submitted by Joyce Sciberras - Familjakana January 2005
“How can you keep your relationship as fresh as a new flower? How can you keep it from withering?”
A lot of couples dream of having a permanent relationship, stable and fulfilling, that ends with the fabled “they lived happily ever after”. Dreams are important … but at a point in time we have to return to the real world and realise that a beautiful flower – such as a relationship between two persons – does not grow by itself: it has to be cultivated.
When two persons decide to commit themselves to a relationship, there is a clear understanding that there is a tie between them; they are not single anymore. In all that they do they start looking for and considering each other’s opinion. A sense of team-spirit develops where both partners commit themselves to common goals and their commitment towards each other deepens. But what can help this process?
Spending Time Together
One thing that certainly helps is making time for each other because this gives the partners the opportunity to get to know one another and be aware of the situations they encounter in their daily lives. It also creates an environment where they can share their difficulties and anxieties and discuss their views about various topics.
Unfortunately the hectic lifestyle we live in nowadays does not leave much time for this interaction and couples have to make an extra effort to find time for themselves. It is also important that this time is of a certain “quality” – it is one thing to spend time with one’s partner when one is tired or busy and another to find quality time where there is no pressure or stress. In essence, quality time has to be planned … it does not just happen!
Another thing that helps keep a relationship fresh and alive is the giving of small surprises and gifts to your loved one. This also means that a couple should not forget to celebrate those dates that are important in their calendar. Such celebrations give the couple a sense of identity and belonging because they distinguish that couple from all other couples.
Of relevance also is the way a couple remembers the sad occasions that sometimes mark a relationship – remembering the way they have offered support to each other in difficult times is also very important. In moments like these, a person should treasure the commitment shown by a partner in sharing difficult experiences.
It is in this way that a person does not feel alone on a rocky and difficult road. It is so precious when one can feel the comfort provided by a partner, when there is a shoulder to lean on. In this way, a couple deepens its intimacy and commitment to each other.
At the same time, one should not insist on being with one’s partner all the time and doing everything together. Such obsessive behaviour will stifle the other partner! Each person should have his or her own personal space in which to develop fully as a complete person. Jealousy, doubts and complete control over the other partner do not help a relationship grow!
Therefore, one has to find a balance between spending time alone and spending time as a couple. When one loves another, one would want the best for the other. Because of this love, one pays more attention to the other’s desires and offers support wherever needed.
The Two Donkeys
I once saw a picture of two donkeys tied together with a rope. When it was lunchtime and both wanted to eat, they both started pulling in opposite directions in order to reach the fodder each had on its side. By doing so they did not manage to satisfy their hunger – all they managed to do was lose their breath!
Imagine the frustration and the huge effort required to cope with such a tense situation – two donkeys pulling in two different directions! They finally found the solution when they both went together to eat one of the piles of fodder and when that was finished they went together to eat the other one.
There is a pearl of wisdom to be found in this story. If we take the lesson learnt here and apply it in our lives, we would realise that life is much easier when we are flexible and give due consideration to each other’s needs.
Separating from parents
One sometimes encounters difficulties when one of the partners finds it hard to leave the family where he or she grew up in order to form a new family. It is always difficult to leave the home where one has lived for so long, to leave the people that one has had around for so many years! This is a separation that leaves its mark but it is a necessary step in one’s maturity – otherwise one remains a child... and children cannot build relationships in an adult and responsible way!
When one leaves one’s parents, it is also an opportunity to build a different type of relationship with them. Rather than abandoning them, one would have simply moved on to a different phase in one’s relationship with them. It can be a great satisfaction to a couple to be able to share with their parents those experiences that their parents would most likely have already experienced, with a sense of gratitude for their parents’ presence in their lives.
What Don’t You Like In Your Partner?
Another situation that often develops in a relationship is where one tries to change certain behavioural traits present in one’s partner. Naturally the latter will offer great resistance to such an attempt and problems will definitely arise.
I am thinking of an example with an extrovert wife on one hand, who likes to mingle with people, opens her heart easily and takes all opportunities to go out socially and, on the other hand, a husband who is more of an introvert, whose greatest pleasure in life is reading the newspaper or watching television. In such instances, attempting to change the character of either person will bring about great resistance and quarrels will easily become the order of the day.
Could it be that we forget that while we were dating, we were attracted to our partner because of the same qualities and character traits that are now upsetting us so much? At that time we would have probably seen the positive side of these traits – “how socially active this woman is!”, “how quiet and reserved he is!”
What we have to realise is that both introvert and extrovert qualities are essential and should not be seen as obstacles but rather as complementary traits. The woman might learn how to contain herself when necessary, while the man might open up a little and become more sociable. Being open to these character differences between partners can help both become more complete persons in their own right.
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