A short time ago, I had the honor to officiate the wedding of my dear niece. As my manner is, I like to provide the couple with some marriage advice individually and together. I shared with them the real secret to a lasting relationship and surprisingly it wasn’t only communication. I called it a secret because it is not the way most couples function. Do you want to know the secret? Read on.
If you think about it, people do not remain the same person they were as they grow and progress through their life. We all have both the privilege and the opportunity to make changes and if needed, modify our behavior. Similarly our interests and our desires also change. What appeals or holds first place to a twenty year old is vastly different than what appeals to a fifty year old. When people get married, their task is to unify two separate people towards one common purpose. Being married does not mean forsaking who you are as a person in order to please the other person. Instead the couple has to find a way to continue to be themselves and also function as a team. How absurd the idea of marriage would be if the goal was to turn into something or someone you are not. Doing so or attempting to do so leads to nothing but perpetual resentment on the part of the one being asked to be someone they are not. In marriage or any serious relationship the people involved have to be able to be themselves. In the world you may be required to play a role, but at home there has to be freedom and tons of acceptance. How many relationships fail because one or the other is trying to make their partner into something they are not? This, of course doesn’t mean there isn’t a responsibility to rid oneself of obnoxious behaviors or to modify and adjust as required. Modifying and adjusting are part of the essence of life. Usually that thing that bothers you about your partner, bothers them as well. Yet, similar to how God works with us, you don’t scold and criticize away bad behaviors. Instead you endeavor to make an appeal to that good part of the person. Being critical and demeaning may make you feel better in the moments of anger, but in the end it simply gives birth to bitterness. But most importantly and in concert with the “secret,” you have to allow your partner the freedom to change. Each day is a new day and offers a fresh start in order to get it right. But, your partner doesn’t have a chance to get it right if you are still stuck back on something from yesterday. Allow them to change. Allow them to modify. Allow them to adjust.
The secret to a lasting relationship is found when you learn to live each day as a new day. Relationships, marriages turn sour because one or the other or both are dragging around their perpetual, negative memories of the past. Living in this way just fixes your partner to one moment in time doomed to the consequences forever. Your partner may have transformed lightyears from the person you initially met and fell in love with, but you won’t ever be able to see and truly appreciate that transformation because you aren’t seeing them for who they are, but rather for who they were. Your image of your partner, your spouse is distorted and predetermined leaving you with nothing but the dredges of the past you are carrying about with you. Whenever I see couples (and I include myself in this observation) carrying on a sort of low level bickering back and forth, I know there are so many unsaid and unresolved issues from the former days still affecting today. And I always think, what a shame! How sad that you cannot even hear each other because of that backlog of, “How you always are and what you always say!” So sad. You remember when you first met? You didn’t have all those negative associations built up and you actually saw and heard your partner. All of us can change and sometimes in dramatic fashion. All of us can learn a new, better way to be. All of us can finally decide to stop doing the stuff that causes ourselves and others pain and blaze a new trail. All people need is the freedom to do it. Give your partner, your spouse, your lover the freedom to change. Let them be someone else instead of the image you have decided they are and forever will be. They are growing and learning just like you are. Above all, learn to accept them; their quirks; their oddities; their foolishness. Accept it. Quit wishing they would be someone else and love them for who they are. You may find as you focus on their goodness that there is a lot there for you to love. If you know they have a weak spot, why not cover it? Maybe they have strange views about things, well God bless them, so do you.
The secret to a lasting relationship and even life itself is to live each day as a new day. Don’t try to live in your future and for goodness sakes, let go of the past. Live in the moment, in the day, and look at things with fresh eyes. Do your best to quit reading into current situations with a bunch of old data from the past. It’s old and no longer useful. Look at your partner with clear eyes and a clear heart. Just because their responses to certain situations are familiar doesn’t mean they will always be the same. Let them grow and change just like you have grown and changed. You have finally figured a few things out and maybe they have also. That person you are with that knows exactly how to drive you nuts likely loves you more than anyone else does and for that they deserve a fresh start; a thousand fresh starts. Communication is vital, but pointless if you are communicating from the vantage point of the ghosts of the past. Live each day as a new day. It is the secret to a lasting relationship.
Just some good thoughts…