“Baby when I met you there was peace unknown…” crooned Kenny Rogers with Dolly Parton. The song brought home a discussion some of us were having with regard to sustaining, long lasting relationships and how they have endured the test of time. There are many kinds of relationships and as many kinds of love nudging those relationships in the right direction. Our discussion that day was more on the nurturing of romance and what’s important in relationships.
As the picture says, the secret to a long lasting relationship is all of the above…true. But, why would two people want to do it? Simply because of a crazy little thing called love! One of my favourite quotes (and I have a lot of them depending on what I feel at that moment) is “Grow old with me…the best is yet to be”. I want to grow old with the man I fell in love with years ago. For that to happen, we have to sustain our relationship on a continuous basis. All relationships need that sustenance…only then will they flourish, grow & mature like wine.
One of the questions that came up in that long discussion among friends that evening was, what can we do to sustain. Here is my two bit and I can say happily that my man & I both agree on these. In fact, putting some of this into action just came naturally I would say..and I know he will have a smile on his face as he reads this 🙂
In any romantic relationship passionate love is very important, but long-term couples also engage in deliberate acts of love that nurture their partner and their overall couple relationship. Love as a continuous engagement of the heart, body & soul, that includes how you love your partner and how your partner wants to be loved. For some people it may mean saying, ‘I love you.’ For other people it may involve changing the oil in the car. Love also means being empathic, meeting each other’s needs and supporting your partner when they need you. Healthy adult love exists when both partners are emotionally interdependent; meaning that both partners love one another, care for one another, desire physical closeness with one another, but respect each other enough to have their own identities as well. Tall order you would say…not really! Let me share something here, about my relationship. Both of us have our individual careers and have given each other the space to enjoy our professions. I have always been told to soar in whatever I do and he does give loads of encouragement to be the best. Now that inspires me to no extent…it pushes me to stretch and be better! Would I love him less or more for that? The answer is obvious 🙂
Loving relationships take effort…consistently and continuously. Its like growing a beautiful garden filled with greens, foliage, flowers, lovely soft springy grass and enjoying the fruits eventually on a regular basis. We also have to be careful about the weeds & pests that crop up occasionally. I don’t worry about them any more, because I know it’s a natural process. What’s going to make a difference is how we, as a couple, deal with it. Here’s what has worked for us!
Putting our relationship first: We make each other a priority. We communicate with each other. In this age of technology, we use it to the maximum and check on each other during the day. We make it a point to have date nights where it’s only us! If date nights can turn into date weekends then it’s even better. Undivided attention is what we give each other when we communicate.
Manage arguments: It’s absolutely ok to have arguments…it’s natural. We are only human, we are bound to have differences. It’s how we deal with those differences that will decide how strongly we sustain our relationship. We have our differences…but we strive to understand those & we make allowances for each other. I’m ok watching sports on Saturday or Sunday nights with him and he reciprocates by watching chick flicks with me when I’m in the mood!
Have a strong foundation: Our interests, opinions and experiences can change as we grow. But if you share the same core belief systems, you will have a platform from which to build a strong relationship. For us, as a couple, our belief system is the same. It has remained the same the last 25 years. This forms the foundation of the love and affection we have for each other.
Have fun in the relationship: Whether it is listening to Andre Rieu, going for a drive, shopping, scuba diving, dancing or even enjoying a glass of wine or single malt, we have fun. I can honestly say that I have the maximum fun when we are together. The truth is we genuinely enjoy each other’s company…we can talk about pretty much anything under the sun and laugh. We can laugh with each other and at each other…a healthy mix I would say. Statistics say that couples who laugh together stay together.
Dream together. Knowing what you both want out of life and working together to make those dreams a reality will strengthen the bond in your relationship, I have a vision board that includes a lot of our dreams. What makes this sharing exciting is it gives us glimpses of each other’s deeper ambitions. Visualising those dreams together and weaving our life’s story around them strengthen our feelings for each other. These dreams change over a period of time…earlier we dreamt about what we wanted out of life, today, we talk & visualize about our kids. Yes, their dreams are also an integral part of our dreams now.
Daily nice acts: It’s true the daily mundane things take over in every couple’s life. The only way to overcome this is when we perform daily nice acts for each other. One of the things that we have ensured is when we are in different cities, early morning and late night texts are always exchanged. Saying “I love you” to each other is equally important. Very often as we grow older in the relationship, we tend to not express this love, verbally and non verbally. A hug, a kiss, holding hands, cuddling all are critical to pull out the weeds and pests in the garden of love.
Sharing feelings and not thoughts: Most times couples don’t even get the meaning of this. Focus on what feelings you go through when both are having an argument, when your partner does something to please you or surprise you. Express your feelings then…it establishes a connect that can help build a stronger relationship. Let me share a secret with all you women out there…men do have a tough time getting this point across. We just need to help them a bit :). They may shy away initially,but, in my experience I have found that they do share eventually. Patience is the key here!
Embrace your partner’s individuality: The idiosyncrasies we once fell in love with can frustrate us today. Always remember…that is what attracted you to your man/woman in the first place. It’s important for our partner to be themselves. Here the three A’s become the pillars here – allow those idiosyncrasies, accept that your partner has them and adjust yourself accordingly. An early morning ritual of slippers, newspaper, a cup of finely brewed Orange Pekoe & reading glasses is what has become an endearing habit in my life. My reward for accepting this is I get to snuggle on the sofa and solve crosswords with my man.
Ask questions when you’re unsure or are making assumptions: All too often, we make up our own stories or interpretations about what our partners’ behaviour means. For example: “She doesn’t want to cuddle; she must not really love me anymore.” We can never err on the side of asking too many questions, and then listen to the answers from your whole self — heart, gut, mind and body. Equally important is to hear what’s not being said — the facts and feeling that you sense might be unspoken.
Creating a WE instead of two I’s: When practising all the above, we have been able to create space for “We” instead of two individual “I’s”. Two individuals can retain their personalities yet remain soul connected. In co-dependent relationships, each person sacrifices part of him or her self, compromising the relationship as a whole. When you are separate and connected, each individual “I” contributes to the creation of a “we” that is stronger than the sum of its parts.
Finally, there’s no fairy tale formula for true love. It begins and blossoms with partners committing and recommitting to each other, both in vow and in action. As Mark Sharp said, “Long lasting true love is when two people make a commitment to each other and choose to act in ways that sustain their feelings for each other and their connection to each other over time.”