One of the most important elements of love in an emotionally committed relationship is “knowing your partner”. As we navigate the various stages of love, how we know each other takes on a greater and greater significance.When we are dating and courting, our brains are filled with “love hormones” (chemicals like dopamine, adrenaline and serotonin, in the initial attraction phase), and our pleasure centres are firing on all cylinders.
We are riding a wave of euphoria. Often we see things the way we want to see them.
During this early stage, we are on our best behaviour, presenting ourselves in the best possible light, as we don’t want to upset the applecart. Our knowledge of our partners is filtered through a somewhat cloudy lens, and we thrive on the heady experience of “falling in love”. Wishful thinking replaces critical thought.
We don’t usually discover how our partners might react to particular words or tones, behaviours or circumstances until later in the relationship. When we begin spending every day together, when we have lived together for a while, it is not uncommon to hear one or both partners say:
“Who are you?… I don’t recognize you anymore…”
“I didn’t know you felt that way…”
“If I had known that about you, I would have….”
You may feel you know about your partner’s likes and dislikes, interests, and preferences, or the values you share about having family and children.
You may know about the things you have in common. But do you know how to move one another – how to make each other smile and brighten your day – or how to relieve each other of stress and anxiety? Not many couples think about this or know how to do it.
Knowing your partner inside out, knowing how he or she feels loved, what makes him feel secure, how she thinks, reacts, and moves towards and away from people, will help you stay connected and maintain safety and security in the relationship.
Even if you are not in the throes of romantic love, knowing your partner will challenge you to be interested, engaged, empathetic, a good listener, non-judgmental, and able to take things less personally. When your partner is triggered emotionally, you need to know that his or her reaction is not all about you. It may be associated with some experiences that happened before you even met.
Knowing how childhood experiences influence adult relationships, being able to identify your areas of vulnerability (i.e. what triggers you or throws you for a loop), and learning how you can heal some of those early injuries, is powerful knowledge for a couple.
When you know each deeply — when you become experts on one another — it gives you both a sense of security. You know that you have one person who really sees you, whom you can count on, who accepts you for who you are, and who really has your back. You know you have someone who will always be there to protect and support you.
How well you know your partner is the key to creating safety and security as a couple and to sustaining a secure, long-term relationship.