Good Relationships Don’t Just Happen
By Rose Winstanley-Trefz
Good relationships don’t just happen. They need to be nurtured and cared for like a garden, by planting seeds of respect, caring, and by serving our partner’s in a selfless way.
I’ve been reflecting on my relationship with my husband of twenty-two years. We have had many challenges along the way, but each time we went through the fire, it forged our bond, which has grown stronger and deeper than I could ever have imagined.
When we first enter a relationship, often through a strong romantic attraction, we, of course, are always on our best behavior. As time goes on, that outer veneer wears away, and we begin to show who we really are, flaws and all. It is only when two people make a conscious choice that they will work things out, no matter what, that true growth in the relationship happens.
Often when there are disagreements or arguments, one of the first reactions we have is the flight or fight response. In the early stages of my relationship with my husband, often my response was to take flight. I would grab my keys, head out the door, walk to the park or jump in my car and speed off down the road. At one point years ago, when my husband and I were in the midst of a very difficult time, I realized that I was repeating the negative behavior of my parents. I was then able to look clearly at my reactions and begin to change and leave behind what I call, the “environmental influence” of my childhood. One night after a heated argument, I had what I believe was an out-of- body experience. I felt detached from my body and looked down on my body below me and clearly saw for the first time that I was repeating behavior that was duplicating the anger in the dysfunctional way that my parents reacted. It wasn’t long after that I looked in the mirror one night and said these very powerful and healing words; “I am not my mother, I am not my father…Who am I?” From that point on I was able to be a better listener, and in time I learned that I didn’t have to react to my husbands anger or frustration. It was when I was able to remain calm and quiet and to listen, and then respond, that things really changed. This is an ongoing practice, and sometimes, even now, my emotions get the best of me, but that is becoming less and less as time goes by.
When we make mistakes in our relationships, as we always do, it is important to learn the art of forgiveness. Everyone makes mistakes, and if we are smart or have the desire to, we quickly learn the lessons from our mistakes or the mistakes of our partners and move on. When we are constantly bringing up past mistakes and playing the blame game in our relationships, we get stuck in a pattern of negativity. If we consider the concept, that our thoughts create our world, it becomes evident that we need to keep our thoughts off the past, off mistakes, and focus on the here and now. It is only in this moment that change will take place.
I was speaking to someone recently, who made the comment that she could forgive, but never forget. There are times when we think we are being forgiving, but we aren’t fully letting go of the pain, anger, or frustration that is associated to a hurtful experience from the past. To fully forgive, we must forget, we must let go and surrender fully to the present moment to really change the past. When we focus on negative events that are over and done with, our bodies respond on the physiological level and release stress hormones associated with the past event. That is why we must stay away from thoughts that keep us stuck in patterns that are no longer relevant, unless we make them so, by bringing them up over and over again.
A good relationship flourishes when we take time to say “I love you” at least a few times daily. You can never say the most powerful words in any language, “I love you” enough. Saying I love you also requires action by having the deepest respect for our partners. One way to do this is being polite. Saying please and thank-you or by asking, “Is there anything I can do for you?,” builds a relationship on the foundation of respect, which is the strongest foundation any relationship can have. Writing little notes are a great way to say “thank you for being in my life”. Just by writing the words, I Love You, sends a sweet and endearing message. I have read that couples who have strong relationships have one thing in common, and that is writing loving messages, sending cards, and emailing notes to one another.
Never neglect gently touching your partner. Touching, even by just briefly laying a hand on a shoulder, or a pat on the back, and by giving hugs are often one of the nicest ways to connect. Smiling, especially first thing in the morning, to greet our partners is always a welcome sight, even when we don’t feel like it. Taking the step to be pleasant and smile is often the simplest, most neglected acts and can send a message of taking our most cherished companion for granted. Smiling is a great habit to adopt in all situations. When we smile, even our bodies react in a positive way. Holding hands is so simple and sweet. It is one of the first things people do when they become attracted to one another. There is even evidence to suggest that when we hold hands with the one we love, there is a lowering of stress hormones, blood pressure goes down, and women in particular feel a deep sense of security.
When children are involved in a relationship, it is critical that parents have a night together or times during the week that are just for them. If this step isn’t taken, there can be a serious disconnect from each other. Even having a baby-sitter come over for an hour, and just taking a walk together, going out for a drink, or parking in a peaceful place is essential. Talking isn’t necessary, and especially, not discussing work, bills, or focusing on problems should be avoided at this time. It is making the effort to be together that really counts. When important issues have to be discussed, ask your partner to please set aside time and tell them you need to talk. This prepares your partner and helps in not catching them off guard.
It is always nice if we can be on the same page with our partners when it comes to having our needs fulfilled. If we have expectations, sometimes we can be very disappointed and become resentful. That is where doing your best as an individual, by being the example of what you would like to see, without expectations, is the most challenging, but the most effective way of creating an ideal relationship. This is where patience and persistence really pay off.
It is very important that we have the freedom to have our individuality in the midst of the relationship. This comes when we accept that in any long term relationship, our partner is bound to change. When two people make a commitment to stay together, no matter what, when they are committed to growth and change in a positive way, when we have that one person we can rely on, one person to turn to when we lose perspective, that person can fill our lives with the companionship that is essential for balance, health and peace.
Having a companion that we can rely on in this often chaotic world is one of the greatest gifts we have in life. When we make the effort and nurture our relationships, we are blessed and fortunate to have someone to share our simple humanity with, someone who helps share the burden of all that is required to have a quality life. When two people make the choice to be together and work toward a common goal, that life is enhanced, we live healthier and happier lives, and we are a good example to our children, who will carry that into the next generation.