Relationships are constantly undergoing changes and shifts, and rarely do we find people who stay together for more than 15 years anymore. We recall our parents and grandparents spending 50 and 60 years, often their lifetimes, together. They all had mastered certain keys that enabled them not only to endure but to thrive in their relationships. Here is a short list of key principles that many of them employed, which contributed to their successful relationship.
Commitment is the foundation to all sustained relationships. Commitment is about agreement; it is about defining expectations of the relationship and then going about fulfilling promises made. A commitment is not the contract itself; it is what powers the contract. It is active and present. It holds before its eyes the treasure of what is being kept. Commitment is a form of love, but the kind of love that goes further than mere emotions and physical attraction. It is the thing that overcomes anger, disillusionment, and frustration. Commitment recognizes the threats that come against it, but it drives away suspicion and insecurities by its consistent and reliable presence. Commitment is the cornerstone of all marriage relationships and other couple unions.
Compromise is one of the main reasons people stay together and something that must be negotiated in all areas of life. We must get along with co-workers, with our boss, with the neighbors, and with strangers. When there is dysfunction in any arena, there is usually a breakdown not only in communication but also in compromise. When two sides are dug in, both unwilling to budge from their positions, polarization happens. The biblical passage asks, “Can two walk together if they are not in agreement?” Can any relationship survive without compromise? Compromise is more about letting go of the right to be right. Compromise is about knowing and accepting that it is more important to be in a right relationship than being right. Compromise is sometimes about giving in but it should rarely be about giving up. Compromise stands upon the foundation of commitment.
Caring is a wonderful and crucial component to any successful relationship. We all want to know that we are cared for and loved. Caring is often the outward demonstration of an inward feeling or emotion. Its strengths are compassion, dedication, and thoughtfulness. Caring is the unexpected gift, the “I just called to say I love you!” Caring is what our parents, teachers, ministers showed us how to do well. Caring appreciates, protects, and nurtures; it encourages, as well as corrects, and it is often sacrificial; it avoids placing its own desires before its beloved but rather it seeks the pleasure of its partner as its primary goal. Caring is not the full essence of love but you cannot fully love without caring. Caring is a crucial component to all successful relationships.
Ask any long-term couple the secret to a happy relationship, and you just might hear the word, ’companionship.’ We are social creatures, and it is not good that any of us be alone for any extended length of time. Even the biblical writer understood this sentiment when it was declared that it was not good for the first man Adam to be alone. So the story reads that God provided him with a helper. And, folks, the rest is biblical history. We all need those close relationships, and companionship is about seeing in one another our BFF “best friend forever!” While most couples will attest to the importance of the romantic and intimate parts of a relationship, it is what they do outside of the bedroom that defines what true companionship is really about. Companionship is not just time together; it is the quality of the time spent that is the backbone of any relationship. Some couples spend a great amount of time together but they are in conflict. But then there are those couples who remain in a a deep committed love, who complete each other’s sentences, who act and think like one unit. These are the couples that have learned truly to appreciate companionship. They actively listen to each other; they go on dates, take walks together, visit museums, etc. Whatever they do, they seem to be the happiest when they are together.
It has been said that good communication is key to any successful relationship. Yet, even some of the greatest communicators, despite their best intentions, experience difficulty. We say one thing; the other person perceives something entirely different. Our good intentions are somehow lost in translation. In situations where a couple is having conflict, and voices are rising in frustration, it is usually when a partner feels they are not being heard. Fortunately, we can learn to communicate more effectively. We can communicate better when we remain engaged and active in our listening and give our full attention to the needs of our partner. It is about trusting and respecting our partner’s love language or different communication styles. We all differ in how we communicate, and there is no perfect science to it. Whether it’s love, angst, or frustration, it is truly important how it is being communicated as well as how it is being perceived! Communication is the primary key to all successful relationships.
Commitment, compromise, caring, companionship, and communication are only a few tools to any good relationship. We must all have an unabashed, unrestricted, and unconditional love that binds all of our efforts together. Love provides the reason for our coming together, and definitely for our staying together. When we open ourselves to it, love is the ultimate gift that keeps on giving. Without love, commitment, compromise, caring, companionship, and communication would not have a real purpose in relationships.
I am a proud, passionate liberal thinker, social-justice advocate, entrepreneur, creative thinker, and songwriter whose mission in life is to try be the change that I hope someday would be in the world. I am also a husband, father, and community minister. I hold an undergraduate degree in Organizational Leadership, a Master of Business Administration (MBA) and a Master of Divinity degrees. Currently, I am serving as Managing Director of Clergy 211, an organization of inclusive and progressive clergy that provide non-judgmental rite-of-passage ceremonies for all people.