THERAPIST LAURA VALK ON THE RECIPE FOR A HAPPY RELATIONSHIP: WHAT CAN I, AS A MAN OR WOMAN, DO FOR MY RELATIONSHIP TO WORK?
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Styling: BonBon Lingerie
We live in a world where we are constantly surrounded by an excess flow of information on what kind of relationships other people are in and what a successful relationship should look like. Without having one independent thought about the things that I, myself, value and need from a partner. In a world where meeting new people is so easy, we might often find ourselves wondering if there is someone better out there after minor complications arise in our current relationship. Even if we do find true love, maintaining it in a long term relationship is a skill on its own. Therapist Laura Valk believes that we all deserve to be in a truly happy relationship and has joined us once again to help us realise who is right for us and how to give your all to make the relationship last.
Laura wears the Pamela ouvert bra and g-strings. Valentine’s Day offer -20%.
HOW CAN YOUR PAST AFFECT YOUR FUTURE RELATIONSHIP?“No other relationship in our lives is as similar to the one with our romantic partner than the relationship we had with our parents in our childhood.”
Therefore, it is beneficial to make yourself aware of three aspects:
What is my relationship like with my mother
What is my relationship like with my father
What type of a romantic adult relationship did I witness growing up
If we enter our adult life unaware and not having done any work with ourselves, we tend to repeat the patterns of our childhood. Here, however, I would like to reiterate that patterns aren’t always negative - in this case, a pattern is simply something that repeats. Because we live a lot of our life unconsciously, our unconscious can be seen as an information vault - it is filled with information about your experiences as a child, teenager, young adult. If my information vault has information that a romantic relationship is respectful - there is love and passion between a man and a woman with hugging and hand holding even after 20 years of marriage - I both consciously and unconsciously lay this safe and familiar information as a foundation for when I go out looking for a relationship myself. Unfortunately, the reality is that a lot of adults today who grew up during the Soviet period or 90s lacked love and emotional intimacy in their relationships. People lacked the skill to communicate while a lot of addiction problems and codependent relationship dynamics occurred. Men drank, were employed far away or emotionally locked up so women had to be strong, often suffering from domestic violence and living a miserable life. People broke up and were unable to manage their emotional state as a parent. For example, fathers were distanced from their children or went and made a new family by choice. Despite the details, the result was always the same - a lonely and love-deficient child.
These beliefs fill the information vaults of a lot of adults today: how to resolve issues, how to break up, and what a normal romantic relationship looks like. And so now, we find ourselves in a place where we are looking at the past. If we look at what a standard romantic relationship looked like in society 20 to 30 years ago, we come to the conclusion that we definitely do not want to repeat that. Maybe we already have some unhappy relationships to look back on in our adult life or the current one simply doesn’t work but we lack the skills to fix it as well. Or we lack the skill to let go of a relationship that does not serve us anymore. Today, we are constantly evolving and thus, do not have to stay stuck in the same place for years. We go through life lessons quickly and in my opinion, it’s totally okay to deeply love multiple people in your lifetime.
“IF I KNOW THE TYPE OF ROMANTIC RELATIONSHIP I DESIRE, MY PAST EITHER COMPLETELY STOPS DEFINING OR DEFINES ME REMARKABLY LESS.”
Laura wears the Luna ouvert bodysuit. Valentine’s Day offer -20%.
“In my line of work, I see how a lot of people focus too much on the past and on what they do not want. Whereas in reality, we have to start focusing on what we want from life. Like how I want to feel when I’m with my partner. If I know the type of romantic relationship I desire, my past either completely stops defining or defines me remarkably less.”
The second aspect consists of remembering your values. “Childhood beliefs also carry a lot of weight in building successful relationships. For example, if I didn’t feel important or good enough as a child then it becomes almost like a layer I have placed on myself and through which I now unconsciously look at the world through. I like to remind people who lack self-love that they are forgetting they are diamonds who are simply covered in dust. Therapy has the same effect as rain - it helps wash the diamond clean off the dust and uncover the truth. Working on your self-love is an illusion because in reality, we are all already worthy of love, we are all who we are supposed to be and not broken in any way. We don’t have to go to therapy for 20 years to be worthy of love, rather the point of therapy is to see clearly that I already am worthy of love. And this memory can only come from the inside, not from a podcast or course.’’
“WORKING ON YOUR SELF-LOVE IS AN ILLUSION BECAUSE IN REALITY, WE ARE ALL ALREADY WORTHY OF LOVE.”
Laura is wearing the spicy Sweet Escape triangle bra, panties, suspender belt, and stockings.
BEING IN A RELATIONSHIP MEANS FOCUSING ON THE PERSON IN FRONT OF YOU
To everyone who is ready to find a long term partner, Laura recommends focusing on the person right in front of you and putting the emphasis on bettering the communication. “A team is made up of two partners and for it to be an effective one, both parties need to learn how to communicate. Learn how to express what is going on in your inner world, how to listen to your partner and remain loving even during the tougher moments. For couples who have communication issues that often manifest themselves in overly emotional arguments that end in yelling, I recommend imago therapy where pairs are taught to communicate effectively. The biggest mistake in relationships is often the lack of skill to resolve problems as a team. If there is no communication, then there is no connection. Without connection, we feel lonely in a relationship. When it comes to sexuality, when a woman feels that she isn’t heard by her partner, she stops being able to open up sexually as well.” Laura goes deeper into the topic of female sexuality in our previous blog.
“A RELATIONSHIP DOES NOT BREAK IN A DAY, BUT NEEDS A SYSTEMATIC AND LONG TERM LACK OF EFFORT AND ENERGY FOR ITS DOWNFALL.’’
Laura wears the erotic Luna ouvert bodysuit. Valentine’s Day offer -20%.
Communication is all about solving problems as a unit and having real heart-to-heart conversations. “What often happens in a long term relationship is that we tend to talk about everyday topics and problems that need a solution. If we meet a new person, we talk about our dreams and feelings. We talk about what we want from life and the way in which we view the world. Successful relationships are those that consist of partners who have the necessary skills to maintain interest in each other. In groups, I often notice that when one partner is telling a story, the other one says “everyone knows this already”. This kind of reaction hints to a lack of interest in each other. We tend to forget that we are constantly changing. People think that the person they are with today is the same person they met 2 years ago and they take the stance of why should they even bother listening to them. But no, we are changing every day. I feel like I am not the same person today that I was a month ago and it would be truly sad if the man I was with was reluctant to notice that and feel little interest towards the version of me I am today. I am always amazed when I hear stories of someone in a 10 year relationship living a double life - being a drug addict in secret or suddenly leaving a long term partner because they have been in love with someone else for a while now. Dear readers, do you really not notice what is going on right in front of your nose? How is that possible? A relationship does not break in a day, but needs a systematic and long term lack of effort and energy for its downfall.”
“WOMEN WHO HAVE STARTED WORKING ON THEMSELVES IN THERAPY ARE ALWAYS LOOKING FOR RED FLAGS IN MEN, BUT OFTEN FORGET TO BE A GREEN FLAG AKA A SECURE PARTNER THEMSELVES.”
Laura shines in the exotic Sweet Escape collection.
Even though the foundation for every successful relationship is open and honest communication, Laura recommends being careful with sharing the details of your past early on. “In order to be honest with your partner, you need to be honest with yourself. If we are talking about honesty in the context of relationships, a certain question arises - is not being honest considered cheating? My opinion of the situation is that if we are talking about the dating period, we do not have to shower our partner with information. The important stuff gets shared anyway. I often hear that people go on dates and tell the person sitting in front of them all about their past traumas and experiences with different men - how they were treated by their ex or what kind of custody questions are currently being discussed in court with the father of their kids. Focus on the person in front of you rather than on your exes and exes of exes. All the latter is unnecessary information. However, if you are in a new relationship and start to wonder what was your partner’s last relationship like or what their ex says about them then it’s worth analysing why you have a need to look into their past. Are you sensing something bad and looking for reassurance or is it fear that makes you escape from the present. If your partner is open and genuine then you won’t feel the need to rummage through their past. In addition, we are all always evolving. Women who have started working on themselves in therapy are always looking for red flags in men, but often forget to be a green flag aka a secure partner themselves.”
HOW CAN I BE SURE I HAVE FOUND THE RIGHT PERSON FOR ME?
“When we find ourselves a partner, the most important question to ask ourselves is how do they make me feel. In terms of dating, women have always followed a fairly standard protocol: for your date to be attracted to you, you will have to look your best. For example, if a man says that he prefers straight hair, then the one thing their date won’t show up with is curly hair. By constantly having to impress our partner, we often lose sight of our sincerity, honesty and contact with ourselves. We start showing ourselves from a better light than we truly are. We may think “oh, he has this hobby, I better not mention that I don’t like it.’’ In a situation where both parties do this, it isn’t a surprise if after three months neither of you can no longer keep up with this facade and realise you are not compatible at all.”
“THE MOST IMPORTANT AND ONLY QUESTION YOU NEED TO BE ASKING YOURSELF WHEN YOU MEET SOMEONE NEW IS HOW THEY MAKE YOU FEEL.”
Laura wears the sensual Pamela ouvert bra and g-strings. Valentine’s Day offer -20%.
Laura discovered that her life started to change significantly once she decided to start presenting her true self on dates. “I had to be brave. If I have an opinion about something we are currently discussing then I will express it without fear. I started asking myself, how does this person or another make me feel? The question ,,Does he like me?’’ got replaced by ,,Do I like him and do I like the way I feel when I’m with him?’’. I went on a date with a well-known Estonian guy and he made me feel very uncomfortable. It was clear that he knew he’s a star and was used to women falling at his feet. He started toying with my nervous system and made me feel anxious. As a therapist, I felt how I instantly started feeling worse from the minute we started talking. Brunch started with him saying: “So Laura, who really are you?”. I felt completely caught off guard as I didn’t understand what we were talking about. I replied that I am myself, the person that is sitting behind this table is the person I am everywhere. And he didn’t believe me. He kept insisting that I tell him who I really am. I expressed to him that he made me feel uncomfortable and that I did not understand these interrogation games he was playing with me, nor did I like them. I only want to communicate with genuine people. I can’t stand men who are desperately trying to be the alpha males. There is no bigger beta energy than a man who is trying too hard to be an alpha. Why can’t we just enjoy our brunch and talk like real people? During the conversation, I also found out that he was in a relationship, which was truly the cherry on top. Finally, he said to me that he now sends me home to think about whether I want to go out with him again or not. So I went home and thought that sure, two years ago I would’ve done anything to get his approval. I would’ve gone along with this dynamic then but this time, I just sat at home and told a friend about the brunch that I just had and had a good laugh about it. It is so wonderful to see that I have evolved to the extent that these kinds of toxic dynamics don’t thrill me anymore at all. So the most important and only question you need to be asking yourself when you meet someone new is how they make you feel. To these gentlemen, I wrote that in my opinion he hates women and I sadly won’t be seeing him again.”
If we feel like we have found the right person for us who makes us feel good, then before entering a relationship and committing to one another, you should discuss the following three important topics that will determine the success and future of your relationship.
Your and your partner’s base values
The rules of your relationship
Division of responsibilities when moving in together
“When it comes to base values, you should first figure out what your values are and other important topics to you. How much do I want to spend time together, what is important to me in life, do I want to have children, do I want to get married, do I see my future in Estonia or abroad, do I like living in the city or countryside, what are my ambitions, what are my dreams, do I have any dog or cat allergies, what do I believe in. Then, compare these values to the ones of your partner and see if they match and if not, can you find a compromise? We all have very strong values that are hard to compromise on but there are a lot of topics that you may be able to meet each other halfway for your relationship’s sake. The latter can only happen in such a way that neither side's well-being is harmed.
When talking about the rules of the relationship, the world rules don't have any negative connotations. Rules are rules. If we set clear boundaries together with our partner, we gain a lot of freedom within those boundaries. For example, what do I consider cheating, what is the difference between flirting and cheating, if my partner crosses a boundary at a party, would I want to know about it or not really. Everyone has different beliefs regarding the latter, which definitely need to be discussed firsthand. If we set clear rules with our partner, we can prevent unintentionally hurting one another.
Before moving in together, money-related topics should also definitely be discussed. Money is a very uncomfortable topic for people so I recommend sitting down with your partner and at least discussing the following questions: who will pay for what when living together, what is your monthly budget as a couple, do you keep your income separate, do you start saving up. Additionally, what are your future goals, will you buy your own home. The more openly we can talk about these topics, the stronger the relationship will be and you will avoid future arguments about money issues and setting irrational expectations that lead to disappointment in each other. You should also discuss responsibilities, meaning, how I, as a woman, see what my responsibilities are at home. Do I assume that I will do more of the household work and my partner will pay more or we cut all the responsibilities and money matters in half.
Laura is wearing the sexy Luna black ouvert bodysuit. Valentine’s Day offer -20%.
WHAT CAN I DO TO MAKE MY RELATIONSHIP LAST?
“The secret to a successful relationship is the time spent together and the quality of it. This shows how strong of a connection you have both emotionally and mentally. The connection in turn is reflected in how much sex you have. Of course, we have harder periods in life but all in all, you should make time for your relationship weekly, when the kids are with the nanny or grandparents. Men and women need time to be alone together, to talk, to do interesting things together and also be physically together, experience pleasure and have sex.”
It is a common belief in society that when the first love-haze in a relationship passes and routine sets in, it indicates that the relationship has reached that inevitable phase where two partners no longer pay any attention to each other. Laura states that it doesn’t always have to be like that. “If the relationship has a very strong emotional and physical connection, we never stop falling in love with each other. It’s an old myth that when two people have been together for a while, it’s normal they don’t feel as in love as they were in the beginning, and the passion isn’t there anymore which is why they sleep in separate rooms. This outdated belief comes from relationships where two people stayed together due to financial reasons, not love. If an emotional connection is present and we truly are compatible then life will never become routine.” To everyone who wonders if they still love each other with their partner or whether it has fizzled out, Laura recommends imagining if you were to live this kind of life with this very person until the end of your life, would it be a happy life or not?
“IF THE RELATIONSHIP HAS A VERY STRONG EMOTIONAL AND PHYSICAL CONNECTION, WE NEVER STOP FALLING IN LOVE WITH EACH OTHER.”
Laura wears the fuchsia pink Sweet Escape triangle bra, panties, suspender belt, and stockings.
In addition to quality time, Laura says it’s also important that the polarities within a relationship are correct. “If we are talking about masculine and feminine energies in the context of relationships, the masculine energy leads, organises, takes responsibility, is certain, stable, and safe. Feminine energy is flowing, playful, creative, sensual, emotional, light, and fills life with freshness. Women have jobs today. More often than not, their roles have a lot of responsibility and are in leading positions. Which is an amazing and very cool aspect, but women in leading positions often don’t know how to change into their feminine energy at home, which complicates things in a relationship. In other words, if you are a so-called boss lady - you are in charge, you run around, you make a lot of money, you are a career-driven woman - it is important to know how to change into your feminine energy at home. This entails trusting your man and letting go of control.”
The biggest sign of trust is letting your partner take responsibility. ,,When I am with my partner, I consciously give the responsibility to him. He makes decisions about our plans and living arrangements. He drives the car and I don’t make commands from the passenger seat about where he should drive to or park. I let him be in charge of our life. I let him be a man. If I, as a woman, feel safe and that I can trust this man, then I will want to let go of the control. Being constantly in charge, stressed and in control is tiring for women. It also creates anger towards your partner because even if we feel safe and comfortable enough to organise everything, as women, we would rather not do that. If the man is heavily in the feminine energy, meaning, he drinks a lot of alcohol, watches a lot of porn, is not ambitious, doesn’t have any goals, isn’t responsible for his family or relationship, then this kind of a man can never be trusted and no woman will not surrender to them either. Thus, masculine and feminine energy dynamics need to be looked at from both sides. If I tell a woman to surrender to a man but this man is not worth surrendering to, it simply won’t work. It is easiest to be in your feminine energy by finding yourself a truly masculine man. And I don’t mean macho or alpha males, I mean men who are in their masculine energy. A kind of man who wants to take responsibility and who won’t say that we’ll see where life takes us, that he doesn’t want anything serious right now. A man who is present. A man in his masculine energy knows where he is going, he knows that he wants to be with you and his presence makes you feel that you don’t need to rush around, take responsibility, organise. I realised that I used to try so hard to be in my feminine energy but the reality was that if the man I was with wasn’t in his masculine energy, I stayed managing the relationship and in constant control. Today, I have a man beside me who is heavily in his masculine energy. He is very present and with him, I never have to think how to be more in my feminine energy. Our relationship has the correct polarities in place. He is the one who is sure in himself and who I, as a woman, can rely on. For example, when I know that my period is about to start, I become hormonal and often start stressing over small things. He simply looks at me and says “Laura, everything is okay. We will find a solution.” and I already feel more relaxed. We recently went abroad to a small city and my friends asked me what city we went to. I answered that I honestly don't know because I hadn’t done any organising since the airport. We are together, we have a great time, and we make sure that we both have fun. My friends laughed and said that right there is a sign of maximum trust in a man - Laura Valk, a control freak, doesn’t know what city she is in. As women, we tend to be emotional and if I took a man who can’t stand still amidst the chaos, we would drive each other crazy. There must be a grounding force in the relationship. In other words, everything begins with the fact that if I want to be the woman in the relationship, I need to find a man who is truly in contact with his masculinity and vice versa.”
“IT IS IMPORTANT TO CHANGE INTO YOUR FEMININE ENERGY AT HOME. THIS ENTAILS TRUSTING YOUR MAN AND LETTING GO OF CONTROL.”
Men can do a lot in the relationship dynamic. “If the male side sees that the woman wants to forcefully take the masculine role in the relationship, he needs to take greater responsibility and get back control. A great place to start would be planning joint activities and dates. The man asks the woman out, organises the whole thing by himself, doesn’t ask the woman what she would like to do and instead tells her he would like to take her to the theatre on this date and time. Thus, as a man, you won’t assign the responsibility and organising to your female partner (even though a lot of women want that), but you take your woman out, pay the bill at the restaurant, bring her flowers, and treat her like a real woman. If you don’t live together then you go pick her up from her home or send a taxi. These are such basic things.
Here, we have once again reached the notorious age-old question - is it appropriate to ask a woman to pay half of the bill. In my eyes, no. If a man wants to be in his masculine energy and asks me out, then he also pays the bill because he is in charge of this project. Of course, this doesn't mean that I won’t occasionally pay the bill on an anniversary or that I don't give my man gifts. Of course I do. I adore my man and do my best to be the greatest partner to him. He does the same for me as well. When talking about who takes the reins in a relationship, it should typically be the male side. The reason is very simple - women can be in their female energy only if they don’t have to worry. Is she being cheated on or whether she can truly trust her partner. Therefore, a man helps his partner be in her feminine energy only if he is truly present for her, takes an interest in her, and makes it so that the woman doesn’t have to worry about pseudo-problems. There is no point in being in a relationship where the woman lacks trust in the man as the head of the family. Break up - it’s better for everyone.”
“A MAN CAN HELP HIS WOMAN BE IN HER FEMININE ENERGY ONLY IF HE IS TRULY PRESENT FOR HER, TAKES AN INTEREST IN HER, AND MAKES IT SO THE WOMAN DOESN’T HAVE TO WORRY.”
Laura wears the Pamela ash-purple ouvert bra.
The same way, women can help men be in their masculine energy by giving men responsibility. “A very good ritual that women can do: take 4-6 responsibility pillows and two chairs. One chair is for him and the second one for you. Then, start placing pillows on the chair that has this or that responsibility currently in the relationship, figuring out who, in your opinion, has more responsibility in the relationship. You might put five pillows on your chair and one on his chair. If you have established the current situation of your relationship then reorder the pillows and distribute the responsibility in a way that feels fair to you.”
BonBon Lingerie thanks Laura Valk for her extremely detail-rich tips and wishes everyone a happy love-day. We hope that love is present for you on all other days besides Valentine's Day as well! If you feel that you need more information on certain topics, we recommend looking into Laura Valk’s private courses with your partner that can be found on her website or grab her widely popular bestseller “Kohvrid ukse taha” from your local bookstore shelves.