After twenty-four years of marriage that has included three kids, earthquakes, house fire, bankruptcy, good times and bad, I still love my husband, and in fact, I even really, really like him. So when I tell you that yes, love can last, I’m speaking from experience.
I won’t say its a cinch. It isn’t. Because in order to have a healthy relationship, you have to work on yourself first. What? But it’s all his fault! You may be thinking that, but consider this. When you are standing strong and confident in who you are, everything else in life flourishes – marriage, children, work, friendships and family.
Here are some steps to keep your relationship thriving.
BE A DRAGONSLAYER:
Most of us “project” our own issues and needs onto another person, and then feel incredibly disappointed when they can’t make us happy. But first ask yourself if you are truly happy deep down inside. If the answer is yes, then you are probably happy in your relationship. The majority of us live in fear and insecurity, often staying trapped in past disappointments. We expect our spouse to alleviate our suffering and give us that fairytale ending we’ve always seen in movies. Here’s the kicker – that “prince charming” character in the story is looking back at you in the mirror. It’s only after we save ourselves from the dungeon, free ourselves from the dragons of the past, that we can ride off into the sunset with another person.
DO YOUR HARD WORK:
The most important thing I’ve learned about relationships is it’s never about the other person changing- it’s about me. My husband and I each had to do our hard work, overcoming childhood hang-ups and lifelong baggage. It was hard, and at times we thought we wouldn’t make it. Sometimes we were weak and took backward steps, but we learned to be kind and patient with each other on this journey to becoming whole.
I’m not suggesting you wait until you’ve perfected yourself to have a relationship. None of us are ever truly done with our inner work. We are human. Accept and love yourself in spite of your own flaws, and it will be easier to accept your partner’s. To me, the perfect marriage is when you can make that journey to inner freedom side by side.
PATIENCE IS A VIRTUE:
Be patient with yourself, and you’ll see your kindness and patience toward others blossom. Understand that your partner doesn’t see life through the same unique lens that you do, and let that be okay. Try to understand you partner as much as you want to be understood.
TURN TOWARD EACH OTHER, NOT AGAINST EACH OTHER:
My husband coined this phrase and it sort of turned my world upside down. Why, I wondered, is it so easy to say *&%# YOU to the person we love the most? When you come into a place of conflict, you surely know one anothers weak spots, so don’t attack. Be especially tender with those fragile places in the soul. Sometimes the simple act of touching, taking a partner’s hand, putting an arm around her can dissolve a conflict in seconds. Making eye contact during a fight makes it really hard to stay angry. There is a sudden recognition – Oh right, this is the person I love more than anything. Why are we fighting?
CELEBRATE YOUR DIFFERENCES:
He loves jazz, and you love pop. She loves the ballet and you’d rather watch football. No matter. Take a renewed interest in one another, especially in the interests you don’t share. Your partner is giving you an opportunity to experience something you wouldn’t normally choose for yourself. Why not try it? Celebrate your differences in other areas as well. He prefers a milder approach to conflict and you like to meet it head on. She does her taxes at the end of the year in one big panic, and you like to handle it monthly. We each have our ways of handling things- that’s what makes us unique. One way is not more right than another, but his way is right for him, and yours is right for you.
LOVE ONE ANOTHER:
In summation; simply love one another. Love each other through all of your imperfections and foibles. Celebrate your partner, rather than trying to change him or her. And most of all, learn to love YOU. If you can do that, the rest is easy.