How do healthy relationships feel?

Apr 7, 2020

Hi, everyone! It’s Dr. Liz and I am here today talking to you about what it’s like when you are actually in a healthy relationship.

Let me start by saying that I am a person who loves love. I am deeply romantic. I love dating. I love sex, like I am here for all of it. I love dating. However, because of my upbringing and stuff that I experience when I was growing up, I learned a lot of really toxic ideas about what love should look and feel like.

For me, when I was growing up, I had a parent who I was really scared of a lot of the time. And I think that part of that taught me that love feels like fear, that when love is important, you’re going to feel scared and that’s how you know it’s love. And as a result, a lot of the dating that I did in my 20s and my first half of my 30s was with people who I felt unsafe with. I think that for some of us, that like butterflies in the stomach feeling that we get is our body sensing danger. It is our body sensing that this person is not safe for us. But we have all been told that it’s a sign that we really like them, that it’s excitement, right? That those butterflies are a good sign.

Over the past couple of years, I’ve been unpacking a lot of my own patterns about what it is I look for in relationships and coming to terms with the fact that a lot of what I’ve been drawn to has been rollercoaster feelings that I want to feel the big rushes and the huge desire and the danger and the fear, and realizing that that’s not great for me in the long term. That’s fun for a kink scene. It’s fun for a few dates. It’s not great for someone who I want to build something stable and long-term with.

And so, I did a lot of work and therapy on processing those patterns and figuring out for me what might healthy look like. And I’m really happy to say that I’m in a relationship that is one of the healthiest relationships I’ve ever been in. The person I’m dating who is another genderqueer person, we met on New Year’s Eve. We have like a classic, a queer rom-com meet cute story. And in the 6 weeks we’ve been dating so far, 7 weeks, however long, it has been just a really beautiful, easy, safe place for me to have.

The person I’m dating, they care so much about me and they want to take care of me and help me out with things. And we take time to talk about what our patterns are in relationships and about what things mean to us and about what it is we are looking for, about what we know tends to be a problem for us. And we address it all head on.We clearly communicate. We talk very openly about things that might be problems for us in our relationship.

The person I’m seeing, they are 25 years old and I am 37. It’s a big age difference and I’ve talked about it every week in therapy with my therapist. And a lot of what we are doing in our relationship is about me continuing to check in with them to make sure that they feel heard, that they feel like they have an equitable place in this partnership, that they feel like their wants and needs are as valuable as mine, that they can ask for them and that they can tell me no so that I can address that power imbalance.

We have been able to just build a really solid foundation and it’s not the kind of exciting rollercoaster that I’m used to. And I think what I was worried about is that if I didn’t have the rollercoaster, it would be boring. But it’s not. It has just been good. It felt like when you are under the covers and it’s nice and warm and cozy, it’s not like that for most perfect moment ever but it’s easy and relaxing and it makes you feel safe. And this is the first time in a long time that I felt really, really safe with a partner. And that’s so different and so good for me. I think that a lot of why this relationship is happening now and why I’ve been able to find someone and build a relationship with them that’s going to be this kind of healthy relationship is that I’ve spent a lot of time doing a lot of work on myself.

When I say that it has been a couple of years in therapy, unpacking my relationship patterns, it has been a lot of work. I’m a therapist. That doesn’t mean I’m perfect. I talked a lot about how to have great relationships. That doesn’t always mean that I follow my own advice. And it has been a couple of years of really honing in on what gets in my way and what are the stories and the lessons that I’ve learned that make it hard for me to show up in relationships in as healthier way as I would like to. And it’s really nice to be coming to the other side of that work, at least the face of that work, it’s a life-long journey, and to have someone to really build that with, to really be able to put down some roots and start making something important happen.

Those of you who know me, if you’ve followed my channel or read my book or seen my stuff that I write on the internet, usually when I date people, I see them like once a week at most. But with this person, we just – we’ve spent a ton of time together. We happen to see other three or four times a week and it hasn’t felt overwhelming or exhausting. It hasn’t felt like they are trying
to engulf me or take over my life. It just felt like my days are brighter and things are easier when we get to see each other.

And so, I think the big parts here are number one, like knowing what your stuff is and working on it. Like what is it that you are looking for and is that actually going to be a healthy relationship for you? And then being open to people you might not otherwise be open to. If you had asked me three months ago, would I be open to dating a 25-year-old? I probably would have said no. And yet, it works. Challenging your own assumptions about what it is that make someone a good partner for you and putting in the work as you build the relationship. We’ve had a lot of big conversations about what do things mean. Were we going to call each
other partner? What does that mean? What are the expectations that come with that? When we talk about exploring kink dynamics, what is it we want from that? What are the goals? What don’t we want? How do we want to feel?

It has been really lovely to have someone who can have those conversations openly and honestly, and it makes me feel so much safer because I feel like I know where they’re at. I feel like I can trust that their yeses and nos are real.

So, here is my hope for all of you, that all of you can work on finding your own safe and healthy relationships. And if you have questions about what makes something safer or healthier for you, definitely put it down in the comments. I’m happy to chat about this.

Also, look at factors like for safe and healthy, is there stuff happening in this romantic relationship that you would not feel okay within a friendship? That’s probably a big red flag. If it’s a co-habitating partner, someone you live with, is there stuff happening that you wouldn’t be okay with from a roommate, stuff we are thinking about and looking at? If you ever feel unsafe, if you feel scared, if you feel like you can’t say something important or can’t bring up a problem, that’s another sign that this relationship might need some help.

Anyway, I love you all and I hope that I will talk to you again soon. Bye!

Dr. Liz

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