There’s this growing concern as to why relationships, especially marriages, don’t last. The reasons for relationship failures are many, yet I want to talk to you about five ways to guarantee a union that can withstand the storms of life.
One of the greatest risks we can take in life is to open our heart up to be immersed in a deep intimate relationship with someone. Allowing ourselves to be deeply connected to the soul, mind and heart of another human being, we must become extremely vulnerable and willing to let all our parts be felt and seen. There is a huge possibility that the other will not reciprocate on the same loving level which we’ve invested and we find ourselves feeling isolated, emotionally distant, empty and depleted.
We also run the risk that we might fall madly in love with our partner, making their life path, purpose and mission more of a priority than our own. There are a thousand pitfalls to watch out for when engaging in deep long term intimacy and this is what makes it one of the most exciting, expansive and soul growing experiences we can explore on this planet.
The other day, I kept a fixed gaze at a beautiful plaque my adorable wife gave me for my birthday a year ago which says:
“Don’t spend your life with someone you can live with, spend it with the one you can’t live without”
….And so much went through my mind. As I approach yet another milestone, I get to appreciate these words more, coming from someone I’m truly proud of and I thought it fit to offer this piece to those who may be struggling with their marriages.
Here are 5 useful tips I consider worthy of sharing:
TIP #1 – Are You Moving Too Fast?
Just what does that mean? If you are just setting out on this marital journey, asking your partner to be exclusive after just a few dates; texting or phoning the person one or more times each day when you’ve only known each other for a very short time, or wanting the other person to declare their love after just a few dates can be dangerous. If one person moves too fast it can absolutely scare the hell out of the other person.
In fact moving too fast makes that other person feel like you’re too clingy – kind of desperate. There’s a time to study each other – you’re from different backgrounds. Your wiring is different too. When you take time to dispassionately watch how things evolve, confidence is built, trust evolves. Don’t frighten your partner to the point of putting up a face that’s not sustainable.
When the situation stabilizes, the temptation to label the other as ‘having changed’ creeps in, which can be damaging even before the union reaches the expected ‘cruising altitude’. What follows is the crazy desire to want to CHANGE the other, which is probably not going to happen – except if you are willing to turn your union into a training institution. Now that’s stress.
TIP #2 – You Think You Were Born To Change The Other Person?
Think about it – we all strive to be in our best behavior early in a relationship. As you get to know the other person, you’ll see that there may be some behaviors that you simply don’t align comfortably with. If you think you can forcibly change the other person’s behavior, especially if you possess some level of economic or social advantages, you’re surely heading down a dangerous path.
Remember, what you see is what you get. The choice you made was a package. There’s the usual ‘Caveat Emptor’, as they say. The only person you can change is YOUrself and people only change if they wish to. Be the CHANGE! The question you need to consider is: how can I inspire the other to be a better person? Better here suggests that your partner must believe that there’s something to change isn’t it?
It’s important for your partner to believe it’s in his/her interest to do so. This is tough considering that a union is a complex interplay of activities within and outside your immediate environment – friends and family are potent forces in this equation as you may very well know. I would confidently say that the antidote to this harmful state is to openly and honestly weigh each other’s values before taking the plunge.
When your heart runs ahead of your head, especially during those ‘make-believe’ initial fairy-tale settings, that’s what happens. Get creative if you were caught napping in the beginning, especially if it’s something that won’t kill. After all, you’re not otherwise perfect too!
TIP #3 – Are You Weighing Your Expectations Correctly?
What can happen if you expect the other person to be your prince or princess charming? You might even expect them to read your mind in terms of what you want. For instance, you might expect that person to regularly bring you flowers, chocolates or breakfast in bed. You may even expect romantic dates where all the attention is focused on you, when all they wish to just chill.
Whatever your expectations, what happens when the other person doesn’t do what we think they should? It usually ends up in frustration or disappointment. Do you expect your partner to be a mind reader? Hmm? Or discard their authentic self for you to exist comfortably? Really? That is definitely a set-up for failure.
Engage in good communication. The central secret of good communication is bringing the other person over to your side by satisfying every person’s most fundamental emotional needs. Make him or her feel valued. With rare exceptions, people who feel valued—who are allowed to feel important in the sense that they are recognized—answer with openness, cooperation and reciprocated respect.
If you want respect, be respectable. If you want to be loved, be loveable. If you want to be trusted, be trustworthy. If you want a lifelong relationship, listen openly to the other person’s needs.
No one was made perfect; we all are ‘work-in-progress’. If your partner is deficient in a way that makes you uncomfortable, whether it was obvious or not in the beginning, then you’ve got work to do.
In my opinion, the safest option is for you to be a source of influence in letting him/her ‘get it’ and agree on a mutually satisfying behavior – and willingly too. When you make people see how a shift in perspective favors them, change becomes a possibility.
TIP #4 – Are You Holding On To Past Hurts?
What I mean by this is; you may be bringing in previous negative experiences into your new relationship. For example, if you were in a previous relationship that was verbally abusive and you haven’t healed from that experience, you may be triggered if your current partner does something even remotely similar. The other person may just be expressing frustration and if it triggers an old wound your current reaction might be unreasonably extreme. Show empathy.
You’re not furious at the moment, you’re furious because of a past harm, or a past hurt. Stay conscious and present in your new relationship to avoid these marriage busters. If you feel yourself slipping into one or more of these behaviors, step back and ask yourself what you can do to contribute to a positive relationship, rather than sabotage it.
The main reason couples have these volcanic eruptions in their relationships, is that the wounded elephant in the closet needs to come out of hiding. Each partner needs to come true, clean and reveal the dark wounds that they are holding onto. They must be vulnerable again to love, like the way things were in the beginning. They must both become fully and radically responsible for the experience they are creating within their connection.
Subconscious programming is such a very sticky thing and unless you are determined to make things work, it won’t even as much as occur to you that you are carrying a baggage from the past. When you get conscious of the fact that you are also ultimately responsible for how things show up in the union, checking in first will save both of you some hurt.
TIP #5: Are You Taking Responsibility?
This is probably the most essential of all. Expectedly, everyone wants to be right. That’s the way the mind seeks to protect you; always looking for what’s missing or what’s not working. Ego is always on call. If a relationship is going to survive a turbulent time, the ego must give up everything for love, let go of all the core drama, trauma and deal with the core wounding. This allows each partner to become a truly alive, highly sensitive conscious BEING.
What if you shift your paradigm by seeing RESPONSIBILITY as devoid of blame, guilt, fault, shame or guilt?
When you get to the point where you see that there’s no trophy in view, petty arguments and minor irritations are easily resolved. Burying hurts and seeking vengeance are all devilish games whose outcomes slowly and painfully destroy synergy. Why must you always want to be right? I’d rather be happy than be right. Yes. Doesn’t that make sense?
Before embarking on a destructive path, ask if what you’re stressing about will matter in 2 weeks. Usually they won’t. Guard jealously the union through collaborative engagement rather than go fault-finding. Reconnect with those touchy-feely romantic moves of the beginning – it’s so easy to get distracted, especially when kids are bringing in their own demands for attention. Learn to apologize when you’re wrong and forgive easily. Life is short, a marriage is meant to be enjoyed and not to be endured.
When you focus on what binds you together, with a state of gratitude and appreciation, even those sore points tend to fade into the unimportant and possibly reformatted. It requires commitment and when the cost of resentment, anger and bitterness are factored into the equation, it pays to actively seek peaceful, healthy co-existence. It is immensely unhealthy and even disease-creating to remain in a long term relationship that is not opening up to more healing, harmony and balance.
Finally, praying together and staying in productive engagement, while giving yourselves some space from time to time to just BE, will eventually call forth that positive emotional state that you need to remain in good health while prosecuting other essential demands that make life easier to live.
In all these, am I really saying these will be easy? Certainly not. One thing I do know though, is that:
“There is no more a greater challenge in life than love. If you love someone, you are in a tremendous turmoil. Love is not all roses as your poets have said, it is more thorny than you can imagine. Love is the greatest danger in life. If you really want to GROW, accept the greatest danger and move into it.” ~Osho
Until next time, live fully and enjoy the journey!
Your Strategic Coach