Depending on your status, it can be the most magical day of the year or a nightmare of tragically mismanaged hopes. Either way, there's no ignoring that love is most definitely in the air these days. We checked in with relationship and intimacy coach Adriana Grace to get her expert take on this thing called love. Read on for some advice that's sure to last long after the red roses have wilted and those chocolates have been devoured.
What are some common issues you deal with?
The biggest thing is people who have lost their love life connection. So many people actually want to stay in their relationship, but they just don't know what to do, they just don't know how to shift it, and they'll end up staying together unhappy or they'll break it off without adequately searching for resources that can help them. It's either out of pride, out of not wanting to appear weak, not wanting to admit there's something wrong in their relationship, or feeling like that there's nothing that can really help or be done. The people who come to me are asking for some real answers.
The Maui News / LEHIA APANA photo
“There’s a dynamic attraction that goes on — it’s nature, it’s biology. It’s also a sense of longing for a joining, which is not just a physical desire, but a spiritual longing and urge. Romantic love is really a deep and mysterious energy that happens between people.”
How would you define love?
There are many kinds of love. Romantic relationship love will be different from the kind of love we have with our family members, our friends, our work people and things like that. There's a dynamic attraction that goes on - it's nature, it's biology. It's also a sense of longing for a joining, which is not just a physical desire, but a spiritual longing and urge. So I feel like the romantic love is really a deep and mysterious energy that happens between people.
What are the keys to a successful relationship?
Adriana Grace teaches private lessons, community classes and offers books and videos at Treasures of Love, 42 Baldwin Ave. in Paia. She and her associates also sponsor Friday evening socializing at Cafe des Amis, then upstairs for an evening of education and conversation. For details, call 870-8168 or visit www.treasuresoflove.net.
Communication - keeping the lines of communication open and learning to be a good communicator, which is listening and hearing as well as speaking clearly what you think and feel. In the communication category is conflict resolution. How do we talk about problems? How do we solve them together?
Taking the time for love is also one of the biggest complaints I get. The relationship suffers, no doubt, when you don't have time for each other. If we just devote the time then the time works on us to nurture us, to heal us and to bond us.
There's also something that can be said for the intimate connection. The arts of love and the intimate bedroom arts are things that men and women can continue to learn and can grow over time. They are not the same person they were five or 10 years ago and in a long-term relationship if we can grow together, experiment and experience things together, seek to give our partner what they're really wanting, those are some of the most important things couples can do for each other.
What are some of the biggest mistakes people make in a relationship?
Forgetting to keep your partner your best friend. What that means is be the closest and most intimate with your partner, reveal the most to them. Try not to use other people to be your most trusted intimate and to complain about the husband or the wife to them. That being said, I think it's very important that people continue to have friendships outside of the relationship to enrich them. A mistake people make is that they make their relationship their everything and expect the person to be all things to them. No person is all things to one person, so we need outside stimulation and input and comfort and support in appropriate ways.
Another common problem is that they go into work too much and they block off time from their partner. They either keep the partner away by working too much, or they make themselves too tired and unavailable.
Other things that go on with a love life are not taking the time to make love with each other in whatever form is right for them. Some people never want to have a fully intimate intercourse situation, even if they're married, and this has to be respected, but the other partner who is still interested in sexuality needs to somehow have an outlet for that in the relationship. I meet many couples who are mismatched, or one has stayed open, one has closed down, or maybe through surgery or illness they don't have the desire anymore. There's still a way to make sure the love bond stays juicy within the relationship so that the partners are satisfied.
So how important is intimacy in a relationship?
Just as we communicate with words, there is a secret language of the body. It's a silent language primarily, but how you touch each other, how you show each other love and intimacy, how you address the most tender and juicy parts of your sexual loving are all things that are the secret world of lovers. If you learn how to speak this secret language of the body and really relate with each other in a harmonious way, it is one of the most important things in a relationship. It's the glue that holds people together and the juice that keeps people moving and happy and balanced.
Is it possible for a relationship to survive after a partner has cheated?
Yes, there is always a way, although trust must be re-earned and rebuilt over time. It happens in small ways, in the daily ways. Also, really talking about the sexuality in the relationship and the satisfaction will prevent some of these extramarital or outside-of-the-relationship affairs.
Besides couples counseling, you also work with singles. What kinds of issues do singles deal with?
I would say I see more singles these days. The singles are in some way looking for love and they're not getting it, or they're getting it in some ways but are dissatisfied. They're wanting answers to the questions of how is it that everyone else thinks I'm a great person, yet I can't seem to pick the right person. What will happen often is that a person who is single is wanting love but they don't know how to attract that. We look at what are they bringing, what their relationship history and baggage is, and what they are needing to let go of and heal. We go over their bottom-line standards and look at what the person is really needing and wanting.
What advice would you give to singles on Valentine's Day?
Use this day to give and receive love. Dedicate yourself to being love and to sharing it, because the best way to receive love is to be a giver of love. You become very attractive to other people and they will want to spend time with you and ask for your company and even recommend you to other people who would be looking for love. If you become known as a person who is very loving, it makes it easier to attract a mate. So on this Valentine's Day, celebrate the love that you are. Do something loving for yourself and share that love with others.
Has the economy affected people's relationships?
Since probably November or December of 2008, there's been a real market increase in the couples who are coming for support. People are having relationship issues and there's money issues and the economy has changed, so people tend to be arguing more and feeling less secure in their own lives and they take it out on their partners. One of the best things I can do is to clear away the pains and find inspiration to love again, because love is one of the best things that we can do while we're going through a hard time.
Has love changed over the years?
Firstly, there's something about love that will never change. There's this feeling of the heart being full and being touched and connected - those are universal feelings of love that go beyond time and space. It goes beyond generation or even biology. That being said, styles of loving, styles of relationship have changed. There's a desire to be paired but many people are not finding mates that they want to settle down with, so we're seeing people who are more open to more loving friendships where they can date and enjoy the mate selection process. People are really reaching out, and if anything, love has become even more valuable and important in our life because we're bombarded with messages about love and it is one of the biggest things talked about in society and so it makes us reflect on the state of our own love life.
Speaking of the messages society is sending out, what's your take on all the reality dating shows we see on television?
Entertainment comes in many forms and many people find these reality show entertaining, but they really do appeal to the lowest common denominator of relational interaction. You know, what a person looks like, how much money they make, the sexual chemistry. It's giving people the wrong impression, that you can cram years of getting to know someone into a month-long program to find your true love. It creates a very skewed view of what you can hope for in a real person. I don't necessarily think that they're damaging, I think that people just need to understand and take the show at face value. It is entertainment. That begin said, it raises important questions about who is right for each other and why. I think that these shows are an interesting social commentary, and so you can learn a lot about the more distasteful forms of how to act and how to appear. So if you can relate to the characters on these shows, you might want to work on yourself a little bit and become more evolved.