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Relationship Workout: How to get fit for love

Dating can be one long recruitment process. Do they meet the salary requirements, are they prepared to relocate and that illegal question: do they want to have children?

But dating can also be an incredible opportunity to get yourself fit for a fantastic, fulfilling, life partnership. “What do I mean ‘get yourself fit’?" I hear you say. “Isn’t being available enough?” Sorry, but probably not.

What all good relationships need is honest, clear communication, and seriously, how good are most of us at it?

Imagine a first date, that on first sight you know is a ’not ever, not in a million years’. Do you accept a drink, chat for a couple of hours and make an excuse about having to be somewhere, agree to meet again and immediately block them, or, are you saying ‘thank you so much for taking the time and effort to meet up. I really appreciate the interest you’ve shown in me, but I want to show the respect you deserve by saying right now that this won’t be going any further.’?

I tried it once and got torrent of vitriol. He was disappointed. I got it. I smiled and left. Did I try it the next time. You bet I did. Every time we practice expressing our true thoughts and feelings we get better at it. And the thing that makes the difference between good and great relationships is not about flowers and chocolates but about your ability to discuss difficult things. And saying ‘I don’t fancy you and I never will’ is one of the hardest because it’s just so personal.

Real intimacy is at the heart of good relationships. I’m not using the word as a euphemism for sex, which is also at the heart of good relationships. Our working definition of intimacy is: “sharing your authentic thoughts, feelings and life-experience and witnessing the thoughts, feelings and life-experience of the other without agenda.”

So, what does without agenda mean exactly? Just that I’m sharing this info with you because I care about you and would like you to be up to date with how I am doing in life.

With agenda could mean, I’m telling you how I’m doing so that you react in a way that I want. Which can be overt … “I am angry with you for … you now have to …” or covert … “I feel really sad about …. “ and the secret agenda is you now need to comfort me in some way.

This is not intimacy or love, it is dumping or manipulation. Agenda-free authentic sharing inspires intimacy. This is when I can feel free to be fully myself without masks or editing and so can you.

When I feel accepted as I am, I feel loved and my partner feels trustworthy to me. I can reliably be myself with them without fear of manipulation or being dumped on. And isn’t that what we all long for?

Communicating authentically is a muscle you’ll need to exercise for the real thing, so use every single date as an opportunity to practice sharing your thoughts, feelings and life-experience and witnessing the thoughts, feelings and life-experience of the other without agenda. This is a two way street as we need to speak and really listen in equal amounts, (as opposed to listening for an opportunity to speak). If they are never going to be a love interest it doesn’t matter, and if you’re considering making them a job offer they will be meeting the real you, which is, after all, better sooner than later.

So my question is are you willing to undertake the Continuing Professional Development for the relationship you want or do you expect it to fall in your lap?

Emma Pruen, along with her husband Matthew are relationship coaches who teach courses in Finding Love and Making Relationships Work in London and from their retreat centre in S.W. France. See for more information.

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