1. A one-sided relationship does not work. When only one person is choosing to give or capable of giving, a mutual relationship where both partners have their needs honored and met is not possible. I have never seen this type of relationship change either personally or with clients. Someone that doesn't reciprocate in a relationship usually has a character flaw or personality disorder. Character flawed individuals don't seem to be capable of taking responsibility for their own actions, truly feeling another's pain or changing their behavior patterns. If you find yourself saying or thinking, "This is all about them," then you likely are in a relationship with this kind of person. It's more like a child-parent relationship where obviously the parent is the giver and the child is the one continually taking. Waiting for this person to change can create co-dependency and years of struggle, but don't be too quick to judge the ones that wait! They usually are loyal, caring, giving partners that truly desire a successful relationship!
2. Acceptance is KEY!! Let's say you do have that wonderfully giving relationship where each partner admires, respects and honors the other. There still will be things about your partner that drive you nuts sometimes. Rather than try to change your partner, practice acceptance by focusing on all of their admirable qualities. Make a gratitude list and read it often. When we focus on the positives, we see more positives. When we focus on the negatives, the negatives cloud and obscure the positives.
3. Don't put all of your eggs in one basket! How true. But how does that saying relate to relationships? (I thought you'd never ask!) Our mates cannot meet all of our needs and we shouldn't look to them to be our all-in-all. As Christians, there is only one all-in-all: God. He is the ONLY one we can count on to never let us down and to meet all of our needs. While our spouses should be high on the list of those that help us meet our needs, cultivating other ways to get our needs met produces a much happier relationship by decreasing stress. Some ways to get needs met are to: Develop friendships with same sex men or women that enjoy activities your mate absolutely doesn't like, such as hunting, fishing, boxing, mountain climbing or pedicures, manicures, shopping, theater, symphony... Join groups that promote endeavors you enjoy. Take a class and learn something that interests you. Engage with family and friends. Finally and primarily, lean on God!
4. Live your life. I've seen so many people wait for their spouse to join the team before living their lives. They wait for the man to get involved with the children, or for the woman to make a social calendar. Stop that! The best thing you can do is to continue "as if" the other person is already on board. Go ahead and get the kids involved in little league. If the spouse comes online, then great. If not, they will have missed out (as will the entire family for not having both parents involved). But the children will not have missed out on living their lives! And husbands, make social plans too! Always coming up with the social calendar is a lot of work and women could really use your input. There are many others areas of life in which people wait for the spouse to want to be involved. Are there any areas in which you are waiting?
5. Maintain your individual relationship with God. Rather than relying on the partnership's spirituality, maintaining an individual relationship with God is imperative. What happens if (Heaven forbid!) your mate is incapacitated, leaves or passes away. How do you then lean on God by yourself when you have only been worshipping, praying or reading together? Having an intimate relationship with the God of all comfort gets us through those times, guides our paths, heals our wounds and puts that peaceful smile on our face!
6. Take your time. "Only fools rush in" is a fairly accurate statement. We must be emotionally connected, but when we allow emotion to make decisions, many times the relationship does not stand the test of time. SO BEFORE engaging in an intimate physical relationship, get to know the person you are dating. Make sure this is someone whom you respect and admire. Ask some questions. Would you be proud to introduce them to your friends and family? Would you have this person as a friend even if you were not a couple? Is this someone you would want to be the mother or father of your children? In the "olden" days, chaperones were utilized during courtship because men and women have been fearfully and wonderfully made by the Creator to desire each other! It's not a bad idea to have chaperones around because falling for someone based on the bond created during sexual intercourse has led to many a divorce.
7. Good fences make good neighbors and good boundaries make good relationships. If one partner always gives into the other partner by not speaking up for their needs and wants, resentment is not far behind. Communication is THE #1 complaint I hear from every couple. Effective communication involves learning to: express needs and wants, manage conflict, show appreciation, turn toward our partner's bids for connection, listen without problem solving, encourage each other's dreams and develop the rituals, roles, and rules for relationships. Learning these skills takes time and intentionality. Happily ever after doesn't just happen.
Discover what makes love last and create the relationship you and your partner deserve!