Hi, Brandi here –
As Fab and I approach our two-year wedding anniversary, I’m overcome with gratitude. Six years ago, we met in line for a rollercoaster at Wonderland – an amusement park in Toronto, Ontario. Although we never returned (we have a mutual dislike for speed and heights), we have since remained inseparable.
Don’t worry, I won’t get all mushy on you, but I’d lie if I said I don’t regularly think about him and what makes our relationship so special. We are from two different cultures, upbringings, life experience, with an age gap of seven years, and even our closest friends have a hard time believing there’s ever tension between us! Fair to say, we’re doing something right.
But what is it? I’d boil it down to this: self-awareness and vulnerability.
Credit to the ‘Rents
I won’t lie, Fab and I were pretty lucky in respect to our parents. We grew up in larger families – mom, dad and two or more siblings – in households filled with affection. Both Fab’s parents and mine were, and remain to this day, very much in love. As we grew, we watched our parents communicate when things got tough. We saw them cuddle on the couch and didn’t look too far into all the “naps” they were taking in the afternoons. Don’t get me wrong, we were exposed to tension and tears, but it was deeply outweighed by laughter and support.
All of this to say, we had a great start in life. It would be wrong of me to share the success we’ve had in our own relationship without giving credit to the people who raised us. Our parents offered a healthy perspective on relationships, and for that we’ll be forever grateful.
When I was young, I entered relationships or experiences without consciously choosing whether it was right for me. What I mean by this is, to some degree there was always someone wanting to date me. After any breakup (sometimes even during relationships), a man would show up and profess his feelings. Before giving myself time to heal from the past, or taking a moment to really ask the questions, “Am I ready for this?” and “Do I want this?”, I’d be knee-deep in another relationship or sexual experience that left me feeling more fragmented than the one before.
I finally decided enough was enough, and after seven months of self-reflection, therapy, and becoming clear on what I didn’t want in a partner, the universe brought me Fabian.
If I may speak for Fabian for a moment (he’ll approve this message before it goes live), he was hyper-aware of what he wanted in a long-term partner. He spent most of his adult life getting to know women, only to find himself disinterested romantically. As I was experiencing continuous heartbreak and disappointment, Fab was qualifying the competition faster than his favourite sports team, with no such luck. What lacked in romance, was made up for in friendship.
So, when it came time for us to meet, we were on opposite ends of the spectrum. Fabian was excited and confident to explore us as a couple. I, on the other hand, was guarded and on high-alert.
Compatibilities are Key
Even if our hearts were in different states, what Fabian and I immediately had in common was our disdain for losing time. Quickly, we learned how well equipped the other was in communicating their needs. The combination of those two qualities became the catalyst to our success. Everything was on the table on the first date. From physical desires to emotional and intellectual needs. From dreams and ambitions to past experiences and fears. For a lot of people, we were overwhelming, too forward. For each other, we were a breath of fresh air. Our perspectives aligned on nearly everything, and we made space for the other’s vulnerability.
Throughout my adult life I’ve noticed this caliber of communication is difficult to find, even in long-term relationships. Vulnerability is a terrifying skill, yet it is the only skill that will provide absolute peace and deepen relationships with the self and others. It was the initial quality that drew me to Fabian. The fear of rejection is so strong in so many, that vulnerability is a lost state, and adaptation is the quickest path to validation. The problem with this path is it deteriorates self-awareness and self-acceptance. It sets up relationships on false pretense, with a fate filled with surprise and resentment.
Knowing what you want and what you don’t want is not a personal attack on the individual who cannot provide those things for you. Rather it’s the practice of deep respect for your own heart and the heart of the other. We cannot choose what our spirit needs to feel fulfilled; we can only choose to abide by it’s compass, and not let anything in that will smother or starve it.
To deepen your own self-awareness, and increase vulnerability, explore these topics. My suggestion is to review this on your own first, and then approach your partner with the same curiosity and compassion:
- Sexuality and romance: desires, fantasies, and quantity – what’s essential for you and what’s negotiable; what puts you in the mood, what attracts you most to your partner; how can you explore yourself and each other deeper; what is your love language?
- Health and lifestyle: what is your relationship with your health and body; what are your health and body goals; how much activity do you want/need to do in a week to feel good; how do you fuel your body; are you attracted to a specific body type?
- Parenting and family values: do you want children – if so, ideally, how many (knowing this may change with time and parenting); how do you want to raise your kids; what type of parent do you believe you’ll be; what type of education will you provide to your children around topics in this list; what are critical values for you; what are your relationships with your extended family, and how do you see them fitting into your relationship/parenting?
- Career and money: what are your career goals and how often do you want to work; what are your expectations of finances in the relationship; what do you spend your money on, or save money for?
- Personal values and goals: what do you value most in your life; what brings you the most joy, and is absolutely necessary for your fulfillment; is it important you achieve certain things in your life – if so, what?
- Friends, social life and independence: do your friends play an important role in your life; what kind of social life do you prefer, and what are your expectations of how often you participate in it; is it important for you to have a social life outside of your relationship – what does that look like?
- Fun and adventure: how would you spend your ideal holiday; define fun for yourself and share it with your partner; ideally, how would you spend your weekends?
- Personality: what is your communication style; what type of personality do you require in a partner; what are your strengths and weaknesses; what are your more obvious traits?
- Spirituality: do you have specific beliefs; do you believe in something greater; do you feel you have a purpose in life, and is it important your partner has similar ideas; is personal growth and development important for you?
The greatest gift is creating the space for your partner(s) to speak their truth. In other words, active listening on all sides, and allowing room to grow. What may be important to you now could contract or expand as you age. With changing life experiences and situations, perspectives and ideas could develop or fall away.
Remember, not everything on this list requires 100% compatibility. It is okay to have differences within a relationship; in fact, sometimes it’s favorable. In the end, it comes down to this: be honest with yourself first! The important thing is knowing what is non-negotiable for you, and finding the happy balance of self and acceptance of your partner(s). If those differences begin to impact the wellbeing of either party, it’s worth exploring why.
Having experience as a sexuality and relationship coach, my greatest pet-peeve is having someone preach to me without providing tools. Below I’ve included some incredible resources to assist in being the best version of you (aka, self-awareness and vulnerable), and bringing your relationship to the next level.
- The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz
- Literally anything by Brené Brown! She’s a boss.
- Eight Dates: Essential Conversations for a Lifetime of Love by John Gottman PhD
- A New Earth and Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle
- Rising Woman, a platform of resources guiding you to the root of your relational issues and encouraging you to find an authentic pathway of deep healing!
Brandi & Fabian
Ps. We’re always seeking new perspectives, tools and resources. What is a relational issue you’ve been having or have overcome? Please share in the comments below, or contact us here.