This week, my husband and I celebrated 40 years of marriage. When my parents reached their 40th anniversary, we had been married a little over six years. At that point, I could hardly fathom all the highs and lows of that much time together, but decided to pay more attention to what made their relationship work.
Relationships aren’t always easy, and to pretend they are is fantasy. So much factors in: opinions, preferences, personalities, emotions, beliefs. Sometimes, we look at others and think there is no way they could be dealing with some of the struggles we are, but we don’t know what situations are like beyond public view.
Relationships, like lush, green, flowering plants, must be cultivated, nourished, and valued. Following are some keys to lasting relationships:
Each year, when my parents approached their anniversary, my mother wrote a contract. My father was a builder and real estate developer, and my mother worked in his office, so contracts were very much a part of their lives. The contract was simple, stating the parties pledged to live in “wedded bliss” for the following year. Mama signed the contract and gave it to Daddy.
During the interim from the time he was presented the contract until he signed, Mama frequently asked if he had decided yet. I can still see his dimple as he replied, “I’m thinking about it.” He was a big teaser, so he always waited until the day of their anniversary to sign, dragging out the suspense as long as possible. He included a hundred-dollar bill with the signed contract, because he said a contract had to have “consideration” to be valid. I still have the contract and the “consideration” from the last year of my father’s life.
While this scenario may seem silly to some, it underscores the continual recommitment relationships require. Was the contract what kept my parents together? Of course not, but it was a yearly reminder of their pledge to each other.
Increasingly, it’s not unusual for people to commit to someone, or something, and then renege when commitment demands more of them than they are willing to give. Relationships require give and take, and the ability to at least try to view problems and challenges from the other person’s perspective. Any relationship, not just the marriage relationship, requires determination and commitment.
People have different ideas about effective communication. Many think it’s about finding a target at which to aim a verbal barrage. Others view it as a competition, with the one who uses the most words and the greatest volume the winner. But communication, by definition, is an exchange of ideas and information. Exchange doesn’t occur if only one person speaks. Listening is as much a part of communication as speaking.
Often, relationships fall apart because communication is minimal or nonexistent. We imagine, perceive, expect, or assume instead of asking. Communication, like relationships, requires effort and persistence.
Over time, others change, and so do we. We are less patient and forgiving. Maintaining relationships with people who drift from your original connection, develop habits that annoy, or become more vocal with their opinions requires intentionality.
It’s easy to decide a relationship isn’t worth the effort, but shared history could be the key to maintaining or restoring the connection. Reminiscing about what brought you together and bonded you may be the catalyst for overlooking negatives and continuing a relationship.
By focusing on positive qualities in people, and longstanding relationships, you value the connection and are more likely to work toward maintaining it.
Every relationship incurs hurts. Sometimes we wound without realizing it; other times we inflict hurt intentionally. How you decide to deal with those hurts determines whether relationships flourish and move forward. Wounds that are ignored fester and explode at unexpected times. Hurts that are harbored color your actions and reactions.
Forgiveness is the central tenant of faith, yet many of us find forgiveness nearly impossible. Even when relationships are difficult, or fail, forgiveness is what ensures forward motion. Without forgiveness, you are shackled to the past.
In a marriage relationship, love is easy in those first years of breathless wonder. Love becomes more challenging as the years go by. It’s the same with any relationship. Time provides opportunities for misunderstandings, miscommunications, and mistakes. In our finite humanness, we do not have the ability to love as well as we should. Only by tapping into God’s infinite power are we able to move beyond our limitations. God’s everlasting love and forgiveness provide the ultimate example for our relationships.
Most importantly, love each other deeply, because love will cause people to forgive each other for many sins. 1 Peter 4:8 NCV
Relationships, like lush, green, flowering plants, must be cultivated, nourished, and valued.
Candy Arrington is a writer, blogger, speaker, and freelance editor. She often writes on tough topics with a focus on moving beyond difficult life circumstances. Candy has written hundreds of articles, stories, and devotionals published by numerous outlets including: Inspiration.org, Arisedaily.com, CBN.com, Healthgrades.com, Care.com, Focus on the Family, NextAvenue.org, CountryLiving.com, and Writer’s Digest. Candy’s books include When Your Aging Parent Needs Care (Harvest House) and AFTERSHOCK: Help, Hope, and Healing in the Wake of Suicide (B&H Publishing Group).
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