Russ Harris MD author of the Happiness Trap and Act with Love tells that there are three core values often found in a successful loving relationship; connection, caring, and contribution. Values are things that you can and want to do in the present moment. Values are part of your lifestyle and how you define yourself. They are not goals which may or may not be met. I like to call the three relationship values of connection, caring, and contribution the big three which are core to a healthy functional relationship. What helps your relation ship stay afloat in the vast sea of your time together is a high commitment to the big three. Commitment is not a feeling or thought. We can all say we are going to do something and then not do it. We can all say we feel a certain way and then not act on that feeling state. Commitment is actually doing the work and actions! Often a lack of clarity or poor commitment to the big three increases the likelihood that your relationship is in jeopardy of getting sunk in the storms ahead.
Connection is about being present, open, and intimate. It is deepest when you are putting away the social mask and allowing your self, with compassion, to be truly who you are. Can you act in your relationship the way you want to act without being reactive to the other person? Often moving from a state of reactivity to activity is one of the greatest change agents in relating to others in a significantly loving way. Connection is also about being grounded in the moment and poignantly present which lends itself to allowing your relationship to accept influence of the self and other and experience the dynamics of growth and wellness in the present.
Caring is the value of giving to the other and helping the other. It is about acting lovingly and kindly towards the other person. Simply seeing your actions and making the choice to act in a kind and loving way may be the zeitgeist for creating a more positive vibration in your daily interactions as a couple. Caring is an essential element of your family or relationship atmosphere. Caring well and wholeheartedly most likely will change the weather of your time together. Calm weather lends to more clear sailing in your relation ship as you relate to each other with enlightened compassion.
Contribution is about investing time and resources to influence the other person’s self growth so that your relationship stays novel as you each grow as unique authenticated individuals and as a couple. It is about giving your partner whatever you can, within reason of course, to help them in the moment and for their future. Contribution is a two-way street and it is acted upon in coordination with true compassion. It is in no means an exchange of quid pro quo which may be a big detriment to the quality of the relationship as it becomes more about what you get then what you do because you want to help.
I can not begin to tell you the numerous couples I have worked with who began their story with “we just simply grew apart” or we “fight all the time”. These couples may have moved more into an aspect of trying to change the other person instead of joining the person more deeply in their values of connecting, caring, and contributing. Often value clarity, congruence, and commitment work in the big three is necessary to begin to move the struggling couple in the right direction. The big three can be a compass for the relationship! The couples with a compass who join each other and engage each other in their present moment most often describe a much greater detail of satisfaction and joy in their lives. Their ship sails clearly out at sea and onward in a direction to develop moments and memories together with much greater joy potential. They are less reactive to the atmosphere their relationship is in and they have a compass to guide them despite the weather that they face.