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Five Lessons For An Enduring Relationship (aka my secret sauce)

May 12, 2017

We are relational creatures. So much of our satisfaction and fulfillment are related to the quality of our relationships.

There are many reasons that we seek out mates, but it seems that most of us are wired for it. Being in a couple can be one of the most rewarding and difficult experiences. The high divorce rate speaks to the challenges.

When I hear about couples who have been together a long time, I like to ask them what they have learned and for the secret sauce that makes it all work.

I’ve have been with my husband for almost fifteen years. We are celebrating our thirteenth wedding anniversary this month.

It has not been all rainbows and unicorns. Or roses and chocolates for that matter. However, I like to think that we have learned some things in our time together and have come up with our own recipe to keep things salty, spicy, sweet and umami.

When a writer/blogger I follow asked for advice as he was preparing for his nuptials, this is what I wrote.

My relationship is not always happy and I certainly am not gaga all of the time but life does not need to resemble a romance novel or Fifty Shades of Gray. I will choose real love again and again. I think part of enduring is that you weather and work through the hard times together. You build up fondness and appreciation to remember and draw on, to keep you going when you feel disconnected, annoyed or no longer like the sound of your partner’s chewing. And then you savor the good times. You appreciate them and remember to see the goodness in your partner.

The top five lessons I learned (aka my secret sauce):

  • Marriage and relationship are verbs in disguise. You are either tending or neglecting what you have. There is no neutral or doing nothing. You are moving away or towards each other at any one time.
  • Listening does not have to mean agreeing. And certainly not fixing. Listening is just listening and it’s key.
  • It is absolutely necessary to protect the sacred. You can replace the word sacred with respect. Whatever you call it, this represents a bottom line that does not get crossed. This provides safety for two people to be themselves and be together. Learning how to hold something sacred above all else is humbling and instructive. I believe it is a necessary ingredient in self-realization and healthy couplehood.
  • My husband and I have had a rule that has rarely been crossed of honoring the highest standard that either one of us holds or going with the person who feels most strongly about the issue or decision. This brings trust to our relationship and has enabled us to travel the world, raise a child together, make important decisions, keep cheetos out of the house, navigate in-laws and reconnect during difficult times. It answers what social neuroscientist Mark Brady calls the Big Brain Question “Will you be there for me when I need you?” with a resounding YES.
  • Lastly, live by this: love and connection is more important that being right. When conflict is arising, ask yourselves if you would rather be close or right. The answer is usually CLOSE.

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