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Importance of building Love & relationships

By Dr. Ashraf Girgis N.D


I wrote this article in February of 2014. Highlighting love and relationships and its importance in our life and overall health. I have added and updated it to keep it current. Hope you enjoy reading it:

On Valentine’s Day; millions across the globe celebrate this holiday by whispering the words “I love you” to one another, while many feel pressure to say the same even if they don’t mean it. Others feel obligated to take their loved ones to dinner or give gifts, just because everyone else is doing it.           

Meanwhile, millions of people are feeling lonely and have no one to share this special day with. Thinking the grass is greener on the other side, these people often try too hard to find a partner. Fortunately, there are those who actually do love each other and enjoy showing this affection in a noticeable way.  

Unfortunately, others feel societal pressure to do the same. But do we really have to give into the commercialization of this holiday? Do we really need to get gifts, or can we simply cook a nice meal or go on a fun adventure? I personally think that Valentine’s Day, as well as most other holidays, is extremely commercialized. It creates needless stress rather than a wonderful occasion to show affection to our loved ones. 

According to legend, the holiday originated to honor St. Valentine, a roman priest who was imprisoned and martyred later on for succoring persecuted Christians. While he was in prison, he performed a few miracles, including curing the blindness of a prisoner’s daughter. This resulted in the prisoner’s conversion to Christianity. According to some, St. Valentine performed marriage ceremonies for soldiers in secret, as they were not allowed to marry. St. Valentine also always wore a purple amethyst ring that had “Love of God” imprinted on it. In the 1800s, the celebration of St. Valentine turned into a holiday for romance in England.

 Regardless of what the true story is behind Valentine’s day, all can agree that in the 21st century, February 14th has become a day for gifts and increasing corporations’ profit rather than a celebration of love.

 One does not need to have a doctorate in naturopathic medicine or be a stress management consultant/therapist to know most of our stress stems from relationships with others (or a lack thereof). A survey by the University of Utah (2012) indicated that the main reasons for divorces in the United States are as follows (People often gave more than one reason, so the percentages add up to more than 100%):

 Lack of commitment (73% said this was a major reason)
Too much arguing (56%)
Infidelity (55%)
Married too young (46%)
Unrealistic expectations (45%)
Inequality in the relationship (44%)
Unprepared for marriage (41%)
Abuse (29%)
 Obviously, there are many more reasons that could contribute to the end of a marriage. Below, I have listed 8 steps to improve and hopefully sustain relationships, not just in marriage but all walks of life.

1.     Build Trust

I can’t emphasize the word “trust” enough, not just in marriage but all of our relationships. Without trust, no relationship will last for long. No friendships can be built upon, and no coworker camaraderie can be created. Surely, someone who hasn’t learned the art of building trust will find themselves lonely forever.

Even small white lies, when discovered, can damage relationships. If, for whatever reason, you are unable to confide something to your partner, tell them so. You can therefore prevent the issue from being raised again. Otherwise, prepare yourself to have a relationship that won’t be deep or fulfilling, and sooner or later will fall apart. Some mistrust starts with flirtation with your boyfriend’s or your husband’s friends, or vice versa. While flirtation can be totally very innocent, it can also result in heartbreaks and separations.

One of my clients, after some 20 some years of marriage, decided to divorce her husband because he always seemed to flirt with other women and sometimes sleep around with them. He was not sure what was psychologically causing his behavior. Finally, after a lot of therapy, he found out: because he was raised by a mother who never showed any affection to him, he felt attracted to any female showing the slightest bit of affection. Being conscious of this new finding, he tried to change and was able to get back to his wife. So, if you have a partner who always acts in a flirtatious manner with others, try to talk to them and tell them how they make you feel uncomfortable.

Hopefully, trust can allow you two to work it out. If not, moving on is the best way forward. If there is no trust for ANY reason, whether flirtations or any other reason, the relationship will NEVER be fulfilling and will not last very long. Trust is foundation on which ALL relationships are built.

Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere

2. Have Mindful Interactions

In other words, never take your relationships for granted. How many times are you with your partner, but not truly there? Your mind is somewhere else, not totally invested in the conversation you are having with your partner. I remember a client complaining about how she divorced her husband because at the beginning of their marriage, he always planned something with his friends on the weekend instead of spending time with her and getting to know her better (they were married only a few short months after they met). He made her feel like she was never enough. He acted as though he always needed someone from his past in order to have fun. When they spoke, he always seemed distracted.

Being mindful is crucial in any relationship. Carrying mindful conversations is very important. Be engaged and actively participate in conversations. Make eye contact, and occasionally rephrase things your partner has said to indicate you are listening. Show them you are actively listening. Study of mindfulness are staggering. Scientific evidence indicate mindful interaction between child and parents are significant in their overall developments. Dr. Daniel Siegel has done extensive research in this regard. In addition, scientists such as Jon Kabat-Zinn, a microbiology Ph.D. at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center has also done studies in MBSR (Mindful Body Stress Response). They have noticed mindful interaction does lead to increased activity in the left side of frontal lobe in brain. The frontal lobe is responsible for executive function in our brain, meaning that important decision-making – logic, reason, etc. – takes place in our frontal lobe. This mindful approach to interactions is shown to be very useful and effective in control of pain, etc., which we will talk about some other time. But the point I am trying to make here is that being mindful improves our relationships in addition to giving others of feeling being heard. This in its own merit has a significant impact in improving our relationships, whether at home with your husband or wife or children, or at work with coworkers. Mindfulness is the BEST gift to yourself you can practice acquiring.

3. Show genuine care

Regardless of the types of relationships we are working on, it is always important to show how much we care. This is especially important when it comes to our closest loved ones. Pay attention to them and their daily lives, and be a good listener. Focus on them instead of always talking about yourself and your own world. It is important to invest in their world and what matters to them, their likes and dislikes. I had a friend who tried to follow my suggestions. She told me that one evening, her husband wanted to play some of his music. Normally she hated his taste in music, but this time, she tried to show some interest and tolerate it. He was so excited to show her some of his old CDs and he talked about them ceaselessly. They listened to a few of his CDs together. Not only did she had a good time, she realized that she actually liked some of the lyrics and singers. This simple gesture made their evening together much more interesting. I’m not saying all of your relationships are going to be wonderful after something this simple, but it’s an important step in the right direction. Showing interest in others and their interests, as well as simple act of kindness toward them, indicate that you care about them. That is what makes a relationship work. One of my clients was saying she always finds it heartwarming when her husband cleans her car or makes breakfast for her in the morning or on weekends. Even though he doesn’t often say he loves her out loud, his actions say he does.

If you realized the power of thought, you would never choose a negative one.

4. Lower your expectations and be realistic

Expectations are one of the downfalls healthy relationships. Too many romantic movies, shows, and books have us mesmerized with the concept of being in love. Some of us are enamored with this concept simply for the heck of it. We want the excitement, pain, longing, joy, and all the other shenanigans that go with it. We are unwilling to realize that love has its ups and downs. There is no perfect relationship, even among the best of the best. There will be times of argument, and times where everything might not be what we expected. But what we need to look at is how we feel about our relationships on the whole. If you are happy most of the time with your partner, and feel that he/she is the only person you’d want to be with, then the occasional negativity should be accepted as a part of living together. Remember, the closer you are, the more susceptible you are to the other’s negative behavior. But we need to understand how to accept the person as he/she is and love them as a whole, regardless of their imperfections. 

 5. Maintain your independence

In any relationship, it is important to be independent. I am not saying to be like two strangers living under the same roof. But it’s important not to be emotionally clingy. Over time, that can become suffocating, no matter how good the relationship is. Needing your partner too much will send them away and keep them there. It is important to show your partner that he/she is not alone, and to be there for them to lean on. Try to find a balance between being too clingy and being totally detached. If you continue to be too reliant on your partner, you need to focus on yourself and try to realize why you’re this way, instead of blaming your partner for being too independent.

Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere

Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere

6. Help each other grow

Being in a relationship should not mean we give up things we’re passionate about. If you have a hobby, why not involve your partner in it? If you have no interest whatsoever in the other person’s hobbies, at least let them do what they love on their own; you can grow together in different areas of your lives. Take painting classes together, go to dancing classes, or be actively involved in a charity together. The more activities you do together, the more you can grow together and become closer to each other. A very common reason for divorces is that one person feels they have grown while the other has stayed the same; don’t let that happen to you. Learn and grow together.

7. Allow intimacy to build

Developing intimacy and closeness with someone can be scary. There are different types of intimacy: intellectual, emotional, sexual, and experience-based. Many relationships have been broken because of a lack of intimacy. Although intimacy is a very essential element in close relationships, it is not something that can be developed overnight. For intimacy to develop, one must go through the process of bonding first. Additionally, being intimate does not necessarily require intimacy on all levels. Communication and self-awareness play an important role in becoming intimate. Some people are scared of exposing their true selves to someone they love for fear of rejection. Regardless of the reason, it is important to know that intimacy takes time and cannot be forced. Don’t rush to become intimate. But, at the same time, realize that a close relationship does require close intimacy. Take your time but aim for letting fears go once you are comfortable with your partner.

8. Respect

I once read about a relationship expert who was researching relationships by observing daily interactions of couples at home. The couples agreed to have cameras installed that recorded all of their interactions. Interestingly, one of the main things he found out was that couples who did not respect each other were headed for divorce within a few years. Although respect can mean many things to different people, it is an essential ingredient for relationships regardless. For instance, one woman was complaining about a lack of respect from her husband. He seemed confused, and claimed to respect her a lot. The wife proceeded to say, “Whenever I’m talking on the phone he interrupts me and adds his own input. Or, he’ll answer his cellphone while we’re on a date, like I don’t count. When we go out with others, he will correct me when I say things and make me feel inferior.” Of course, a lack of respect can also be something as simple as insults and yelling. It is very important to always treat others the way you want to be treated.

 So, regardless of what you decide to do this Valentine’s Day, and with your relationships overall, don’t forget to love yourself first and foremost. After all, life is like a canvas; we are all painting our canvas of life stroke by stroke with our actions and interactions, resulting in the creation of our life’s masterpiece—be careful what actions you take. Don’t feel bad if you don’t have a partner at this time in your life. Give yourself a pat on the back and celebrate YOU, the beautiful person within you. Go to a bookstore or the library and get a book or CD. Make a nice cup of tea or fruit-infused water. Enjoy, read/listen, and celebrate YOU. You are your best friend and no one can take that friend away from you. This Valentine’s Day, whisper “I love you” to yourself, and mean it! 


Thanks for visiting For questions, please call my office at (616)-777-0608 and leave a message.Wish you the best in managing your stress.  If you want to learn more about how to manage stress and meditate and the science behind it, feel free to sign up for Dr. Girgis’s seminars on our website..  Feel free to follow us on twitter(X) for my latest postings: Cure Naturally LLC@CureNaturally


 Dr.Ashraf Girgis N.D.

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