Walking into a relationship is like walking into a maze. It’s exciting to go in, but you’re never sure of what lies ahead or where you’ll end up. It’s precisely why Vickie asked that we give her words of wisdom before she walks down the aisle next week.
Nuggets of relationship wisdom were sprinkled, mostly clichés: Never go to bed angry, communicate, treat your partner as you’d like to be treated, and whatnots. Basically, what every girl in a relationship with Tom, Dick, and Harry knows. But a relationship like that of Tom, Dick, and Harry isn’t what you want, right?
You want more.
You want a deeper, more solid, and fantastic relationship — one sealed with a ribbon of tight romance. Here’s the thing; People enjoying fantastic relationships know a more profound truth than the majority. They’re masters at asking themselves four smart questions to ensure they’re steering their relationship boat in the right direction.
It’s not surprising that their coals of love keep warm long after the flames of passion have gone off.
1. Is there anything I value more?
Men and women have scratched their heads many times over trying to figure out one crucial part of the relationship puzzle: Why do people cheat? The majority believe that cheating partners do so in search of what’s missing in the relationship. And while there’s a sliver of truth in this, the real reason is deeper.
People cheat because they identify something of a greater value than their relationship. It could be money, fame, power, or sex. You probably know several marriages that crumbled because one partner chose to walk the sleepy slope of ambition or self-indulgence.
But realizing that we’re all running the hamster wheel of success, folks enjoying first-class relationships continually evaluate their values and their lives’ direction. They know that hanging on the edge of a cliff is a sure-fire way to fall, so when they sense a shift in values, they realign to what matters most — their relationship.
When you value something more than you value your relationship, your commitment to it starts to fizzle. Most think of commitment as confinement, but it’s actually freedom. Commitment gives you freedom from the frivolous options out there and fixes your eyes on that one person — your partner.
But lose that? And you’re just coasting through life and should miss or mister hotness at the office wink at you, you’re sucked into the dangerous trap that could cost your union.
2. What’s the one thing I can’t live without?
It’s funny. The person you feel warmth and fuzziness for today is the same one you want to punch in the face tomorrow. Why? Because love isn’t constant. It contracts and expands, mellows, and dwindles because each partner continues to evolve over time. In light of this, then, what is a person to do?
Let’s go back to the bridal shower.
Grace — whose thriving relationship just turned twenty— advised my girlfriend to focus on respecting herself because she can always control this no matter how loveless she feels. Everybody and their dog knows the importance of respecting their partner yet often gloss over the significance of self-respect.
It not only sets clear boundaries — extremely crucial — but also helps you become self-sufficient. So, let’s quickly paint a picture of what self-respect in a relationship looks like, shall we?
- Being clear about your wants and needs. News flash: Mind reading doesn’t work in relationships. Fail to articulate your needs, and they’ll never be met. Speak up.
- Doing things on your own. Autonomy doesn’t just earn you bonus points of admiration from your significant other, but it’s also sexy. Destiny’s Child was spot on when they told us to be independent.
- Standing up for yourself. Have you seen anything more attractive than someone who knows what they deserve? If you allow your lover to continually get away with acts that rub you off the wrong way, you don’t respect yourself. Harsh but true. Don’t be afraid of rocking the boat. It’s either that or your happiness.
- Putting yourself first. A bit selfish? Probably. Yet, this is the true litmus test of self-respect. It means caring and speaking well about yourself even on days when it seems as if your partner’s love has waned. It means forgiving yourself for misdemeanors. Refuse to peg your worth on another human.
In a thriving relationship, a lack of self-respect is a no-go.
“Never esteem anything as of advantage to you that will make you break your word or lose your self-respect.” ― Marcus Aurelius, Meditations
3. What would my life look like if this person weren’t in my life?
Any hopeless romantic believes that love should be eternal. But every realist knows that love can end. Passion dies. People evolve. The wise ones understand that being in love doesn’t mean losing themselves, so they create a life outside their relationships to fuel themselves.
A bit of distance in a relationship isn’t just good. It’s necessary. Those with fantastic relationships constantly ask themselves how their lives would be if they were still single. Would they still be as creative, fit, vibrant, ambitious, and passionate about what matters to them as individuals?
They push it a notch higher and find ways to follow their own path because they understand that the greatest discovery in life is finding and harnessing the treasure hidden within them. Some take online classes, find mentors, and enroll in clubs that help propel their passions.
I’m probably biased, but I especially tip my hat to high value women who break the yoke of relationship responsibilities and remain firmly planted in the garden of their ambitions.
4. Are we the same…. but different?
On the one hand, you hear that opposites attract. On the other, you hear that birds of a feather flock together. It’s jarring. Scratching your head, you wonder, which is true when it comes to choosing a lover?
Well, studies have shown that you’re more attracted to a lover you perceive to be similar to you, and it increases your chances of staying together longer. Because similarity brings order to a chaotic world, most people choose someone who gets them because it makes them feel secure.
But, let’s face it; too many similarities quickly turn into soul-crushing boredom. Nobody wants that! Hence why those in fantastic relationships don’t pitch their tent in the camp of similarities. The extend their search further. Hunting after qualities that are contrasting enough to keep the relationship sizzling but not too different to interfere with their own lifestyles.
Here’s their criteria:
Choose a partner with the same values as myself, but who can also give me new experiences, inspire new ideas, teach me new skills and compensate for my deficiencies.
Lucy is a classic example. She couldn’t swim to save her life, and not surprisingly, she got hitched to Luke, a swimming instructor. She told us that for her, the prospect of a new adventure was an aphrodisiac. She’d never get bored. Twenty years later, Lucy is a fish. Still having fun.
An oversimplified example? Maybe. But the basic principle applies. If you’re single and searching, beware of settling for someone who is too similar to you — unless you’re okay with thrusting a spear through your heart one day because of boredom. Do better. Throw in a dash of differences to keep the relationship spicy and sizzling.
I’m still retreating in the shadow of guilt because I feel like a fake friend. As if all the advice given to Vickie wasn’t sufficient enough, I gifted her a book. Knowing very well that much of the relationship advice we seek and the marital issues we grapple with can find light if we ask ourselves the right questions. I should have told her that but didn’t.
Before his demise at 39, Blaise Pascal left us with these words:
“All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.”
I’ll add that this isn’t just true for life. It’s true for love.
This post was previously published on Medium.
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