It may seem peculiar to some, that I often write blog posts about love, relationships and happily ever after … when I am single! It’s just that I cannot help but dream of meeting that person who will not complete me but rather complete life with me. Someone who loves me unconditionally for all my pros and cons, in sickness and health… etc. So who better to learn from then one of my good friends moms – who has been married in a fairy tale sort of way – recently celebrating her 27th wedding anniversary! He is my ex although we remain the best of friends in part because his mother is a shining example of strength, dignity, passion and intelligence and has passed these traits on to her sons.
It is little wonder she has this advice and incredible love story to share.
10 IMPORTANT THINGS I’VE LEARNED ABOUT WHAT MAKES A GOOD RELATIONSHIP
Celebrating 27 Years Together
I am writing from our hotel room in the beautiful Muskoka region of Ontario, Canada, where my husband and I are celebrating 27 years together (married for 17 of those). A burst of magnificent colour outside our window beckons us – the stunning display of fall foliage at its peak. My husband reads his newspaper beside me, one hand absentmindedly resting on my shoulder as I ponder over the question I’ve been asked to write about: What Makes a Good Relationship?
In an era that endures so many failed relationships I feel extremely fortunate to have a happy marriage. My husband and I hear over and over again from our children that our relationship gives them hope, and our friends frequently comment on the love and the harmony that is clearly evident in our marriage.
We have both been married before and have children from our previous marriages (eight between us!). So when one of them recently asked me to write a blog about what makes a good relationship I had to think carefully about what it is that we actually do that has contributed to our success, since at this stage it’s simply the way we are.
As I look back I remember clearly how – in our very first conversation – we discovered that both of our parents were seniors in happy long term marriages, that we have children of similar ages – each with a set of twins – and that we come from the same ethnic background. As time marched on we discovered more similarities. We have similar religious beliefs, enjoy the same movies and TV shows, and seek similar vacation activities (both love beaches, nature and beautiful scenery and don’t like touring cities and museums). We are both self-sufficient, enjoy solitude and dislike large gatherings.
In all likelihood these commonalities contribute positively to our relationship, but we also need strategies, skills and techniques to deal with the myriad of relationship issues that inevitably crop up. I came up with a list of ten things that we do that help strengthen our marriage, and – while I do not claim to be a relationship expert – would venture to say that these points may be of use to other couples looking for ideas about building a healthy relationship.
So – What Have I Learned About What Makes a Good Relationship?
1. Accepting Differences
Perhaps the toughest challenge we encountered was learning to manage the many differences that gradually emerged between us. To name a few – my husband is passionate about politics – my passions are music and dance. While I have several hobbies (woodcarving, writing and photography) my husband is a news freak. I’m a spender; he is a saver (but with that is very generous). I’m a ‘glass half full’ person – he views his glass as half empty. He tends to be a somewhat private person; I am an open book. We also have different dietary tastes and different sleeping patterns.
Over the years these differences intruded on our lives and caused friction as each of us tried to change the other. When that didn’t work we moved to resignation before ultimately arriving at genuine acceptance. It was a difficult but worthwhile journey from which we learned the big lesson: we can’t change other people! Once we got through the eye of the needle we found that our relationship grew increasingly peaceful and harmonious, and the differences ceased to matter. In fact they make the relationship more interesting, as we continually learn from each other.
Second only to the resolution of differences is the acquisition of good communication skills, which we learned over time, aided by the fact that as a social worker I had to learn how to communicate constructively. We talk. A lot. At all times we speak respectfully, never raising our voices to each other, and quick to apologize when necessary. Aside from exchanging the minutiae of our daily lives, we talk about contentious issues as they arise, never sweeping things under the rug – so there is no build up of resentment over unresolved conflicts. Also, knowing that neither one of us can read minds, we ask for what we want rather than hoping or expecting that somehow our unexpressed needs will be met. We share thoughts, feelings and experiences – the good, the bad and the ugly – thereby enhancing the emotional and physical intimacy between us. No subject is off limits and we hide nothing from each other.
These communication skills were acquired over time – they didn’t appear overnight.
Integral to our relationship is trust, an issue we discussed on our first date, when we both voiced the belief that cheating in a relationship is a deal breaker. In our marriage trust is simply a given.
Our commitment to each other and to our marriage is solid, and does not waver, even through the challenging times (which are part and parcel of all relationships). This means that the love we feel for each other is not conditional – it is a constant upon which we can both depend. Similarly, no matter what struggles we encounter we know that we can rely on each other for practical and/or emotional support.
That brings me to the notion of thoughtfulness. How do we know we are loved? We know this by the little demonstrations … the loving gestures that remind each of us that we are important to the other. Phone calls just to say hello, unexpected hugs and kisses, holding hands, or saying “I love you’’ several times a day – these are just a few examples.
6. Together Time
Creating regular time together – uninterrupted – is important to us since it is our opportunity to shut out the world. . We enjoy each other’s company and love being alone together. We also enjoy companionable silence, each immersed in our own activity yet still feeling close.
7. Task Sharing
In our household there are no assigned roles. We share tasks based on which one of us is available to do the task, or who is more competent at any given task. We both enjoy having order in our home, so we automatically clean up after ourselves
8. Money Management
We combine our incomes – so whatever money comes in goes into a joint bank account, and before we buy any big-ticket item we discuss it. And when we buy birthday gifts for our children and grand children we spend an equal amount on each.
9. Connection to Family
We are both involved in the everyday lives of the two sets of families, devoting time to spend with both, including extended family as well as our children and grandchildren.
And last – but most definitely not least – we laugh a lot – almost every day. We tease each other mercilessly (but never unkindly), find humour in unusual places, and laugh about funny incidents that happened in the past.
Until now I had not stopped to think about the specific ways in which we ourselves are responsible for having such a happy marriage. I simply sat back and reveled in the peace and harmony that permeates our relationship and our home. It hasn’t always been smooth sailing, and sometimes we wonder how we made it through the tough times. Perhaps we were implementing many of the strategies without having a name for what we were doing? And now, as we celebrate this anniversary surrounded by the stunning kaleidoscope of vibrant colour, I realize how fortunate I am to have this loving relationship, and I stop for a moment to hold my husband’s hand and bask in the gentle and abiding love that flows between us.
As always it is an honour to share one of her beautifully written blogs – follow her on http://adelegould.com