A Great Relationship: Find it. Treasure it. Savor it.

When I think of marriage, it gives me a warm and fuzzy feeling.  However, in reality, there are all sorts of feelings that come up when a person is in a committed relationship.  I thought I had been with Mike for three and a half years, married for a year and a half.  In actuality, if I did the math right, I was with him for two years and four months and married for one year and four months, and trying to figure out if the marriage could be salvaged for one year post separation.  It started out confusing, then comfortable, then dead, then scary, then confusing again.  I still care for the guy.  He’s a fantastic friend.  A really neat guy – intelligent, kind to his friends, and he loves his mom.

Being in a relationship with Mike was an excellent experience.  An experience that taught me a ton about life.  It assisted in excellence in my job as a Family Advocacy Nurse.  It also helped me understand the dynamics of a comfortable then dead relationship followed by significant abuse and confusion.  It taught me about overcoming, persisting through intense obstacles, and perseverance.  Through reflection, contemplation, and observation, my relationship with Mike taught me the basics of understanding and grasping what love – true love – might look like.

I’m a huge proponent of marriage.  I’m a huge believer in divorce.  Both can be beautiful things.  Both can also be horrific.  It takes two to make a marriage work.  It takes one to make a marriage – and/or divorce – hell.

Over the years, my most favorite hobby has been to observe the dynamics between couples, parent and child, families as a whole, and individuals as they interact with each other – whether or not they know each other.

What makes a relationship work between a couple??  There are all types of formulas.  All sorts of suggestions.  All sorts of ideas.  My ideas are no less confusing, inadequate, and incomplete.  However, the following is some of what I’ve learned over the years:

The first and most important lesson I have learned is that it takes two to make a relationship work.  If one is invested and the other is not, there is often nothing anyone can do to change the other person’s mind.  It is absolutely essential to try – and do your best in trying.  However, if you’ve hit a brick wall, and there is no chance of change other than personal desire, then it’s time to walk away.  Life is too short.  A dead marriage makes a dead life and no one needs that.  Abuse kills – directly or indirectly.  No one needs that either.

Being in a relationship is a gift.  Many people take it for granted.  However, if someone cares about you, is living with you, and/or has adopted you as their partner, you are one lucky individual.  Savor it.  Enjoy it.  Capitalize on it and invest in it.  Take absolutely nothing – and no one – for granted.

While in Misawa, I learned how valuable it is to learn the “love language” of your partner.  No one can read minds.  You can’t understand someone if they speak in a totally foreign language.  Sometimes you can perceive a small glimpse of what they might be trying to say.  However, if you truly want to understand, you need to speak the language that the other person speaks.  Literally and figuratively.

I went to a play the other day, “Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus.”  The person in the spotlight said that he cleaned the house and his wife didn’t comprehend his love for her.  He was doing something for her to tell her he loved her and she wasn’t comprehending.  She was begging him to communicate with her verbally and to spend time with her and he didn’t understand because her words and actions were saying something totally different.  She was talking and acting in bitter sarcasm and he was taking her literally.  Sometimes you have to read between the lines in order to learn and figure out the language your partner understands when you are trying to say “I love you.” I totally believe that she – or he – is begging you to understand the need and desire for your love — and for him – or her – to actually feel and comprehend your love.

So many partners fail to utilize communication skills.  It is essential to share your innermost thoughts, feelings, and desires – the big and the miniscule.  Be vulnerable.  Trust.  If you can’t trust your partner, then you’re in trouble.  If you can’t be trusted, you miss out incredibly.  I think that’s part of why my marriage led to a dead feeling.  There was no trust.  No communication.  He talked to his friends.  He shared his vulnerabilities – and himself – with his friends and his parents, but I was just an object.  Someone who brought comfort and a presence.  However, I was not a partner, a true partner.  I was a “thing,” a rag doll to hang out with.  At the time I didn’t mind because he listened to me.  I felt comfortable with deadness – until I woke up and realized he really didn’t care about me like he did another woman (that I didn’t know about previously) and that I felt a deadness in the relationship.

Something I just cannot understand is criticism and condescension.  How can you build a person up, enjoy being around someone, and find comfort in a relationship, when all you’re doing is tearing it down?  No one needs to feel belittled, inferior, or not good enough.  If you truly love a person, it is so very important to let them know that you deeply care about them in all forms of communication you can possibly think of and discover – words, nonverbal cues, actions, gifts, affection…  It takes love to receive love.

Equality is fabulous.  I haven’t seen too many relationships where they treat each other as an equal while being connected deeply with each other.  I’d love to see that.  Thanks to Facebook, I see glimpses.  However, I’d love to witness a healthy, positive, equal, deeply connected relationship in person.  It was fun when I saw a couple of examples.  I’m sure it’d be just as fun today.

It’s so easy to be distracted.  Even before technology, there were reasons to be distracted.  When a person is with their partner, it is wonderful to be 100% engaged, connected, and listened to.  I’ve spent many hours in restaurants.  It’s a great place to observe relationships.  In the past, newspapers have worked as excellent distractors.  Kids are excellent distractors.  Today, there doesn’t need to be a thing.  Not even the blasted cellphone is necessary to distract.  A menu will work for a while.

While intentionally distracted, both will sit and stare – at something, someone, or nothing at all.  One will ignore the other while the other is screaming inside “talk to me, acknowledge me.”  Or, they will both ignore each other – each saying internally “I want to talk to you” – or – “I don’t even like you.”  If a couple is lucky, they’ll be enjoying each other while sitting in silence or while talking.  It’s wonderful to observe a couple who is completely, totally, 100% present with each other whether at home or in a public place.

After listening to couples’ frustrations, I’ve learned the importance of looking for nonverbal cues to let you know if you are “on” or “off” in giving love and affection.  If you’re getting a “vibe” that something is off, or if things are getting too comfortable, spice it up a bit by flirting someway or somehow.  Figure out fun ways to send “I love you” messages via cards, ecards, texts, emails, post-it notes.  Figure out something small and exciting that you can do in their “love language” that communicates to them that you love your partner immensely – and watch the reaction.  If the relationship has gone cold, it might take persistence with a ton of consistency.

So, in recap: If you’re in a healthy relationship, you’re lucky.  Savor it.  If it is dead, revive it.  If it’s hopeless or abusive, leave it – it takes two to make a relationship work.  Flirt.  Have fun.  Discover their “love language.”  Go on date nights – no excuses.  Be vulnerable.  Share your entire self.  Trust and be trusted.  Be yourself.  Love and love deeply.  Communicate this love in all forms possible.

May you love and live happily ever after.

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