Many people come in and out of our life, fulfilling various roles, at various times. Parting ways comes with acceptance of change or heartbreak with loss. Yet, not all relationships end.
For some, a chance meeting leads to a strong, mutual desire to nourish the relationship. We often call this power love. While love is a strong emotion, anyone who has ever been in a relationship knows the journey takes effort and time to develop. If you’ve ever wondered what makes a relationship successful, then perhaps the insight from three La Plata County couples, at different phases of a relationship, will resonate with you.
Carey and Ryan will celebrate their first year of marriage in June. Maggie and Kevin recently marked a decade. Finally, our senior advisers, Gay and Lou, entered 51 years of marriage last week. With certainty, every relationship is different and unique. Nonetheless, you’ll see from these relationships, common themes emerged as the pillars of success, and they have nothing to do with Cupid’s arrow.
In Western culture, components supporting a happy, healthy and resilient relationship often include communication, friendship and shared values. Through these pillars, couples can learn to express individual needs, establish trust and problem-solve. As each couple will attest, relationships take practice and challenges are inevitable. We should all be so fortunate to have the same success story as Gay and Lou (who did share that relationships become exponentially easier as we mellow with age). As you examine your own relationship, consider how practicing these tips may help you and your (future) partner flourish. Responses from the couples are presented in order of experience, starting with newlyweds.
Effective communicationYear one proves there is work to be done. It’s easy to sweep conflict under the rug, but it never fails to re-emerge – and usually with a vengeance. Ideally, conflict will be addressed before it festers.After 10 years, we’ve establish rules of engagement – each of us must step out of our comfort zone. Kevin cannot remain silent, and Maggie has to embrace a “statute of limitations” and let things go. Over time, Gay and Lou transitioned from sweeping conflict under the rug and learned to discuss things in phases. Because emotions threaten logical thought, we concentrate on two things. One, say what you mean after looking for the underlying emotion or issue. Two, reflect on who you’re really upset with, them or you. No matter what, always remember to say I love you. Friendship firstYou have to like each other, idiosyncrasies and all. Enjoy time together, but have your own hobbies. Being individuals within a partnership helps maintain balance and excitement so you can remain each other’s No. 1. There are days I love you but don’t like you. We get through these moments by learning to compromise, creating “me” time and “us” time, and keeping social media out of the relationship and the relationship out of social media.Take time to get to know someone; realize you can’t change them. Be equal but separate and embrace your own interests. You alone are responsible for your happiness. Do this and you will always be able to laugh together.Shared valuesEach couple was invited to individually assess, then, compare their personal values. For Lou and Gay, this was easy. There was no need to reassess what they already knew. Would it surprise you to know they shared common values? Probably not. What do you imagine the assessment revealed about Carey and Ryan, and Maggie and Kevin? If you guessed similar values, you are correct.
A special thank you to Carey, Ryan, Maggie, Kevin, Lou and Gay for taking the time to share your thoughts. To those of you who made it to the end of the column (thank you), may you too experience the joy of companionship.
Nicole Clark is the family and consumer science agent for the La Plata County Extension Office. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or 382-6461.Nicole Clark