It is a cliche to say that relationships are hard and need to be worked on daily. It doesn’t mean that the sentiment is untrue, but a fundamental law of our nature. Individual people are as unique as anything can be in the vast and diverse Universe. For two individual people with their own goals and priorities to hitch their destinies together and pull in the same direction for decades is no small feat of endurance.
It requires a few things in abundance to complete that journey to its inevitable end. Much of our society views relationships as either disposable or possessing an expiration date. Couples who stay together to the end view their relationships as forever and irreplaceable. But, how do you build a relationship that lasts forever?
Here are five ‘secrets’ to a great and lasting relationship:
If you have ever watched a child build an elaborate building out of wooden blocks or some contraption out of Legos, only to smash it apart in a second of gleeful destruction, then you understand the fundamentals of trust. It takes a long time to build and an instant to destroy. You and your partner have to trust each other. With your secrets, with your money, with your heart and with your very life. You build trust one brick at a time and you refuse to give in to that base desire to destroy it completely. You earn trust every day like interest on an investment. The longer you let it build, the more it is worth in the end.
2. Openness And Acceptance
It is easy to withdraw into the fortress of your heart and protect yourself. But, it is cold and lonely in that castle surrounded by high walls and a deep moat, yet you feel protected and safe. High walls and safety could also describe a prison, and that is what that fortress is. Freedom comes with risk. When you open your deepest feelings and hurts to your partner, you open yourself to risk, but also to liberation and acceptance. We are not perfect and we have all done things we are not proud of. Acknowledging our partners’ faults and accepting them for who they are without attempting to change them to fit our definition of perfection is to let ourselves be accepted in return. We grow to know each other and our imperfections and accept them and ourselves for who we are and what we are together.
3. Unconditional Affection
Once we have established trust, opened our hearts to our partners and accepted them and ourselves for who we are, then we can love them without conditions. We love them even when they fail. We love them even when we are angry with them. We love them even when they feel that they don’t deserve it. It is easy to love someone who is perfect. Loving imperfect people is all we have. Love is like water, eternal and nourishing. Water will wear down the mountain eventually. Love will seep into the cracks and break that hard shell apart. Some people walk a desert, stumbling around looking for an oasis to get a drink of water. Be that oasis for your partner. Be that cool drink on a hot and dry day.
Sacrifice is the ultimate expression of love. You give up your deep personal desires in order to satisfy someone else. In great relationship,s the two people in that relationship sacrifice for one another in order to bring happiness, fulfillment and security to each other. It may be small daily sacrifices, like doing chores when you really want to lay down and read that new book. It might be passing on that promotion or new job so your kids can finish out the school year with their friends. It might be going to your in-laws for the holidays when you would rather be anywhere else. When you love someone without conditions, you give up some of your personal desires in order to build or maintain your relationship. Yes, sometimes we need to be a little selfish so we can recharge or heal, but when you are both feeding each other, than nobody starves.
5. Till Death Do Us Part
The biggest secret is that both of you are in it to the end, come hell or high water. There is no quitting on each other. If your partner is having a hard time moving forward, then you carry them until they can. You do not leave people behind. Some people, though, see relationships as too hard or requiring to much sacrifice, or they think the grass is always greener on the other side. It is just being selfish. People are going to change over time and things will be tough. But, if we are open in our desires and wants, if we are honest and trust our partner, if we love them no matter what and are willing to sacrifice our desires to bring them happiness, then we can overcome any hardship life throws at us.
Our partners are going to piss us off or hurt our feelings on occasion. Any two people who know each other for a long time are going to disagree or say something hurtful. What makes a great relationship is seeing past the small hurts and annoyances towards the longer journey. Being there to pick someone up when they fall means that they will likely be there when we eventually stumble and face-plant into the road. Some days you carry your partner and other days they carry you. The key is being committed to the whole journey and not just the fun parts.