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Wednesday, 15 July 2015

Relationships - pre-conditions, maintenance and purpose

My July 14 blog mentioned some of the slices of the pie that creates a healthy and long relationship. Those elements included that you need to find the other person attractive, look up to them and feel a strong sense of familiarity with them. These elements are basically pre-conditions for creating a relationship. Today's blog is about the conditions that make an existing relationship last long and - hopefully - happily ever after.

A lasting relationship requires a purpose and also day-by-day maintenance. Yesterday's blog already mentioned the element of 'purpose' as the Gottman Relationship Research Institute discovered that couples who focus their energy on building something meaningful together in their life (e.g., starting a business together) tend to last the longest.

In my view, the most important element of day-by-day maintenance is communication. Not about logistics (e.g., cleaning, grocery shopping, kids' agenda) but about the past (e.g., achievements), the present (e.g., disappointments ) and especially the future (e.g., dreams, expectations, fantasies, goals). In fact, all of the topics that men usually try to avoid talking about.

The second most important element of day-by-day maintenance is intimacy. Intimacy is far more than just sex. Intimacy is any physical contact including a kiss, a pat/slap on the butt, or stroking his/her hair. Intimacy is essential - and even vital - in bonding as a couple. Without intimacy a relationship is dying, like a flower without water.

Another important element in day-by-day maintenance is trust. One could well argue that trust is the resultant of other elements. In that case, please translate 'trust' by the 'absence of jealousy'. Jealousy - or the lack of trust - can easily strangle any relationship to death.

Jealousy has a lot to do with (alleged) infidelity. Recently, I have seen an impressive TED video about "rethinking infidelity". It's a recommended watch to anyone who is familiar with that situation.

Marriage is usually considered to be the final stage of a relationship. For many women, it's still the ultimate romantic dream – and often a goal in itself. For many men, however, it's much more a practical issue (e.g., children, legal benefits, taxes) rather than a goal and men would usually be quite happy to postpone marriage for “some” while.

Unfortunately, marriages often appear to become a reason for no longer applying some – or all – of the 3 essential elements of maintenance in a relationship. Spouses easily take each other for granted. In my view, marriages even require MORE maintenance than other relationships. In relationships without a legal status, it is much more obvious that you need to fight to maintain your relationship as each person in the couple can "easily" walk away. Walking out of a marriage takes a lot more effort and that may even be the reason that married couples apply LESS maintenance in their relationship.

If anything, the above clearly shows how much effort it takes to create and maintain a healthy and lasting relationship. Yet, it's not impossible as we still do see examples of successful couples. Most of us can't expect our 1st, 2nd - or even 3rd - relationship to be our everlasting, healthy and successful relationship. And please don't forget: "practice makes perfect".