The Key To Successful Relationships
It seems today that our society has created an environment that makes it near to impossible for people to find deep loving and long lasting relationships. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) tracks marriage and divorce rates in the U.S.
In 2002 Report 23, Number 22 they presented one of the last statistical reviews of American marriages. Among the findings in the report: unmarried co-habitations overall are less stable than marriages. The probability of a first marriage ending in separation or divorce within 5 years is 20 percent, but the probability of a premarital cohabitation breaking up within 5 years is 49 percent. After 10 years, the probability of a first marriage ending is 33 percent, compared with 62 percent for co-habitations.
But they don’t explain what happens to second marriages or co-habitations. I personally fall in that category and I’d be interested in knowing what the statistics show. We’ve been together 10years and we have a son. We have no plans on changing our co-habitation into a legal marriage. We had that license in the first relationships and both of those failed. Maybe they’ll cover that in the next decade.
In the mean time, some people blame the rise of failure on women who have become more independent and don’t need to rely on a husband to provide for them or their children. Others blame men who can’t be sensitive, or who act more like children in a relationship than a partner. All the bitterness from both sides of the fence tries to find a myriad of reasons and blame to point fingers at the other side. But this ‘looking at the other side’ often leaves out the one key reason relationships can and often do fail. Respect.
We can learn a lot about that by watching the partnerships in nature. Wolves are one of the species in nature that mate for life. Along with Hawks and Eagles, they develop deep long-lasting bonds that not only support each other, but also their family units. This is especially true in Wolf Packs where each member knows, understands and respects their place in the pack. If only it were that simple for humans.
I remember many years ago on one of the network news magazine programs, a story about what makes a marriage last for decades. The show interviewed 6 couples who have been married for at least 35 years and up to 65 years. They asked each couple what was the secret to their successful marriages. It wasn’t surprising that all of them had the same answer. There’s no secret to it, there’s simply the need to hold respect for each other throughout your life.
What a wonderful concept. A happy and healthy relationship cannot exist and thrive without a mutual respect of ideas, feelings and expressions of consciousness and desire. Without respect partners cannot support each other’s dreams, or care for one another in sickness. Without respect it’s harder to share the intimacy of love, or honor the sacrifices each side will make to sustain the partnership and family. Respect will maintain the love for one another even when those moments of dissatisfaction arise and angry words are spoken. And respect is the basis of one of the biggest components of a successful relationship, Trust.
Every relationship travels through the hills and valleys of life. Partners will argue, there will be anger over little things; there will be moments of desired solitude. It’s naive to think a healthy relationship won’t have its moments of strife. But it’s also naive to think that a fight over who should do the dishes will end a relationship as well. Through mutual respect, successful couples can overcome the trials and tribulations, ups and downs that everyone faces in life. Partners can sustain their partnership with commitment and devotion when it’s approached from the foundation of respect.
Respect In Action
But how does one put respect into action? Whither you’re with your partner or not, your words, thoughts and actions represent your respect for your relationship. I’m amazed sometimes at how easily people put their partner down when they’re alone with their friends. They want to be part of the conversation, or share laughs and embarrassing moments.
The problem with this conduct is that those words slowly begin to grow in reality within your subconsciousness. Over time, and that could be a short time, those thoughts start to be expressed openly when your partner is around. Or even worse, you might begin to express those hurtful comments to your partner directly.
How you think about your partner is just as important as how you talk about them. Your thoughts will come through in your actions and reactions. You maybe at dinner with friends and your partner expresses an opinion or idea that causes you to roll your eyes in response. You may not even realize your reaction, but your reaction will be noticed by others at the table and maybe even by the one you claim to love. It can cause your partner to feel degraded or self-conscious, embarrassed or foolish. That little ‘put down’ will also be noticed by your friends, who may also lessen their view of not only your partner, but of your relationship as well.
When you hold deep respect for your partner, you allow your self to overlook the little things that build up and blow up a relationship. Remember you’re not perfect either. You have just as many annoying habits as your partner does. And if you want to be accepted for who and what you are, then you need to show that same respect for your partner. Stop getting annoyed when the cap is left off the tooth paste and simply put it back on. What’s the big deal? Don’t get angry when the toilet seat is left up, why should the world accommodate you? Put it down yourself. You’re not the only one who uses the bathroom. Stop being so selfish in your relationship and remember you asked to live your life with someone you love and that means sharing your home and actions as well. And yes the opposite can be said for the other side as well. If there’s respect than they’ll remember to put the cap back on and put the seat down. But these are the little things that over time simply aren’t important in a relationship and can more easily be overcome with open communication.
And there’s the second key to a successful relationship. With mutual respect you will have a more open and honest ability to communicate. Nothing is off-limits and everything is on the table. You will have an ability to express your needs, desires, dreams and thoughts all while being able to listen to your partners dialog as well. All those little things that you allow to get under your skin can be resolved before they become big issues or grow on a pile of issues you’re storing up for the next fight.
When you can communicate your feelings and explain why you feel that way, each side gains understanding and can work with each other to overcome or adjust their actions to resolve the issue. Don’t expect your partner to just know how you feel. They can’t read your mind anymore than you can read theirs. Don’t try to drop little hints here and there, no one is out on a mystery tour trying to decipher the code of your brain and how you think. So don’t get angry when they say ‘I didn’t know it bothered you’, when you never told them in the first place.
It also gives you an environment to safely ask for what you need. Don’t expect someone to know you need a hug because you had a bad day. Ask for one. It’s not hard to say “Can I have a hug”? If you want to hold hands, don’t wait for your partner to reach out to you. Try reaching for them. If you feel you’re the one who’s always asking and reaching, then you have something to talk about. Ask them why they don’t express their feelings or emotions toward you? It maybe something as simple as, they feel too clingy and don’t want to upset you. Or they were raised not to do that and you can help each other overcome those childhood habits. You’ll never know if you don’t talk about it.
Respectful communication between partners is judgmental, or degrading. It’s safe, secure, open and honest with attempts to understand each other. Women need to remember that men are often raised to hide or ignore their feelings. It’s not you so stop taking it so personally. And men need to understand that they have a right to have feelings and make them known without ridicule or being put down. No one gets it both ways. You may not change your habits or reactions. But you can change your understanding about why something happened the way it did and make agreements to work on dealing with those situations in the future.
Relationships Take Work
Here’s a good example. A woman wants to hold hands with her partner, but feels she’s always the one who initiates this form of intimacy. So she asks her partner why he doesn’t hold her hand? He might explain that he wasn’t raised to be “touchy feely”, it’s almost a taboo kind of things for guys. It’s engrained from childhood and it’s hard to change it. But he might also add, I like it when you hold my hand. It makes me feel all tough and strong and stuff.
A compromise here is understanding the engrained nature of someone and how hard that might be for them to change. Knowing this isn’t part of who he has been raised to be, should a woman feel slighted? No of course not. But she can look at the situation from a different perspective and understand that it’s not an expression of his feelings for her and that it makes him feel empowered and uplifted when she takes his hand. So keep on doing that, but now do it without the worry or concern about why he didn’t do it first.
Holding respect for each other is the cornerstone of any loving relationship that lasts through the decades. If you’re willing to work a little, the respect you hold for each other will be there when you have grown old and stand by each other looking back over a lifetime of memories. It will provide you with joy, pride and compassion as you grow together, care for each other and attain wisdom together as a couple.
- The Art Of Communication – How We Listen & Hear
- The Art Of Communication – II – Expectations & Assumptions
© 2012 Springwolf, D.D., Ph.D. Springwolf Reflections / Spring’s Haven, LLC. All Rights Reserved.
Very well said. We all strive for mutual respect. Sadly we don’t always give it.