Copyright 2006 Richard Keir
Relationships are generally seen as our main source of support, love, self esteem, enthusiasm and pleasure. Naturally there are differences of degree and type when we look at our relationships with friends, coworkers and acquaintances versus family members or someone we are intimately involved with in a love relationship. Many seek a permanent love relationship which they’d like to last throughout their life. In theory then, we should be exerting every effort in order to nurture and to perfect those relationships.
Do we? Not usually. We may dream of the perfect relationship but actually putting in the time and effort seems beyond us as we struggle with all the details of day to day existence.
Our relationships, then, often become sources of distress, anxiety and feelings of failure when they fail to meet our needs and expectations. Potentially even more damaging, they can become a source of a deep inner rage that can poison one’s life. These are some of the dimensions of relationship problems. Certainly having a problem with a relationship isn’t going to doom it to failure – every relationship has its problems. We are each individual and our needs and desires vary and are sometimes in conflict.
How we deal with these inevitable problems, the effort we put in to resolve them and to allow space for our differences can determine whether a relationship succeeds or withers in misery and failure.
Would you expect to become a great athlete without work? Learning how to have, nurture and protect a love relationship is work. Unfortunately we were not born knowing how to do it and often our early experiences were less than helpful in shaping our abilities to relate. The statistics on divorce are disheartening.
To succeed in any relationship, we must make an effort to keep things intact. Taking our partner for granted, failing to see our partner as a unique and special individual is the beginning of the end. Merely hoping that things will be good is nonsense. What you do day by day to support, encourage and enrich your partner will help a relationship grow.
Too many people simply go from one “relationship” to another seeking some perfect automatic solution that simply doesn’t exist. We all know the excitement of a new love, the craziness and the powerful emotions of falling in love. Some become addicted to that newness and confuse it with being in love. They expect those feelings to endure and when those feelings fade, they seek to recapture them. But the only way to truly do that is in a new relationship.
We do not see clearly, we do not know our partner as we are falling in love, To build a relationship that will last over time, the couple must move beyond falling in love toward being in love. This is a much more conscious process and requires some work and understanding. It requires an ability to share and to recognize the unique value of the other person. It requires building experiences and feelings and activities in common. All of this takes time and as time passes, we have a tendency to start taking our partner and our relationship for granted. Our responses become automatic. We hardly even see the other person any more. We have reduced everything to a dull habit.
And that is a major relationship killer. The same way you can drive a familiar route without even consciously seeing the street, the other cars, or the people on the sidewalks, your relationship turns invisible.
There’s no way a short article like this can cover every aspect of building a successful relationship. Nor can it describe every problem. After all, every one of you is a unique person and your relationships all have their own unique qualities. What I want to stress is that letting your relationship turn into a routine, letting it become a habit is one of the very worst things you can do.
Look for opportunities to do new things together, explore each other’s ideas and beliefs. Take your partner seriously and pay attention to everything. Force yourself to see, really see, your partner again. Regain a sense of play, fool around with each other again. Flirt and tease. Does it sound absurd? It might, but if you want a love relationship that lasts, you must make the effort. Starting right now.