• Ben Culhane

What Does a Relationship Require to be Successful?

Do you trust your partner?

With your life?

I was reminded of what it takes to build and sustain a meaningful relationship with another person this weekend on a rock climbing trip.

It's no secret.

The components are simple, but not necessarily easy.

To create a meaningful relationship you need:

1) safety and protection 2) trust 3) excitement 4) risk and vulnerability 5) communication 6) commitment 7) fear and insecurity management

So what does rock climbing have to do with sustaining a meaningful relationship that lasts over time?

The video above shows me with my climbing partner last weekend when we climbed 5 separate pitches (sections) of a multi section rock climb.

I trust this man with my life and he trusts me with his!

Let me break down these 7 qualities:

1) Safety and protection: Rock climbing is inherently dangerous and either one of use could get hurt. We are both conscious of keeping each other safe by using ropes and climbing gear to keep us anchored to the rock should one of us fall.

In romantic relationships we also can get hurt and often do. Our partners will hurt us at some point in the relationship. We can work on hurting our partners less by consciously keeping their well-being and safety in mind.

2) Trust: We equally trust each other with our lives and our decision making to keep both of our best interest at heart, for my decisions may ultimately affect him and visa versa.

The same is true in our romantic relationships. Our decisions do affect each other.

3) Excitement: Sharing joy is important in building any relationship. Doing what we love together only severs to connect us deeper.

4) Risk and vulnerability: These are mutually exclusive and yet one is required for the other . There is no vulnerability without risk, something to lose. By showing up at the bottom of the mountain to do this climb, we both must acknowledge the risk and vulnerability in the human experience we are about to undertake.

It's risk and vulnerability with another human being that inherently deepens your intimacy!

5) Communication: There are a few verbals that are universal to climbing, but the point is that we don't take them for granted. For instance, I don't start climbing without first making sure he has me "On belay." We communicate or we could both suffer.

Sure, we might wish for our partners to "just get it," and he or she might over time, but it starts with direct asking for and sharing what we need in a relationship. This is key to connecting with each other. It allows the other person to meet you and be a part of your inner world.

6) Commitment: There is a point at which the only way down is up. Early on, we might be able to come down or retreat from the climb. It will come a cost of leaving some protection in the rock to repel to the ground. But there comes a point where turning around is not an option and we have committed to finishing, together.

Commitment is developed. Get to know the terrain of your selves and the other. Cultivate interests and curiosity about who they are, what they like to do. Risk. Share. Be vulnerable. Connect Deeper. Make a conscious choice to commit.

7) Fear and insecurity management: climbing a couple of hundred feet in the air tied to a rope and climbing gear is not without management of your fear response. Both directly communicating our fears and managing them is a big part of building relationship with another.

It's no different on the rock. At one point, I had to let my partner know that I was aware of my limits. It didn't feel safe, and I continued to climb I was likely looking at a 30 foot fall, potentially grating my skin down granite along the way. I needed to re-adjust and take some time. I had to tell him. It felt like I was disappointing him in some way. Better to disappoint him then hide my fear under false confidence and suffer potential consequences--for both of us.

© 2018 by Ben Culhane, Psy.D. 

Marriage & Couples counseling for adults who are struggling in relationship and love, looking to go deeper in connection and communication located in Newport Beach, California | serving the surrounding irvine, san diego, los angeles, laguna beach, newport beach, mission viejo, rancho santa margarita, costa mesa,and huntington beach