In my grandparents’ generation, when divorce was frowned upon, people managed to get along, and “‘Til death do us part” was taken for granted. These days though, relationships seem so fragile. The simplest of problems lead to breakups and separations. We let the stress and pressures of everyday life get in the way and put the little things that are necessary to sustain a marriage on the back burner.
So, here’s a checklist reminder of what’s necessary to make sure your marriage survives so you can be that old couple in the ads (you know the one I am talking about – old and wrinkled, but happy and content, always walking hand in hand). Most of the items on this checklist are very intuitive, and a lot of lip service has been paid to these qualities and traits over years. But do you really incorporate them into your daily lives? If you really want to get something out of this article, don’t just read it. Think about it in the context of your marriage. And revisit these thoughts every so often. OK, here we go.
I think the key here is to realize the difference between being madly in love versus just simply loving someone. In the beginning of a relationship, when things are hot and fiery, everything is easy. But as time goes by, this fiery flame gets replaced by more mellow embers – warm and burning, but without the obvious flares.
Some people start to panic when this happens, and misinterpret it as a signal of the end. But it’s not. It’s just the next stage of a relationship. A different form of love. Stick on by and see where it takes you. Besides, if you moved on, what makes you think that the next relationship will be all fiery flames all the time? How long are you willing to jump from one relationship to another chasing after a transient phase? Why not just let things be and deal with the different levels and forms of love? While the “oomph” of the first few years of being together was great, I really have come to enjoy the comfortable closeness we have developed as years have passed.
Respect is the key to sustaining any relationship, not just the one with your significant other. All of us have a sense of “self” which is very sensitive to how others perceive us. If we feel that in a relationship, the other person does not respect or value us, then it becomes hard to stay in that relationship. Now turn that around – do you respect your partner enough that their self-worth is not compromised?
This is not quite something you say or do, but feel from within. If you feel you lack the respect, it may be time to take a solo walk and think of all the good things in your partner. Put aside the daily squabbles and disappointments that tarnish this, because every person, no matter who it is, has good qualities in them that command respect.
All of us know the value of compromise in sustaining a relationship. Unfortunately, we all expect the other person to do the compromising instead of doing it ourselves. I had this trouble for a while, and then at a point when the relationship was really stretched thin, I just threw in the towel. And I gave in a little every now and then. And surprisingly, I noticed that I started getting back a few compromises in return. Remember though that there is a fine line between giving in for the sake of a relationship and being a doormat. More often than not, this line is not visible at all and only a lot of practice will tell you what compromises on your part will bring out the best in your relationship. So do not be scared to keep trying until you find the optimal point that works for both of you.
Each of us in an individual with his or her own idea of what is right and what is wrong. It is not surprising, the,n that every now and then we feel slighted by something that our partner does. I am not talking about big glaring mistakes like affairs, but more about everyday things that are either said and done wrong or not said or done at all. Being able to forgive such minor infractions is absolutely essential for a relationship to survive. Could you live if you were held accountable for every weakness in your character? If not, then why hold some of these things against your partner?
Selective Blindness, Deafness, and Muteness
They say prevention is better than cure. Rather than trying to forgive your partner for some of the things he/she does that annoy you or hurt you, try to avoid being party to it in the first place. It is a lot harder than it sounds, and goes against the grain of some of the common advice to have an open relationship. But I have learnt that, at least in my relationship, selectively closing my eyes or ears, or keeping my mouth shut, goes a long way in protecting the relationship from serious trouble down the road.
Why is it that we sometimes find it easy to be kind to strangers, but not so much to the people we know? Is it the baggage that we carry of previous hurts and perceived letdowns? I think it is very important to get past this in any relationship and practice random acts of kindness. Initially, you may do it halfheartedly, but such acts of kindness have a way of starting an avalanche of positive changes. Cultivating the habit of being kind to your partner is probably one of the hardest but the most necessary ingredients to sustaining a successful relationship.
Not all relationships are balanced. While one partner is rational, the other may be emotional. While one is intellectual, the other may be artistic. While one is a realist, the other may be a dreamer. Even if you do not quite “get it” when your partner insists on doing something that you “know” is not right, be patient. Try to communicate and bring out each of your perspectives in the open and give room for each idea and thought to survive. Being impatient or stifling an idea can be disastrous in a relationship.
I just mentioned above that not all relationships are balanced. And to a certain extent, when you look at any one aspect of a person, no two people are equal. But when you look at the sum of the parts that make up a person, it is very important to maintain equality in a relationship. Each of the individual traits should be allowed to complement the shortfalls in the other person, until the relationship is more or less on equal footing.
If you plan to spend the rest of your life with a person, you need to be able to trust that person, right? Yet, we all have our own individual flaws and shortcomings and it is easy to let petty jealousy and competition get in the way and stop trusting your partner. In order to overcome this, confront your feelings and communicate with your partner about them. Remember not to nag or to suffocate a person, but by working together, you can start to trust each other completely. Also, as the years go by, if we maintain the strength of the relationship, insecurities start to fade away giving room for trust.
Finally, last but not the least, is honesty. Honesty should not be confused with openness. Some things, especially if they are irrelevant issues from the past, are best left unsaid. But when new things do come up, it is better to be honest and come clean. A lot of the above traits like trust, respect, and love depend on it!
It is not as if you can make these traits a part of your life overnight. I really wish there was an easy way out, but unfortunately, there isn’t. It is hard work to make these little things second nature. Some of these require extensive changes in personality. But overall, if you can work on it and achieve any level of success, you will be so much the better for it – both in terms of the relationship and also as an individual.
*Image Credit: Photograph by Summers [via Flickr creative commons]