As a therapist, much of my work centers on helping people negotiate problems and challenges in their relationships. With the current divorce rate so high, one might think there is little hope and optimism for marriage and intimate relationships to be successful. My own knowledge and understanding of intimate relationships helps me to see their potential to be rewarding, fulfilling, and successful. For each of us, our success with intimate relationships is largely the result of our awareness and our choices.
There is a lot of confusion and false assumptions about the purpose of intimate relationships. Some people just get into relationships for the wrong reasons. Here is what I think relationships are, and are not.
What relationships are not:
Not meant to meet your every need and desire Not a project to change someone into what you want them to be Not a solution for boredom, loneliness or any other personal problem you have ignored Not a drug to substitute for your addictive tendencies Not a replacement for doing nothing with your life Not something to take for granted
What relationships are:
An opportunity for each partner to change and grow as a person An opportunity to learn that the “us” is more important than the “me”. An opportunity to learn how to be vulnerable with your feelings A opportunity to experience love, trust, and long-term commitment An opportunity to learn the art of giving and receiving An opportunity for both partners to be mirrors for each other, the goal being clarity of oneself
It’s also important to realize that positive, rewarding, and fulfilling relationships don’t just happen or are the result of blind luck or good fortune. We make them happen. The relationship we experience from start to finish is the result of hard work and maintenance. Yes, maintenance! Have you noticed how some people spend more time maintaining their houses, cars, and expensive toys than their marriage or intimate partnership. If you neglect the routine maintenance on your car, it will break down eventually and possible leave you stranded somewhere. So regular maintenance in your partnerships only makes good sense. This often occurs in small everyday actions between partners. Like expressing appreciations for doing the dishes, washing the car, getting the groceries, doing the taxes, etc. And appreciating your partners best qualities like their kindness, their intelligence, their common sense, or their generosity.
There are tons of books about marriage and relationships but I want to mention only one that I use when working with couples. The Seven Principles of Successful Marriages by John Gottman is one of the closely guarded secrets of therapists and those who work with couples. It is based on sound research and I highly recommend it. With the first day of Spring just occurring, consider giving your relationship a tune-up. A little maintenance can go a long way in keeping your relationship running smoothly for years to come. Happy Spring!
Written by John Johnson