Relationships are not always easy. In fact, many days you can find yourself working at that more than you work for your employer. The reason for that is simple. Relationships are you life. Work is simply what you do to earn a living. So, why are the most important things (relationships) sometimes the most difficult to sustain?
I have theories on this, but understand that these are simply my theories and not based in any statistics. I kind of feel like, seeing as how I am in my 4th “marriage” (nothing official except with the tax man) I just might have learned a few things along the way. So, here goes.
- People are often inately selfish. When we are in childhood, we learn that the adults around us will do stuff that helps us out. Gradually they will expect us to also step up, and after a tumultuous teenage phase most people do. But many do not. They continue with the delusion that everyone around them is there to serve them and don’t think about what they can contribute. Insert that into a marriage/relationship and what you have is not a real partnership, but a codependent dictatorship.
- Boys are often doted upon by their mothers (not all, of course) and, as a result will mistakenly think that they can do whatever they like and their wives/partners will just continue with the trend of doting instead of getting enraged that he has no consideration for others around him.
- Girls are often told that when they grow up they will have to run a household. This is much different that making a home. Running a household means that all the decisions fall on YOU, whether it is about what groceries to purchase, how to handle a child who is ill, or what day is laundry day. Also, scheduling repair technicians to come to fix things often falls on the one who runs the household. Being in charge of that much gives the misguided impression that your decisions are final and that nobody should have the gaul to question your authority.
- Our society is filled with twisted messages about what makes a happy marriage. This includes messages like the first one on this meme that I found and shared on social media. I cannot even begin to count the number of times I was told, “Happy Wife, Happy Life,” by friends, family members and even marriage counsellors! The fact of the matter is that sometimes that wife is selfish and inconsiderate and need not be catered to. Not once did any of those crappy counsellors suggest that perhaps my feelings or needs as a husband should be considered. But, like it says in the last half of the meme, “marriage consists of TWO Happy People.”
- People in this day and age are programmed to expect instant gratification. This expectation transfers into their relationships as well. So, where a realist sees that a marriage/relationship is an investment in the long game, so-to-speak, a dreamer will think that it all just happens organically and everything will be alright if everyone can just chill out. That level of immaturity will end a relationship faster than you can say, “I want a divorce.”
These are just a few of many things that I have noticed along the way, both in my own relationships of the past as well as in relationships all around me. The question then remains, “What will make a good and long lasting relationship?” I don’t have all the answers, but I will share a few of the things that I have learned along the way.
Fidelity. People often see that as an outmoded expectation these days. But the thing is that fidelity is extremely important, even in an “open” relationship and in a “pod” relationship. Fidelity is all about open communication, establishing rules and guidelines for what is and is not acceptable within the relationship, and staying true to those rules and guidelines. If you are constantly breaking the rules that have been set out, then you are constantly breaking someone’s heart. That can only happen so often before the entire relationship is broken beyond repair.
Power Plays. It is important to eliminate power plays within a relationship. This includes things like holding the fact that you may be the bigger bread winner over the other person’s head, withholding emotional and physical affection, silent treatments…the list can go on and on. All of that is pure garbage and serves no purpose other than making someone you are supposed to love, honor and respect completely miserable.
Letting go of your parents’ marriage. So often people will hold their parents’ marriage as the “gold standard.” But the truth of the matter is that you only will ever know a fraction of what was involved in your parents’ marriage. Furthermore, too often the children were sheltered from the most difficult parts of the marriage. So you have no idea what was actually said or done between your parents. In addition to this, marriage is something that evolves over time. So a marriage that worked 30 years ago for your parents is not necessarily something that will work for you and your partner. After all, you and your partner are NOT your parents. It is far more important to shape your marriage into something that is mutually agreed upon and work with that. There may be some overlap in terms of what is desired in a marriage between yourselves and your parents’ marriages, but there will be a number of things that are vastly different. For example, your parents may have agreed that one person (usually the mom) will stay home with the kids. In this day and age, most homes NEED two incomes just to make ends meet. And if one person can stay home, it is not necessarily the mother because her job may provide more income than his. And it may also be a marriage of same sex coupling. So who takes what role is always going to be negotiated, sometimes right in the moment.
Letting go of your friends’ opinions about your relationship. The caviet here is “unless you are in an abusive relationship.” But other than that type of circumstance, THEY DO NOT LIVE YOUR LIFE. Their opinion of you, your partner, your relationship is all based upon their own biases. Often it is the outside friends who drive wedges between couples. This is something that some folks actually do for their own morbid entertainment. Don’t let them. Instead, surround yourself with supportive people who want to see both you and your partner shine. Those are the ones to hold onto.
Clear communication. Dropping hints and expecting the other person to read your mind and be able to predict everything you want and desire kills a relationship, beginning with the sex life and ending in the marriage. This means that you have to be both vulnerable and strong at the same time. Vulnerable because you are needing to communicate some of the most intimate stuff about yourself, and strong because to do so is very brave. It is difficult at first, but the more you do it the better you will get at it, just like anything else in life.
Humor. This is essential to any healthy relationship. I have been in relationships where the other person does not get my sense of humor. It is torture. I am now in a relationship wherein we will start to say hilarious stuff, but then each of us, in our responses, will up the game. We end up in tears of laughter. That is a much healthier way to interact.
Physical touch. I am not just talking about sexual intercourse, although that is quite important to a healthy marriage as well. I am talking about the touch of a shoulder as you walk by, the caress of a cheek before a simple kiss on the lips, holding hands while watching a movie together, hugging each other as you each go off to work for the day, just to name a few. I know that none of these sound like all that much, but they are what makes up precious moments. Those are the moments that your heart will remember after your partner has died. Those are the moments that you will end up finding yourself telling your children and grandchildren about. Those are the moments that make a relationship fulfilling. I have known people who have not hugged and told each other that they love each other and then, suddenly, that person has not come home because they were killed in a tragic accident. The fact that they did not hug and say “I love you” has haunted the surviving partners for years. We always seek to have one last goodbye or one last “I love you.” Don’t let any opportunity to say, “I love you” pass you by. You might deeply regret it.
“I love you.” Those words mean so much and we do not hear them enough. We especially tend not to hear them when we are in an argument. And why is it that the harsh times are the loudest and the loving times are the most quiet anyway? Should this not be the other way around? When my partner says, “I love you,” I will often respond with, “I love you more.” This does not mean that I have more love for him than he has for me. What it means is that I love him more than the harsh times, more than the turbulent times, more than the sad times. And I will continue to love him more than any of that every day.
Acts of service. People often get annoyed by that phrase. But it is in acts of service that we demonstrate our love for one another. I wash some of his clothes along with the load of my own clothes. He prepares a plate of veggies for me for lunch before he goes off to work. That sort of exchange of acts of service affirms that we care. In a world where basically nobody seems to care about anybody but themselves, this type of thing is priceless.
Treating each other as equal partners. This means consulting with one another regarding pretty muc everything. Don’t make any purchases that are expected to be covered by your partner without his or her say in the matter. Don’t suddenly paint your bedroom walls and different color without the okay from the other person who also spends a fair amount of time there. I know that these things may seem like no brainers, but I know people who have done this and ended up shooting themselves in the foot in their relationships.
Responding to things in the moment. This is a difficult one for most people. We all have a tendency to process information before addressing issues. But as much as possible, if we can train ourselves to respond in the moment and not delay (thus responding sometimes days, weeks, months, or even years after the fact) then issues have a chance to be resolved much sooner than later. The longer something festers, the more it poisons a relationship. After all, unresolved conflict becomes, one brick at a time, a wall between you.
There are a lot of points that I could go into, but this is a blog, not a book. But at least, for those who are interested, this is a starting point. I wish you all the best in your marrital success!