Coupling is easy. Relationships are hard.
I’m not the only one ruminating on this subject this week, so perhaps it’s one of those standard end of the year topics. As our thoughts turn to the new year, we examine what we have done in 2008 and could do better.
Our family had a solstice ritual last week where all of us, even the children, considered the year past and what priorities consumed each of us, and then what things negative we found, we scribbled on papers to burn in a winter fire.
I included several items and habits I had noted from my own relationships, both as parent and partner. After a number of years, we do take certain aspects for granted, and fail to put out the effort we once did, leaving our loved ones feeling perhaps less cherished. So I hope to do better.
In light of how many people I meet through my office who are tearing each other apart, I’m also encouraged by the examples of several young people I know who are putting serious work and thought into their partnerships, even as they struggle with issues of commitment and difficulties of separation.
What’s the solution to a perfect relationship? There are as many answers to that question as there are relationships. Not everything works for everyone, but I’ve got to vote for the tortoise in this race. Slow and steady, a building of trust, caring, respect over a period of days or weeks or months–perhaps years– is much more likely to have a payoff than some jackrabbit start.
Must you have a relationship to be happy?
Just because it’s the cultural norm doesn’t dictate that result. I received a Christmas letter from my former step-mother, who’s been in a close relationship with her gentleman friend for some 20 years, but they don’t live together. They’ve defined a comfortable distance that keeps them happy. Other relatives of mine live alone, just as ecstatic in their solitude. Yet others have those cutesy, cuddly-every- minute bonds, and that works for them.
Sometimes, where you are in life sets your ability to have relationships. As someone wisely pointed out to me, if you’re working a 70-hour a week job, you don’t necessarily also have the time to devote to a full-time relationship. My daughter tells me that “soon” she might make decisions about relationships–and then adds that “soon” to her means “within four or five years.” (Since “soon” to me means within the next five minutes, during which time many things might change, I’m awed by her patience.)
Barbara de Angelis, who has written for 25 years about relationships, says, “The more connections you and your lover make, not just between your bodies, but between your minds, your hearts, and your souls, the more you will strengthen the fabric of your relationship, and the more real moments you will experience together.”
Let’s all take a few minutes today to build a connection with our loved ones; and resolve to keep making those connections in the year ahead.