It seems like a basic question when someone asks, what is a relationship, doesn’t it?
The truth is, it is a basic question. But the answer is a little more complex. People have been dating, falling in love, marrying, and divorcing for years, but not many of us stop and think about what it actually means to be in a healthy relationship. We tend to go through the emotions more often than not, not learning much from each connection we make with another human.
The fact is, we are wired to be interpersonal. We crave companionship and closeness with other humans, so it’s in our best interest that we lay out some guidelines for doing it correctly.
It’s not as simple as the golden rule: do unto others as you’d like done to you.
There are plenty of working variables that make the formula for a quality relationship more complex than it seems. Although it may be complex overall, there are certainly some pillars that every great relationship we’ve ever known has showcased. Let’s take a minute and discuss these pillars in detail, and hope that if we can pin these down, we will have a shot at a lifetime of love.
“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place”.
– George Bernard Shaw
And there you have it. Mr. Shaw has uncovered one of the biggest roadblocks to a quality relationship, and he did so in one concise sentence. We often think that we are open and honest with our significant other, but in reality, we hold back. We don’t show the deepest side of ourselves because we fear that the person sitting across from us will find it to be ugly.
Holding back like this causes us to hold back in other areas of a relationship or marriage, too. A white lie here, an omission there, and all of a sudden there are gaps created in what you once thought was an honest and trusting relationship. Over time these gaps widen, and the communication that you believe is there is actually nonexistent.
Be open. Be honest. Show your partner your ugly side. It’s the only way to make your relationship true to what you think it is.
Without trust, you have nothing. A relationship should be your emotional home, something you can count on for comfort. If you don’t trust your partner, you will drive yourself (and probably them, too) crazy with story after story that you’ve created out of thin air. If you don’t feel like you can trust your partner with your heart and soul, you’re in the wrong place.
They say that love is blind, and when it comes to trust, that’s how it should be. Not to say that you should be naive or anything like that, but you should be able to believe that you and your partner are always acting in a way that respects both you and your relationship, despite what temptations may be out there.
Be a rock
You know how your mom or dad picked you up when you fell down when you were a kid? When you grow up and are old enough to go out into the world, you still need that kind of undying support. Your parents will always be there in some way, but the role of “the rock” in your life will fall on your significant other.
You and your partner should be willing and inspired to pick each other up when the other is feeling down. If someone in their family dies, you need to be their shoulder to cry on. If they need support in starting a business, you need to be that smile that greets them when things eventually go off the rails.
It’s not optional, it’s required. You need to be the person that carries them through their dark days, and they have to be willing to return the favor.
As humans, we are predisposed to mess up. We have imperfection built into our DNA. Deciding to spend your life with someone else is a way of saying “I accept you as you are, flaws and all.”
And meaning it.
There will be times that they drive you absolutely insane.
There will be times when they hurt your feelings.
There will be times when they forget to do something that they promised that they would.
Should you let them off the hook? No, not at all. But as you attempt to make peace after they’ve broken a promise or said something hurtful, you need to be patient with them. They may do it again, but chances are good that they don’t mean to hurt you in the process.
People are inherently good. But they are also imperfect. Trust that the person who says that they love you isn’t being malicious. Believe that they are prone to making dumb mistakes, just as you are.
Be patient with your partner, it’s the only way things will last.
Live outside your love story
Allow your partner and yourself to do things outside of your relationship. Be independent of each other while still loving each other deeply.
Marriage is often said to be where two people become one. Although it’s a nice saying, it doesn’t have to be followed explicitly.
Have a hobby that has nothing to do with them, and encourage them to do the same. It’s not that you need to force yourself to spend time apart, it’s just that making space for your own interests within your relationship is extremely healthy. It allows you to spend some time apart, and then really enjoy the moments that you share with one another.
You don’t have to spend every waking moment together. Be alright stepping outside your fairy tale and come back to invigorated.
Creating a lifetime of love isn’t a science, it’s more like an art; a dance. There are certain pillars like these that are the foundation of something special. But once you get these down, your relationship is yours to create. No marriage or relationship is the same, so dance to the beat of your own drum once you learn these basic steps.