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Relationship Health Message Board


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ADDSubtract,

Now that I've had time to calm down from my own over-emotional response to your post (next response after Jennita) and "listen" to other posters who gave some excellent advice, I'd like to chime in here with some thoughts on how to maintain a relationship for a long time. No guarantees, of course, because a relationship involves two people who are free to make their own decisions. But my second marriage seems destined for the long haul after 27 years together (22 legal plus 5 years living together before that). My two-cents:

First and foremost, we're friends. Being "in love" is a wonderful feeling, but if your relationship is based on only that feeling, then it can't survive the not-so-wonderful realities of personal neuroses, financial problems, illnesses and so forth. Nurturing a friendship means that the love grows deeper over time based on learning to work through and live with the great as well as the not-so-great aspects of yourself, your partner and life in general.

A sense of humor helps a great deal. Sometimes it's just for fun, but sometimes it can help ease those tender spots that get bruised easily. After a while we have learned certain code styles of joking to indicate that a tender spot is about to explode, and we usually diffuse it before it gets too far. Of course this means that we have had to learn for ourselves just what those tender spots are -- this takes time, and for us that has meant a bit of therapy. Then we have had to learn to let the other partner know, and trust that he will understand. Talk about "my insecurities", not about "your failures" (uh, in reality, not always achieveable, but an important goal!).

We have learned to deal with REALLY tender spots by going into another room for a while, so that one of us doesn't say something damaging. It's really important to learn (takes time when you didn't learn it in childhood!) how to deal with disagreements. The ultimate purpose of our relationship (yours may be different) is to enable us to be the best people we can. This means learning what NOT to say as much as learning how to argue. If we're constantly tearing each other down because we think the other person has failed to nurture us in some way, then that person will only become defensive and NOT be able to nurture us and we certainly aren't nurturing them.

Learn to compromise. No matter how sure you are that you know what's best for your partner, ultimately he/she is the one who has the right to make decisions about their life. My husband eats the veggies I put into his lunch and dinner, and I don't bug him about the high-fat cheese he eats every evening after I've gone to bed. Chaotic messies (I spend a LOT of time in the ADD board!) need to find ways to live with someone more organized. As I said -- compromise. Not always easy. Ahem.

Practice trust. This takes a LOT of practice and needs to be renewed frequently. Along with this goes the practice of differentiating between "I'm feeling insecure about our relationship because of my neurotic background" and "I actually have evidence that you're playing around and I would like some clarification please". I like to think that I would KNOW if my husband were playing around, so I don't get in a huff if he has friends who are women. That's probably fantasy on my part, because it's possible for people to lie, but ultimately the relationship can't focus on supporting the both of us to be the best humans we can be if it's based on continual mistrust.

Periodically, when we're going through a bad patch (mis-communications, not enough communications, too many neuroses in the way, etc.), we both ask ourselves the old Ann Landers question -- "would I be better off with or without him/her?". This is a scary question to ask yourself, because someday the answer may be very painful. But I know that I am a better person for my years of being with my DH, and so far the answer is always that I'm better off with him, so we'd better find a way to work this out. If it ever comes out that the answer is that we'd be better off apart, then it'll be the most painful thing I can imagine, but I know that I can live through it.

Wait a long time before you make your relationship legal. My husband and I had a lot of issues to work through about things that happened before we got together (neurotic families that we grew up in, my disasterous first marriage, his living with someone who was NOT the best for him). We waited five years, and got married finally after we already FELT married and were sure that we had developed a few skills in how to be positive influences on each other.

ADDSubtract, it is a positive sign that you're trying to work through some issues here on the boards. I hope you're also trying to work through these issues with your girlfriend. Start with the love you both feel for each other and learn to open up and trust that the path may sometimes be painful, but it will ultimately be rewarding. And if at sometime in the future you find that negatives in the relationship outway the positives, then you will still have the positives to take with you through your life. You will be stronger for having this relationship, no matter how long it lasts. I guess what I'm trying to say is, isn't there some proverb that says something like "let it go -- if it comes back to you then you can feel blessed, and if it doesn't come back then it wasn't meant to be yours in the first place." Or something like that.

And thanks for raising this, because it allowed me to work through some issues of my own!

--Rheanna





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