Recently at the party given in honor of my Grandpa’s 90th birthday, my new cousin-in-law, Scott, shared with us an idea for a relationship book. He envisioned stories from couples who’ve been in relationship for awhile — say 10 or more years –and are happy with their partnership (be it marriage or other commitment). As a newly married man, he believed such couples could provide valuable advice to burgeoning relationships and also could show that happy partnerships are possible, since that’s often not the prevailing story of our culture.
It does seem that many people today hold views at the far end of the spectrum. Either that relationships are pure bliss — like those childhood fantasies of Sleeping Beauty and Prince Charming — or that all relationships are doomed to end in divorce or merely to subsist in the haze of obligation and less-than-content cohabitation. What I’ve found in the 10 years since Bruce and I first became a couple is that love resides comfortably in the middle territory between these two extremes. While there are many times that I feel like a princess and am as giddy as a teenager in love, sustaining these euphoric feelings takes a commitment from me (and from Bruce, too).
I choose not to think of relationships as requiring “work,” however I do believe that staying in love requires a willingness to let go of anything that threatens to keep us feeling unloving toward our partner. Here are some of the things I endeavor to avoid in my quest to nurture a loving, happy, and mutually-satisfying marriage.
- Negativity about relationships — whether it’s people bitching about their ex or talk shows ranting about some woeful couples. I want my relationship to thrive, so I’m careful about the kind of environment to which I expose myself and the relationship.
- Resentment and retaliation. When I notice that I’m holding a grudge against Bruce, I either get over it or talk with him about it so the air will be clear again. Having any kind of ill will between us does nothing but weaken the love that bonds us together.
- Mistrust. I’ve committed to sharing my life with Bruce. If I find that I’m not trusting him, it’s time for a heart-to-heart conversation so I can come back to a place of mutual respect.
- Low self-esteem. If I’m not believing in myself or am thinking that I’m in any way unworthy, unloveable, incomplete, or inadequate, I become extremely needy and depend on Bruce to “make me okay.” In this state, I’m completely vulnerable to any slight I perceive and he’s likely to end up being the “bad guy” at some point through little or no fault of his own.
Sure, there are more things that can drive a wedge between a couple, yet these are ones that, when avoided, help me stay in a state of happiness. So, while I don’t believe that having fairy tale delusions is in our best interest, being apathetic about our potential for bliss doesn’t serve us either.