Relationships are one of the hardest things to build and maintain but the easiest thing to break apart. Whether it’s a marriage, a friendship, parental or family ties, a business partnership, or a new romance, the principle remains the same. We all need to handle relationships with respect, care, and attention.
In a romantic love relationship, there will surely be moments of conflict that lead to hurt and disappointment. But it doesn’t have to be that way all the time. People, being human, make some mistakes, and they always will. There is no perfect relationship since there is no perfect human being and everybody knows this. But surely, being in a relationship is truly worth it no matter what. As a relationship mentor and leadership coaching expert John Maxwell once said: “Fewer things will pay you bigger dividends in life than the time and trouble you take to understand people and build relationships.”
To make a relationship work takes deep commitment, a lot of compassion and forgiveness, and effort. Here are a few other suggestions on how we can build a connection that truly lasts a lifetime:
1. A Positive + Positive Approach
In many relationships, conflicts arise due to an imbalance in the so-called power relationship. One party may think that he or she is superior while the other one plays a submissive or inferior role. This can manifest especially in situations when one is older and the other party is quite young. Youth brings a lack of experience which can cause feelings of anxiety and low self-esteem. The older person, naturally, may have had more experience in life and presumably has gained more knowledge and wisdom over the years. In some cases, it may be a difference in educational attainment, career achievements, or financial status. Race and cultural background may also impact on the kind of power relations that two people can have.
To address the negative effects of an imbalanced power relationship, it is important to see the ties between two people as a partnership of equals. There will always be differences in perspective and preferences but the key is to respect them for what they are, signs of unique individuality. Through discussion and compromise, these differences can be settled in a mutually beneficial way.
Both persons, therefore, need to approach a relationship in a Positive Plus Positive approach. Meaning, one person should acknowledge his unique qualities and recognize that the other person has the same unique qualities. By understanding that each person has something valuable to bring to a relationship, they learn to value each other more and respect whatever dissimilarities that they may have. To have a Positive Plus Positive relationship means valuing each other as a person of worth and importance.
2. Listen to Understand
Some relationships also get into trouble simply because one or both parties are poor listeners. There are situations when during an argument, one or both parties no longer listen and just think of a retort or rebuttal. Instead of intently listening to the other person, one already thinks of what to say next because the intention is now to assert that one’s position is correct and the other person is wrong. John Maxwell had this to say about listening: “Earn the right to be heard by listening. Seek to understand a situation before making judgments about it.”
Maxwell hit it right on target by implying that people easily make judgments even before they listen and understand a situation or a person. But when we take time to really listen intently on what the other person has to say, it is then that we really gain an understanding of how the other person sees an issue or situation. This is what Maxwell refers to as the Law of Connection. In order to truly have a deep relationship with another person, we need to establish that genuine connection that is built when we prioritize listening and understanding over our instinct to always be the first one to talk and be heard.
3. Enjoy the Fantasy but Keep Grounded
Every person has a fantasy in terms of their career, family life, financial standing, reputation, and kind of relationship. While fairy tales are dreamy and inspirational, they are also unrealistic. Many relationships begin with fantasy but later end up as a rude awakening or a sad tragedy. This happens when we lose our send of groundedness in a relationship. The fantasy puts an unnecesary burden on one or both parties since neither of them can live up to an expectation of perfection. There are times when people magnify the fantasy over the beautiful reality of who or what a truly person is. This applies to individuals and to people in a romantic relationship. Barbie and Ken may look perfect as a couple, but they are still toy dolls. People and relationships are not toys. In short, being in a good relationship is about mutual acceptance, not fantasy. Remember this: You don’t need someone to complete you but you do need someone who accepts you completely.
4. Grow Together
With acceptance comes the joy of seeing each other’s potential. Relationships work when both parties still celebrate each other’s individuality and potential for growth. This growth can be in other aspects of their life outside the relationship such as pursuing one’s passion in art or business, a hobby or a sport, or any other endeavor that they are interested in. Sometimes, it also involves cultivating other relationships outside the romantic partnership. Some of these may include professional ties, engaging in activities with club members, travel or other interests that are not necessarily shared by the couple. The prolific author and philosopher Kahlil Gibran once wrote something about marriage that applies to all kinds of relationships:”Give your hearts but not into each other’s keeping for only the hand of life can contain your hearts. And stand together yet not too near together for the pillars of the temple stand apart and the oaktree and the cypress grow not in each other’s shadow.”
Be positive, seek first to understand, accept reality and each other, and find ways to grow together are simple yet effective rules to have a happy and healthy relationship. Follow these rules and watch your relationship blossom and bloom.