By Dr. Richard Nicastro
No matter how well your relationship is humming along right now, there’s room for the advice of relationship mentors. Couples who have been together for many years (and who have been relatively happy, despite the inevitable rough patches) have discovered what has benefited their relationship the most. And they can help you do the same.
I recently interviewed Pete and Angie, a couple celebrating their fiftieth wedding anniversary. They were eager to share what has worked in their marriage. Here are some of the highlights:
Words of Wisdom from Pete and Angie
1. Angie: “Sometimes you will want to strangle your soulmate.”
This statement speaks volumes and, of course, is not meant literally. It cuts through the overly romanticized and unrealistic notions that many couples hold about love and relationships. If your expectations about marriage or long-term relationships are unrealistic (based on a Hollywood depiction or the heady infatuation you felt early on), you will be let down and feel disillusioned about love. Love is often thrilling, but love also exists side by side with the more mundane realities of our existence.
Take-away: What allows you to hold onto the bigger picture, even when your soulmate drives you crazy?
2. Pete: “Respect each other, above all else.”
Pete and Angie talked about respect in different ways. Angie stressed the importance of respecting each others’ differences–whether these differences emerged as contrary opinions (e.g., your partner doesn’t share the same religious beliefs as you) or differences in your personalities (e.g., Angie’s talkative and social, Pete is subdued and a homebody).
Pete made the point of saying that it’s also important that you never belittle or demean each other. While most of us assume that this type of respect is a given, it wasn’t for Pete since he grew up in a family where verbal abuse was the norm (Pete and his mother were often victims of his father’s verbal abuse). It was his determination to behave differently from his father that allowed Pete to change the course of his marriage.
Take-away: In what ways do you show your partner respect? How can you become more accepting of the differences that exist between you and your partner?
3. Angie: “We’re in it for the long haul.”
This is a great definition of commitment. A relationship without commitment is like a sailboat without sails–your relationship will flounder and drift, pulled by the tides instead of in your control. Commitment is the glue that keeps the relationship together and moving forward. Pete and Angie knew they wanted to grow old together and created a shared relationship vision.
They stressed the importance of building an atmosphere of teamwork and collegiality. Their relationship unfolded like a series of book chapters, many planned, others written by forces beyond their control. At times it was sheer commitment that kept them together–and they’re glad it did.
Take-away: How do you show your commitment to your marriage or relationship? If your partner were interviewed, how would s/he describe your commitment?
4. Pete: “Speak your truth.”
There is a certain freedom that comes with being able to speak your mind. Buried feelings and hidden resentments are less likely to fester when you speak your truth. A level of decorum and diplomacy, of course, is essential while communicating–whether your truth involves feelings, opinions or feedback to your partner. The challenge for all of us is to speak our truths in such a way that doesn’t hurt the other and that allows intimacy to grow.
Take-away: Are you able to share your deepest truths with your partner? If not, what gets in the way? Does the energy you give off make your partner feel safe enough to speak her/his deepest truths?
5. Angie: “Find the middle ground.”
Compromise and acceptance are vital for the success of any relationship. Angie believes these are some of the most important parts of a fulfilling, meaningful relationship.
She explained, “If you’re unwilling to grow and change as a person, your marriage is going to fall flat on its face. In order to compromise, you have to give in and admit when you’re wrong, and believe me, that’s not easy. We all think we’re right and the other person’s wrong; I’ve learned to accept what I can’t change about Pete and our marriage. I ask for things in a way that makes Pete more willing to compromise…He had to do the same. He’s grown too.”
When you and your partner work as a team, when you realize that you’re both reaching for the same goals (albeit, in different ways at times), it will be easier to find the all-important middle ground.
Take-away: How good are you at compromising, at finding the middle ground? What steps do you need to take to become a more effective communicator? To become more effective at compromising?
I hope you’re able to bring something Angie and Pete shared with us to your own relationship.
To discover more relationship tips, visit http://StrengthenYourRelationship.com/ and sign up for Dr. Nicastro’s FREE Relationship Toolbox Newsletter. As a bonus, you will receive two free relationship reports.
Richard Nicastro, Ph.D. is a relationship and intimacy coach.