!
I know I’m not alone. The subject of relationships often comes up in the coaching conversations I have with my clients and students. It seems we spend much of our life searching for a romantic, everlasting love and I question whether this ideal is really achievable?
What are we looking for?
I get it though, we all want to be loved. It’s a fundamental primal human need and the basis of belonging. And after all, it’s what keeps humanity going. Yet the ideal of romantic love can bring us many problems, expectations and heartache. It can result in a lifelong search for something that’s arguably unattainable and leave us feeling inadequate, lonely or unlovable.
How have we got ourselves into this pickle? Why the preoccupation with this seemingly holy grail of romantic love?
The big question
It’s a big question, which if I was writing a book, I’d explore everything from the obvious biological need to procreate to the role of religion and the control and suppression of women…but that’s for another time.
For the purpose of this blog and because we’re approaching Valentine’s day, I’m focussing on intimate relationships and what we term ‘romantic love’. In our society the prevailing idea of heteronormative romantic love still holds strong. The idea of the prince rescuing the princess; the vulnerable woman being whisked off her feet; the fairy tale marriage and happy ever after as the dream.
Where do we get those ideas from?
Our idea of what love is starts to form the moment we’re born, with the love we receive from our parents or primary caregiver and surrounding family. We learn from the relationships we see around us, from society’s norms, through childhood stories and fairy tales, films, fiction, literature, poetry, art and advertising. All these form our perception of what love is, how we love and how we expect to be loved. It’s important to note that our earliest childhood experiences can form the basis for our relationships for our whole life.
For example, a new-born baby who is denied contact with their mother after birth, or an infant whose parent doesn’t show them love, may have intimacy issues or not be able to recognise what love is. Furthermore, society’s norms strongly influence the socialisation of children, so girls and boys follow the same old patterns and this can affect their relationship with themselves. Girls may feel there’s something wrong with them if they’re not maternal and boys too, if they’re sensitive and not ‘masculine’ enough.
The search for that perfect love
Over my lifetime, there’ve been many changes in the way we ‘do’ relationships. My parents were of a generation who learned that marriage was a contract for life, where you stuck together no matter what and love often played only a small part.
My generation viewed things differently. We had more options and could take different paths. We didn’t have to stick with a relationship that wasn’t working for us. We could choose whether to marry or not, whether to have children or not and decide how we wanted to live. Yet this has created problems too. There are women who still feel the pressure to have children, or explain why they don’t want them or have chosen not to – or in some cases, can’t.
In many ways we’ve set up such high standards and expectations for love that it’s no wonder so many relationships don’t work out.
Yet we can change our outcomes if we want to. It’s perfectly possible to heal past traumas and limiting beliefs, to change our perception and expectations and be happily single, coupled, or anything in between.
How NLP helps intimate relationships
With NLP we don’t look out there, we look inside ourselves. Our unconscious programming is running 90-95% of all that we think, feel and do. That’s the problem and that’s where the solution lies.
Many of us attract a partner from within the perspective of our own limiting self-beliefs. We choose, match, trauma bond, or become co-dependent from the unconscious desire to fill a void, which simply cannot be filled by someone else. We keep searching, wondering why we’re not happy in our relationships and why we can’t have the kind of love we see in the movies?
I ask you though, what happens after the couple finally fall in love and the movie ends? We don’t see movies that portray the full experience of a contented relationship where there’s no divorce or tragedy because it wouldn’t make much of a drama.
For most relationships the initial passion ends around 6 months to 2 years and then the real commitment begins. If you’re in it for the long haul, you’re going to have to keep working at it – though it doesn’t need to be tough.
Speaking the same language
Many of you will have heard of the five love languages? The premise is that we all have a preferred way of being shown that we’re loved and of giving love. These are: words of affirmation, acts of service, receiving gifts, quality time, and physical touch. In NLP we have something similar – the Deep Love Strategy, which identifies how we know we are loved. These are: Kinaesthetic – being touched in certain ways (non sexual), Auditory – hearing we’re loved through words and phrases and Visual – seeing we’re loved through acts of service or receiving gifts.
NLP Deep Love Strategy
With NLP, we can discover a client’s deep love strategy and in relationship coaching we use it to help clients with different better understand each other. For example, if a man wants his partner to cuddle and hug him, because that’s how he knows he’s loved, and the partner feels love when she sees her partner dressed smartly – a reminder of how he looked dressed in his officers suit when she met him, then he’s kinaesthetic and she’s visual. We tend to show deep love to others using our own deep love strategy, and if this isn’t theirs they can feel unloved. Once a couple understands each other’s love strategy then it’s easier to make changes in order for the other person to feel loved.
Another benefit NLP brings to relationships is enhanced sensory acuity skills. Our senses become more attuned to minute changes in others and we become better at building rapport. We’re able to communicate in another person’s preferred style, so our communication gets understood as we intended it, and others feel listened to and heard. Couples gain a deeper understanding of each other at the unconscious level and experience less conflict. Greater flexibility of communication means we can have more influence, negotiate elegantly and generate mutually beneficial situations that smooth the path for strong positive, open and assertive relationships.
The best way to start any relationship
Is to start with your relationship with yourself.
This is key and it’s where it all starts!
If you want to love and have fulfilling relationships, whether that’s with a lover, spouse, your children, other family members or colleagues – it all starts with you.
NLP is hugely effective in improving our relationship with ourselves as well as with others.
It enables us to understand how our own mind works. It raises self-awareness of our thinking patterns, emotions and behaviours, and provides practical tools to change unhelpful patterns. It helps us navigate the world with more ease, deal with uncertainty without spiralling into anxiety and dissolve fear into inner calm and have a certainty that allows us to make empowered decisions with clarity.
The ability to self-regulate and manage our emotions has a huge knock on effect on everyone around us. It helps us to model effective empowered behaviour and relationships to our children as well.
People tell me they feel stronger and more self-assured, which leads to more success and happiness in the long term. This results in making better choices and generating more meaningful, loving relationships.
Transforming challenging relationships
Even more, it can transform difficult relationships with ex-lovers and ex-partners, which is vital if there are children involved. Communication improves and this has positive effects on co-parenting.
I had one client where we did a simple procedure to get rid of an irritation she would feel about her ex-partner, and it changed their whole relationship. She moved from feeling anger and having no communication with him to a loving friendship. As soon as she behaved differently towards her ex, it allowed him to behave differently towards her. They now co-parent in harmony.
Who wouldn’t want that?!
To discover more about how effective NLP is for creating loving, nourishing and healthy relationships for you or your clients, please get in touch.