"So Happy Together": Building Confident Relationships

Remember the ‘60s song by The Turtles? “Imagine me and you; I do. I Think about you day and night . . .So happy together.” Since the dawn of romance both men and women have been professing love for their beloved. In popular music these declarations are often a testament of the crooner’s desire for the beloved, something along the lines of “without you I am nobody.”

Popular culture reflects truths about the culture as a whole. Many people believe that once they are with someone they love the relationship will give them happiness. Intimate relationships certainly can inspire happiness. They can also generate fear, anxiety, worry, and even depression. The truth is that many of us, perhaps most, hunger for the joy and run from the pain.

Cultivating the kind of trust and happiness we desire in relationship requires us, I believe, to transparently reveal ourselves to those we love. Doing so forges intimacy. There is a risk in this, however; that either you or your partner may experience pain through the process of authentic self-disclosure. “Intimacy,” writes Dr. David Schnarch, “is not for the faint of heart.”

While many factors can contribute to happy relationships, I believe it is confidence that deeply promotes happiness. One aspect is the confidence within yourself to
soothe your own hurt and pain when the mud and arrows fly. Confidence grows as you learn to take responsibility for and attend to your own emotional pain. In doing so it becomes easier to reveal yourself to your mate (whatever the perceived risk) and to accept the same from her/him without blaming. You can increasingly trust your ability to self-soothe.

Most of us, I believe, desire a partner who is emotionally strong and supportive. We’d like someone who can skillfully weather the inevitable problems in the relationship. But there’s a ‘catch’ with this: We desire this so that
we can relax; we want to feel safely supported by a confident and calm mate. In other words, we want our mate to soothe us when the relationship feels rough. What we rarely realize is that he/she probably desires the same in reverse.

One facet that helps confident relationships grow is learning to trust one’s own ability to self-soothe. As we build trust in ourselves we can also begin to trust that our partner is attending to herself/himself in much the same way. Relationship has many enjoyable benefits. Trusting that you and your partner can take responsibility for your own emotional pain can help you be happy together. --Doug