Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Long-lasting Relationships

-- What's the secret to a long lasting relationship? --

Dave's 47th birthday has arrived and I wanted to celebrate his life by sharing some of the lessons I've learned about relationships through being with him all these years.

It can surprise me sometimes when I realize that Dave and I have been together for nearly 22 years (as of April 25) and are still going strong, despite many life obstacles from physical injuries to work-related or financially-related stress and traumatic grief. 

Many people are impressed by the number of years we've been together, but more are impressed by the fact that Dave and I also work together. All this time we've shared one office, one vehicle and up until this last year - we shared one computer. Being writers and working different schedules, this often felt like we were performing a juggling act. 

There are several secrets that I learned from my mother's mishaps in relationships. She used to remind us to "Start how you mean to continue." - this was meant to include most areas of our lives from money and balancing chores to relationships. 

Dave and I did not conform to the pressures of "When are you going to get married?" ..."When are you going to..." and on and on... Instead we took our time. You see, I was really naturally wary since my mother had 3 failed marriages before she found the love of her life. For instance, I didn't meet his family until about 7 months after we were dating seriously. We moved in together and lived that way for 7 years before considering marriage... Did we take things slow - you bet! I feel you don't really know a person until you've lived with them for at least one year. That is when they've stopped trying to impress and their true selves come out. 

If you love someone, you are willing to do the little things that make them happy, just because it makes them happy. For instance if he knows that you can't stand it when he leaves the water jug on the counter instead of putting it back in the fridge - and he does it anyway, then he's saying quite a lot just with the little action. Whereas if he mentions that he prefers the toilet paper roll to unwind forward, instead of backwards, and so you place the new rolls on just so since that pleases him. When we love someone, acts like these are not a sign of subservience; it is showing love with little everyday actions. 

If we are already whole persons, we will not look for another to magically fulfill a need for us. Therefore that person that we love has the freedom now to live for themselves and love freely - rather than feeling weighed down. Look to fulfill your own needs so that you will be a pleasure to be around. People are individuals, they cannot be who you think they could be - they must develop themselves in their own way, in their own time. Their journey is not our responsibility. Ours is the pleasure of joining and sharing with them, not making them into something they are not. 

Now there is no way I can sit back and tell you that Dave and I have never, ever had a row of any kind. We have, but they have never escalated to yelling or name-calling. Twice, and only twice in 20.5 years together, we've come close to feeling too exasperated to carry on and each time our dispute was repaired within 48 hours - or less. So what I've learned is this - Expect that there will be times when you will agree to disagree. We can learn that it is okay to disagree, when our emotions or energy levels do not jive. We don't have to see things the same way, but we do need to respect one another. Getting angry at someone because they doesn't see something the way you do is pointless. 

If we think about the issue that is really upsetting us, and look at it in perspective we might realize we aren’t even mad at that person at all – that we are mad because of something their behavior triggered due to the pressures in our lives or some inner termoil. It might be helpful to ask yourself a few questions in the heat of your anger: Is that one thing really worth the stress and anger you are putting into it? If your partner died today, would you regret fighting with him about it? Does it really matter to you that much? Or are we taking our own stresses out on someone else? If it really matters to us and we feel slighted by the action, than it must be discussed and resolved in some way - discussion is important.

Also we need to expect the other person to have faults. Yes, we all have them - even me. (ha, ha) - So we need to understand that each person will have moments of being unpleasant, tired, striking out verbally in anger or being unreasonable about an issue. People are emotional creatures and once we've calmed down - that is the time to talk about how it affects us - not when emotions are high. Rather, walk into another room or go out for a while if you must. Say nothing and stew for a while... It is better to wait and refocus before starting out on communication, speaking when we are ready to share our thoughts without striking out. I am sure that when you look back on your own experiences, you'll agree that things escalate wildly when we say things we will regret and can never take back. 

Dave and I have tried to maintain a mutual respect and support for one-another and when working together we try to think of how to make the job easier for the other. By doing so, chores and obligations are handled much more smoothly. But we also make sure to take time out of the office and other work to spend time in nature at least once, if not a few times, per week. 

We have learned to celebrate our differences and work with them - I desire a clean house and he loves to cook,; I love to garden and he has the skills to build whatever we need; I have talents in research and transcribing and marketing, whereas he has talents in audio, graphics, web maintenance and editing. 

So I guess the key to a long relationship is this:

Look for how you can compliment each other, rather than for things that make you different - and your relationship will bloom. 

Find Dave and Lillian Brummet, excerpts from their books, information about their radio program, newsletter, blog, and more at: * Support the Brummets by telling your friends, or visiting the Brummet's Store - every sale raises funds for charity as well!

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