March 29, 2024

Message Caterina Kostoula

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10 Years of Marriage: Lessons on Love and Compatibility

What is the love story you want to experience? This is a key question we have been reflecting on during this week in my VisionPath program.

The quality of our relationships will define the quality of our lives. Nothing has the power to give you more joy or pain, depending on how it goes, than your relationships.

You cannot live your vision if your love life is not where you want it to be.

I wanted to share some of my key learnings from ten years of marriage in the hope that they will serve you.

If you have a vision of a vibrant, fulfilling love relationship, read on.


Choosing The Right Partner For You

Choosing a life partner is arguably the most important decision we will ever make. Here are some of my lessons around this topic.


1. Choose someone who complements you

We know that a team needs diversity for success. It needs complementary skills to bring fresh perspectives and improve the team’s performance.

It is the same in our lives. The challenge of dating apps is that people share a lot about themselves and seek someone who shares their interests and ways.

They end up dating a “sibling,” someone too similar to them. That is a recipe for disaster for maintaining attraction and creating success.

I met my husband during our MBA, and they had us take personality assessments. We took the MBTI personality test and had all the opposite characteristics.

MBTI has been discredited since then, but it helped me know from the beginning that my husband was very different from me.

Did our different personalities make it harder for us to communicate and align on a day-to-day basis? For sure.

Did our differences help make our 2-person team more successful in navigating careers, creating wealth, designing beautiful experiences, and parenting? You bet.

I am more of a visionary, whereas my husband is more of a get-things-done person. I bring the variety, while he brings the stability. I am more of a big-picture, see-the-wood type of person while he spots the details.

I ensure we rappel waterfalls on the weekend, and he ensures the kids have their swimming suits in their school bags when they have swimming class.

Both skills are invaluable to be successful as a family.

A partner who is more similar to me would make the ride easier, more boring, and less successful.


2. Choose someone with whom you are yourself

I used to think that passionate love needs drama. There was no drama when I met my husband. It felt easy and effortless from the beginning.

I used to talk to him for hours, and he found what I said fascinating.

I was myself. I did not feel the need to be someone else.

Before him, I thought I had such a desire for freedom that I would never commit to a relationship for the long haul.

My husband offered me all the freedom I wanted while providing me with safety.

He is secure in himself to not try to control me but also loyal and committed to me.

I realized his safe harbor allowed me to enjoy my freedom more.

I love the phrase from Saint Exypery: “Love is me leading you gently back to yourself.”


3. Do not expect one person to cover all your needs

I often notice that people who struggle to find a partner have an idealized expectation of meeting someone who will cover all their needs.

If you are single, there is nothing wrong with desiring someone who will meet you at your level, spiritually, intellectually, etc.

But most of my spiritual friends, for example, appreciate having a partner who grounds them in the practicality and reality of the real world.

My point is not to expect one person to cover all your needs.

I do not take all my business advice from my husband; I hire business mentors. I work with a coach for my personal growth.

I have worked with health coaches. I talk with my other family and friends.

When I have gone through a tough time, I have had a therapist. I did not force my husband to be my therapist.

I cannot expect my husband, as amazing as he is, to be my entire support system.


4. Make decisions that have everyone’s well-being in mind.

If you choose to spend your life with someone, see how they make decisions.

Do they optimize for the couple, the family, or just for themselves?

This is not about not setting boundaries or overgiving. It is simply about your partner having your best interests at heart as well as theirs and trying to find a solution that optimizes for both.

For example, this week, we were returning from a trip. My daughter wanted to stop at a specific supermarket to buy cheeseballs.

I could see my husband was tired of driving. He does not like driving at night in Costa Rica, as the roads are narrow and the street lighting is not great. My son and I were also tired.

I decided to skip buying the cheeseballs so that we could arrive home earlier.

I took into consideration everyone’s interests and suggested a solution that was better for the whole family rather than just one individual (my daughter, in this case). We agreed with my daughter to buy the cheeseballs two days later when we would be close to that store again.

This is the algorithm for most of our decisions: How can we optimize for the whole family’s interests while also allowing the members to thrive and live their vision individually?

Choose someone who can think of the collective and not just themselves.


5. Do not be competitive

You will hold yourself back in your success if you are afraid that, at some level, it will outshine your partner. Competition among couples is a big no-no for me.

Choose a partner who is OK with you outshining them or making more money than them. Choose a partner who feels proud and happy for you rather than jealous.

In your home, you should have your teammate, not your rival.


How To Handle Conflict Productively

An essential skill you must cultivate for relationship quality is handling conflict productively. Here are my beliefs and strategies


1. I cannot change someone else

We cannot change anyone else. People change because they want to.

I set the boundaries around myself. I do not try to change the other person. I clearly state what is OK and what is not regarding behaviors related to the children and me.

Outside of that, I accept the other person as they are while supporting them on their growth journey.


2. I work on my triggers

I read recently that we subconsciously choose a partner who triggers us so that we can heal our wounds. I found that notion fascinating, and it rang true to me.

I noticed that I was constantly triggered when my husband got angry, even if it was over random things, like the traffic.

For years, I tried to convince my husband to manage his anger responses so that I do not get triggered.

Then, I saw my being triggered as a sign of where I had to do personal development work.

Did I have any wounds related to anger? Maybe something from my childhood? Perhaps the raised voice brings me back to a fearful child-mode when my mum would raise her voice? Was there something to heal there?

Finally, I read about shadows. We often disown a part of ourselves, and seeing it in another person triggers the hell out of us.

If you have suppressed your sexuality, for example, if you see a sensual person, it will trigger you.

I realized I had suppressed my anger. It was not an acceptable feeling in my home when I grew up.

Seeing my husband’s anger was triggering because it reminded me of all the suppressed anger I had. My trigger in my relationship showed me where I had work to do.

Where does your partner trigger you? Could it be your shadow? Do they express a part of you that you have suppressed?


3. Avoid the four horsemen of the apocalypse

According to the Gottman Institute research, there are four horsemen of the apocalypse in relationships: blame, defensiveness, stonewalling, and sarcasm.

We all display them when we have a terrible day. They kill our relationship.

Understanding which one of those is your Achilles heel and avoiding it is paramount to relationship quality.


Keep The Passion Alive

Now, let’s move to the third part of this guide. How do we keep the relationship vibrant and the passion alive?


1. Love is a choice

I do not believe that love is an emotion out of my control. It is, first and foremost, our true nature. It is also a choice.

Many people think that love is over when the infatuation stage is done. When the hormones of the initial stage fizzle out.

If you believe that love is a verb and a choice, you will not go through that phase of thinking that love is over and you can do nothing about it.

It is up to you to decide whether you want to love this person or not.


2. Learn to recognize the Five Love Languages

The Five Love Languages is one of those books and theories that saved my relationship.

In the early years, I would feel unloved by my partner because he would not tell me I was beautiful or take the initiative to hold hands while walking.

Then I read the five love languages and realized people express love in five different ways: acts of service, words of affirmation, quality time, touch, and gifts.

I started translating. My husband may not tell me I am beautiful, but if he reviews this newsletter and provides feedback before I send it, it is because he loves me.

Learning this changed everything.


3. Your body is your path to enlightenment

I believe that sexuality is sacred, and sex is one of our fastest ways to enlightenment.

It is where life begins. It is when the wave remembers that it is the ocean.

It is a unique opportunity to transcend ourselves. Connect, meet, and even merge with another human being.

Tantra is an ancient practice of using sexuality for enlightenment.

Working on physical intimacy in your relationship is paramount for its quality and for your personal growth.


4. Commit, again and again

I have seen couples who remove the option of a separation from their thinking. And it works for them. Burn the ships to conquer the island and all.

This is not what I do.

I do not use divorce as a weapon or as a threat, but it is always on my mind. Especially when my husband and I are having a bad day.

I often ask myself: Am I better off inside or outside this relationship? Every time until now, the answer has been that I am better off within it.

I have not committed to my husband once. I revisit this commitment and recommit whenever I get exceptionally frustrated with him.

I do not do this as a strategy; this is how my mind works.

But it helps us avoid taking the relationship for granted.

We are here by choice, and it is a choice that we are not afraid to revisit again and again to make sure it is aligned with our vision.


5. Fill your cup first

The more you live your vision, the more your relationship stays alive and evolves.

People crave certainty and stability, but going too far in that direction will kill the passion. It needs a sense of mystery and uncertainty.

For the passion to be alive, you need variety, uncertainty, and evolution.

The more we grow individually, the more attractive we are to each other.

The more we live our vision, the more excitement we bring to our lives and rejuvenate the relationship.

Moving to a new country, embarking on a new project, or starting a new hobby refreshes us and our bond.


Conclusion

One of my favorite quotes about love is this one by Rumi:

“Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.”

It is easy to settle for loneliness or a mediocre relationship. Most people around us do.

It needs courage to put a stake in the ground and aim for an exceptional relationship.

One that will help you come home to yourself and also connect with something bigger than yourself.

It needs courage to open your heart to another person truly. It is the ultimate vulnerability and holds the keys to the ultimate reward.

I do not want you to settle for loneliness or a mediocre relationship.

I want you to have passion, love, amazing transcendental sex, and an ultimate partner in crime when you decide to raise a little hell and change the world.

I hope what I learned from 10 years of marriage has helped you.


Download my free guide with the 10 Powerful Mindset Shifts To Achieve Your Vision.

Discover:
What are the 10 telltale signs that you are living your vision?
What are the 3 things you might think you need for success but you really don’t.
The 10 mindset shifts all my clients who enjoy success in all areas of their lives have made.

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