February is the month of Valentine’s Day and media focus tends to be on love. Often my clients tell me that they have met their “soul mate” or “have fallen deeply in love”. Have they? Like cupids arrow, “falling in love” can be deep and swift but is this really love? Having witnessed successful and unsuccessful relationships for over 30 years of clinical practice, I have discovered that certain components are crucial in having an intimate relationship. In order to have a thriving relationship with a lover, family member or close friend the following qualities must be present: trust, intimacy, loyalty and mutually.

1.Trust in a relationship has a balance of give and take. In a trusting relationship you have a sense of safety and are able to explore your feelings and needs. Your partner is willing to listen to you without feeling threatened by your differences; willing to listen to your truth with as much “ear as can be offered”. You have a confidence in your ability to have your needs met without feeling robbed or depleted. Do you trust your loved one?

2.Loyalty is a commitment to a relationship based on behavior born of earned merit, as opposed to a feeling based on attraction or attachment. When there is loyalty, you do not betray your friend, tell their secret or desert them when they are in trouble. Often we stay loyal to a relationship out of habit or guilt. In a loving relationship, there is an allegiance to your partner; there is a commitment to be available emotionally and physically. Is your partner loyal to you?

3.Intimacy exists in a relationship when your authentic self, including your idiosyncrasies, is accepted and cherished. A loving relationship will make you feel expansive rather than small, unworthy or uncertain. It is realistic to expect your “partner” to play favorites: you should be number one! You are able to expect assistance and concern without begging, complaining or displaying anger in order to get what you want. You feel an interest and investment in your life and concerns rather than having your desires minimized or ridiculed?

4.Mutuality needs to exist in order to have a loving relationship. Both individuals need to feel free to be their authentic self. Reciprocal empathy needs to be present as both people are willing to try to understand and care about their partner. A balance of power must exist; while the relationship will never be in perfect balance, the scales must not tip too far on either side. Finally, you need to be able to return to your “authentic self” – your interests and friends without “loosing” your identity to another.

It is February, have you "fallen in love"? Before you fall too far, may I suggest that you take a little time and ask yourself the following questions:

What do I want from the other person?
Can the other person give me it?
Can I trust the other person?
What could go wrong between us?

Relationships are “in addition to” your own worth and loveablenss, not the source of them”. The Sacred Threshold. Paula D’Arcy

Author's Bio: 

JoAnne is a sought after and experienced lecturer who believes in the connection of emotional health to body, mind and spirit. She has integrated clinical counseling with holistic techniques and has formalized her knowledge by creating the Journey Back to Self program. She began public speaking in 1991 and has offered this workshop at the National Association of Social Workers Conference, The Connecticut Business Woman’s Forum, BayState Medical "Spirit of Women" and New England Yoga studios.