Sometimes it feels a little surreal when I reflect back over a ten year relationship with my husband, it feels like a million years and the blink of an eye simultaneously. It has been incredibly hard and breathtakingly beautiful all at once. I can’t imagine what I would do without my person beside me, he has been such a source of love and support for me during difficult times. In the time we have been together, we have watched the relationships of people in our lives fall apart. These things are complicated, and I certainly don’t judge. But it always feels unsettling for me when I see others struggling in their relationships, and it makes me want to cling to mine for dear life.
I like to think that I have a pretty healthy relationship with my husband, but this did not come about without a lot of hard work and dedication. It involved a lot of sacrifice, and swallowing pride. It involved growing as individuals, and developing more compassion. I do not profess to be any kind of expert on the subject of relationships, but I can speak from personal experience about the things that have helped to foster a rock-solid connection in my marriage. The following are things that I feel are essential in a strong, healthy relationship, and I feel these qualities can extend to other relationships too:
1) Forgiveness. When someone I care about does something that feels hurtful, I give them the opportunity to work through it and offer them forgiveness. Everyone messes up once in a while, everyone loses their patience sometimes. Everyone has a bad day. I am super emotional, and when I am disappointed, discouraged, or insecure, I lash out. I admit it. I’m sorry. So I can understand when someone I love makes the same mistake. I could either dwell on that and let it fester in my heart, or I could express myself and move on. I choose to move on. I forgive. If you have hurt me, and you are truly sorry, I forgive you.
2) Gratitude. This is a life lesson, but in relationships, it is essential. I am grateful for everything my spouse brings to the table. I can sometimes become overwhelmed with all the daily things that need to be done, the never-ending task list. When my expectations of the ones I love become out of line with what they have to offer, that’s when our relationships are thrown off balance. I have learned to be grateful for what everyone has to offer. We all have something unique that we bring to any given environment and in each situation. We all have different strengths, different preferences. I tend to focus on the strengths and celebrate the wonderful things that the people around me have to offer. This life is too short to think of anything else. If you are nit-picking over small things, that don’t matter in the grande scheme of things, then you are wasting the precious time that is given to us.
3) Quality time. As I was saying, our time is limited, and I intend to fill my days with the people who bring me the most joy and happiness. I don’t waste time on trivial things, I make use of the time I have with my loved ones to foster a solid connection. I take the time to get to know them, I ask questions, and celebrate their joys. I support them in their time of need, and build them up when they are down. I have a genuine desire to be close with the ones i love, and if you want to be in my life, then I will open my arms to you and find time in my schedule to build a relationship. You are worth the effort to me if you make an effort to be in my life.
4) Friendship. If you are someone important to me, then anything that is important to you is also important to me. I take the time to get to know the people I love, and take an interest in their passions. I’m not as interested in things like auto-mechanics, technology, or WWII, but those are the things that my husband is fascinated by, so I take the time to hear what he has to say about his passions. I will go check out a band that appeals to a friend more than me, because showing my support and spending time with the ones I love, doing the things that they enjoy best, well… that’s what matters. Not my personal preferences. If you are excited about something, and I care about you, then I am excited too.
5) Honesty. Its not the easy road. You will have to be brave, because it takes people WAY out of their comfort zone to tell people hard truths. Especially to the ones you love. But that’s when it matters most. That’s when it is the difference between make or break. Speak your truth. Own it. Call people out on their shit. Say what you mean, and mean what you say. You can be honest without being hurtful. If you can tell people how you feel, from the bottom of your heart, and with complete sincerity… well, then you are fostering a pretty solid relationship and a damn good sense of self.
6) Integrity. Stand up for yourself. Establish your boundaries, and don’t be afraid to be clear about them. Making yourself small for someone else is not a healthy way to exist in relation to another. Find a respectful way to express your point of view, tell people how you feel. Don’t keep that shit bottled up! If you have something important that you need to say to someone you care about, then say it. You have a better chance of earning someone’s respect this way. Also…
7) Communication. I tell people everything. I am an open book, I have nothing to hide. If I am upset with you, I will tell you. And then we will talk about it, and we will move on. Because life is too short, and I would much rather spend my time loving, than dwelling. I wear my heart on my sleeve, so when I am worried or upset about something, the people close to me know something is up. I communicate with the people I love because it is important to them and to me that we show support to each other and share the things that are meaningful to us. Putting up a wall and closing myself off is something I have done in the past, and it was incredibly isolating and lonely. So I tore those walls down, and I let people in. I share and allow myself to be vulnerable. My relationships with others feel so much stronger when I share openly and let people into my heart.
8) Patience. I came into this marriage with a suitcase full of mental health issues, and my partner stood by me with unconditional love, when I was not easy to love. I am in a better place now, and I stand by when he struggles. There is no doubt that being loving, supportive, and PATIENT when people are at their lowest, is one of the best ways to show someone they matter. Through thick or thin.
9) Physical closeness. I don’t just mean sex (although I also mean sex) but I go out of my way to hug people I care about, as often as possible. Human touch is something I crave, and so does my significant other. Holding hands, massage, whatever works for you, but maintaining physical contact is a very important part of what keeps my relationship strong.
10) Love YOURSELF!!! This is the most important part… in order to have a healthy relationship, you must first have a healthy sense of self-love! When my love and I become insecure and unsure of ourselves, we become anxious about our relationship. So we work hard at feeling good about ourselves and to develop confidence in ourselves as individuals in order to foster a stronger connection between us.