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A friend and mentor of mine often reminds me that “the quality of our life is directly tied to the quality of our closest relationships” So what does that mean when todays statistics tell us that 50% of all marriages end in divorce(1), and that of the 50% of the couples that stay together about 50% of those rate their relationship from almost unbearable to just okay.(2) As one person put it “I never knew what true happiness was until I got married, and by then it was already too late. Kidding aside, with 75% of all relationships ending or enduring in less than satisfactory conditions why bother? Why attempt at a long term relationship at all?– Because one can, if one chooses, be part of the 25% of happy, loving, productive couples. So what’s the difference between the two? It all boils down to evolution, or development. One must continually develop themselves, personally and within the frame of their relationships whither its communication skills or financial stability. (3) Gandhi said “Become the change you wish to see in the world.” It applies just as much to becoming the change you wish to see in your relationships.” People will spend years learning to master a trade, earn a degree or become a Doctorate in a field of their passion. But when it comes to our relationships it’s a whole other story. As everyone knows in the beginning most relationships don’t take much work. Communication flows, there is an abundance of passion, intimacy, and commitment. This type of relationship referred to as consummate love is typically unselfish, devoted, and is associated with romantic relationships. Unfortunately, achieving consummate love as one person put it, is similar to losing weight. Getting started is easy; sticking to it is another thing. Partly because too often this passion in the beginning enamors some people to such a degree that they do not approach their loving relationships realistically. This observation especially holds true for those who base their relationships on infatuation or the assumption that “true love” takes care of all conflicts and problems. It’s because of this that when the flames of passion start to dwindle (which is inevitable in many cases) or the going gets rough, people decide to give up, throw in the towel and move on to a new relationship. Not knowing that they can, not only maintain, but develop a deeper and better love than they’ve ever experienced or expected. (4) So why don’t people work on their relationships? That could best be told by the story of 18 yearold Rick Little. 5am one early morning Rick was on his way back home when he fell asleep at the wheel of his car and hurtled over a ten foot embankment crashing into a tree. From that accident Rick spent the next 6 months in the hospital with a broken back and a lot of time to think deeply about his life, something for which his 13 years of education had not prepared him for. Just two weeks after being released from the hospital and getting back on his feet, tragedy struck. This time in the form of an overdose of sleeping pills his mother had took. Rick confronted once again with the emotional and mental anguish of life was noticing just how little his formal education had prepared him for such events. Instead of playing the victim though this inspired rick, this inspired him to formulate and idea that would bring new insight into the importance of what we learn. Realizing that there must be others out there who felt the same as he did, he went to work researching. What he found astounded him, what he found was what was at the heart and soul of humankind. One of the studies he dug up was a study done by the national institute of education in which 1,000 30yr olds had been asked if they felt their high school education had equipped them with the skills they needed for the real world. Over 80%, that’s 800 out of 1,000 said absolutely not! When asked what skills they now wish they had been taught the top three answers were relationship skills, self-discovery and crisis management. (5) Albert Einstein once said the only thing that interferes with my learning is my education. You see we grow up in an education system where the focuses is on instructions not imagination, institutions not intuition, requirements not relationships, curriculum not communication, S.A.T.’s Not P.M.A. How the heart and mind relate to the body but not our souls or loved ones. Now we could blame the education system all we want but as always there is a measure of responsibility we must take. We forget that we are the education system and we must seek to change it or we must realize that decisive learning does not stop when we leave the classroom; that test books are not the only source for learning and that teachers are all around us and come in many forms if we’re open to learning. Because just like our jobs our relationships take learning, they take failure, persistence and work. Not what is too often seen where people endure hardships hoping they go away or solve themselves. Just like success in anything you want to grow in, requires us to stretch ourselves. If we want the relationship to go somewhere it requires stepping out of our comfort zones and going out of our way for the ones we love and yes, even ourselves. I read a story the other day about a man Dave and his wife Patricia. When Dave was asked about his wife he said “She is my wife, my lover, my best friend. After over 14 years of marriage I can honestly say that after all this time together my love for Patricia has not diminished in the slightest and in fact through each passing day I find myself more and more enraptured by her beauty. The best times of my life are the times we spend together. This is what ever growing love sounds like. Too often marriage or time & security in the relationship kill the romance that was born in courtship. To Dave, he has always felt that he was courting his dear Patricia therefore the romance has never died. He went on to say “The many aspects of our romance are too numerous to mention but there is one special romantic ritual that he began over 15 years ago. You see before Patricia and him were married they both lived very busy lives, weekends were about the only time they had together and weekends couldn’t come fast enough. Well one day he decided to do something during the weekday that they could look forward to. And so it began one Wednesday some 15 years ago. He bought a card and gave it to her and for no other reason than to communicate and show his love for her. Since that day David has not missed one Wednesday in 15 years. It is his romantic mission each week to find the right card. At times it takes him too many different stores; sometimes he’ll spend a considerable amount of time in front of the card isles to find just the right one. So ask yourself is a love like this worth going out of your way for? If we go back and look at the top three answers in the study that people wish they could have learned about, relationship skills, self-discovery and crisis management, we could boil them down into two interconnected parts love and understanding of one’s self and others. Both of these require honest communication! The philosopher Bertrand Russell once said “One cannot possibly be at peace with others until they have learned to be at peace with themselves” and in the 50 ways to love your partner “love yourself” is first. This is not love of ego or selfishness. it’s about self-esteem. There is a psychological truism that people act and relate to other people in accordance with the way they think and feel about themselves. Test show that people with low self-esteem tend to have “lower quality relationships” than people with healthy self-esteem. Their relationships have less love and trust, and more conflict and ambivalence and therefore are also less stable. (6) If one has a low opinion of themselves they are more likely to attract someone who mirrors their own self-worth & treats them with little if any respect because deep down they don’t believe they deserve any better. We see time and again when people date and go after the same kind of people, or when a person will stay in an abusive relationship. Or couples will constantly cut each other down to lift themselves up which is a lose-lose out come, the whole time not knowing that instead if they stop seeking their esteem from the other person they can generate it in themselves and then have the energy attitude to communicate and help the person they love see their own self-worth outside of the relationship. (7) 1. Harrar, Sari and Rita DeMaria. 2007. The 7 Stages of Marriage: Laughter, Intimacy, and Passion. Pleasantville, NY: Reader’s Digest Books. 2. Harper Collins and Pamala Hagg 2011. Marriage Confidential. magazine.foxnews.com/love/are-you-semi-happy-marriage#ixzz2QPQ8gYIh 3. Mannes, George. “Is the Economy Ruining Your Marriage?” CNN.com. August 21, 2009. Accessed: October 27, 2009. 4. Sternberg, R. (1986). “A Triangular Theory of Love.” Psychological Review. 93(2),119-35. 5. Canfield, Jack & Mark Hansen. “Rick Little’s Quest.” Chicken Soup for the Soul. 182-186 6. Boyes, Alice “How Low/Fluctuating Self Esteem Impairs Relationship Satisfaction.” www.aliceboyes.com 7. Murray, Holmes, MacDonald and Ellsworth (1998) “Through the looking glass darkly?” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. Vol. 75, No. 6, 1459-1480
Contributed by Kory Stone