Not Always a Bed of Roses: Secrets of Lasting Relationships

Everyone knows that even roses, some of the most exquisite flowers in the
world, grow with thorns and find themselves in manure periodically.  But
when it comes to relationships, we expect nothing less than absolute perfection
from our mates. Unrealistic expectations create a difficult terrain for
budding relationships. Nearly all of the couples I know who have survived
and thrived for more than 30 years together will confess that life brings
challenges. With the challenges come tests that forge deeper bonds. 

What kind of glue keeps them together?

 Build respect and self-love. Developing love and
respect for one’s self contributes to building a healthy relationship with a
partner.  Sometimes we’re blessed with partners who have an abundance of
Self-confidence and can help us to cultivate this quality within ourselves.
 At other times we need to look inside to find the qualities we love about
ourselves.  A good partner will help us to find our best qualities and
build our self-esteem.  

 Make a best friend and coach of your mate. Respected
relationship therapist, Rick Brown, suggests that our mates may be the only
people who will be honest with us when we have muck on our faces.  While
others might ignore it or walk away, our partners will say, “honey, clean your
face.”  Our partner is usually the one who knows us better than anyone
else and if we listen to their feedback, he or she can help us become better

 Listen and affirm. One of the biggest issues in
relationships is a lack of effective communication. While most couples
communicate all the time through slamming doors, yelling, criticizing and
complaining, this kind of communication is destructive.  Good
communication means really listening to a partner in the same way we might
listen to a dear friend.  With a friend we seek to understand. We
will sit and listen patiently and often repeat back some of the things they’ve
said to let them know we’ve heard and understood.  “I feel like you don’t
pay attention,” a mate may say.  Repeating, “I understand that you don’t
feel like I pay attention,” may be a good way to connect and move into deeper
understanding. But this must be done with sincerity and heart.

 Be attentive, not defensive. It’s easy to fall
into the blame game where both parties start to blame the other for how they’re
acting.  Make a concerted effort to step out of this, take responsibility
for actions and move into a softer more receptive space rather than onto
defensive terrain where the language can sometime turn brutal.  By
stepping back just a little and taking the ego out of play, the barrier to real
connection falls away and a door to a sincere, heartfelt connection opens.

 Make the first move to improve. If you’re
willing to make a change for the better, but your mate isn’t on board, then
don’t be deterred.  Go ahead and follow your agenda. Listen and
affirm.  Be attentive; stop criticizing and hold good intentions and
thoughts about your mate and your partnership. By simply making changes in
yourself and your actions and attitudes, the world around will change too.

While the path may not be strewn with flowers, holding a
positive, helpful attitude will set you on the right journey. Some 50% of
marriages end in divorce and about 63% of second marriages suffer the same
fate.  The issues that remain unresolved in the first marriage will come
back again and again until they’re resolved and worked out within us. Make
the best effort to work through the challenges and enjoy the sweetness of the
flowers along the way.

Bio: Debra Moffitt-Leslie

Debra Moffitt-Leslie’s book,"108 Spiritual
Practices for Challenging Times" will be published by Llewellyn Worldwide
in 2011.  Her essays and articles appear in publications around the
world and focus on drawing attention to the spiritual in a mostly
material-minded world.  She’s on the faculty for The Sophia Institute and
gives workshops in the U.S.and Europe. Her fiction was broadcast by BBC World
Services and published in numerous literary magazines.


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