Saturday, February 12, 2011

Working on the Relationship

Someone asked me once, "have you ever become so angry with your partner that you've thought of breaking up and going your separate ways?"

The quick answer to this question is, "no, but..."

The longer answer:  my life with my partner is not all wine and roses.  Like all couples, we have our differences, and sometimes we argue.  I remain fairly calm and don't yell.  Yelling doesn't do anything for anyone.

We seldom argue, but when we do, we both feel very uncomfortable and in the past, we have said some things that we both have regretted.

These days, we hardly argue at all.  We both know what sets the other off, what bothers him, what makes him angry.  We both work hard to avoid having anything like that happen.  We avoid conflict as best we can.

Sometimes we avoid conflict by not doing something we want to do: for example, when my partner gets on a tear about spring gardening, I don't even mention that I'm anxious to go for a motorcycle ride.  I just suck it up and work with him on the gardens until he's happy. My partner also doesn't do some things he wants to do when I want to do something else -- it works both ways.

And I think that's what makes our relationship work:  we understand each other well enough to know what not to do, and then don't do it.

Further, when either of us senses that we are getting close to creating a tense situation, we stop and think.  We reform our thoughts and are careful about what we say.  This is an indication that we both work on our relationship every day.  We think about the other person in our life who means the most to us, and think about how we can avoid saying or doing anything that will cause the other to become upset or angry.  We work on ourselves, which makes our relationship solid and steadfast.

Some people get into relationships based on other factors.  In fact, a recent study showed that over 2/3 of all relationships begin with sex, and 1/3 of those relationships continue only with sex being the primary driver of staying together.  Then when sex hits the skids (for whatever reasons), couples realize that they have nothing else in common.  They begin to understand that they don't really know the other person at all.  Then they do things that cause significant arguments and sometimes results in breaking up and divorce.

For my beloved partner and me, as different as we are and as quirky as we behave sometimes, we have taken a lot of time to listen, to understand, and to maintain our bond of friendship which forms the basis of our relationship.  Sure, sex is a part of what keeps us close, but never was and even today is not "the only thing."

We both work on our relationship in little ways every day.  We trust and value the other's opinion.  We think about what we do and say and how that may affect the other.  Truly, to have a good, long-lasting, fruitful and beneficial partnership as a couple, we both realize that our relationship takes work.  We invest in that work often.  The payoff is significant -- together, forever, we make the bootprints of our journey.

By the way, I think this applies to both straight and gay couples.  I see my siblings in marriages of 30, 40, and (almost) 50 years.  Marriages that have lasted that long have to have been built on a very solid relationship that is made to last by continuing to work on it.

Life is short:  work on your relationship.

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