Welcome to our relationship conversation! Beginning with this post and through the next few months, I will be delivering a series of blogs related to an inquiry into and commitment to people living fulfilling and vibrant long lasting relationships. My partner Madeline and I have been in this conversation for the past 30 years. We invite you to join us. Let us hear from you, your thoughts, feelings, and questions.
What are the “must-haves” to live a vibrant, healthy, generative, long lasting relationship? Who do I need to be and what are the skills? By curiously observing and researching relationships, most of what we see is a hopefulness that things will work out well with less than the necessary effort expended to be successful. Even with many partners who appear to be exerting good effort, the effort often lacks full commitment. Instead, what happens is, “if you would only be different!,” “How come you do it that way?” “I don’t wanna talk about it.” Any of this sounds familiar? In this ongoing conversation, we will examine ways to create, live, and support generative, long-lasting relationships. Below is a graphic showing:
The 12 Aspects of Generative and Healthy Relationships
There are many facts and statistics that reveal the cost of failed relationships today. Things such as the 40%-50% divorce rate for first marriages in the US, individual cost such as depression, and there can be a cost to children. Best case, a divorce is done well and children have the experience of moving through difficult situations, coming out OK and becoming stronger in crisis. Not done well, children will do worse in school, social skills can be compromised for a lifetime, and partner selection will be compromised. You are a mirror for your children.
The cost of ending relationships is high, and it is clear that not all relationships will last a lifetime, and that not everyone is looking for that. There is also a cost to partners and kids staying in relationship when there is unresolved conflict, constant tension, and repeated emotional outburst. Divorces and breakups can be messy with their associated cost, and in this day and time couples will often take the easy way out by ignoring the situation or just leaving.
It is also evident to us that many, many relationships that have ended did not have to end. Often missing in those relationships is a willingness to be self-responsible, and a willingness for partners to fully engage with each other, and to be curious. If the intensity and depth of personal issues outweighs the skill, competency, and commitment to resolve these issues, the relationship is threatened. The relationship can go to hell in a hand basket. Fault is not the question in this paper. Issues between partners will happen. Generative resolution (nourishing change and regrowth), done with care, trust, skill, dignity, and humor will assist almost every relationship to move through their stuff. We have explored with commitment (like Einstein and the theory of relativity) an answer to the question, “What does it take to have a generative, vibrant, long lasting relationship?”
We have partnered for the last 40 years. About 12 years into our relationship, we realized things were not working out to our expectations and desires – we hit a wall. From that realization we began a path that continues today and will continue as long as we are together. In those 28 years, we have gone through many different trainings, workshops, books, and have embarked on a serious inquiry (serious – really?) about what it takes to “make it work.” We are both highly trained to work with people and have been working with individuals and couples for the last 20 years. So this exploration comes from both our own experience and the experience of working with hundreds of people.
We are not declaring that what we offer here is the final word on this topic or the only answer to these questions. This is a perspective we have lived in and offered to literally hundreds of individuals and couples, and we know it works. We offer it here for you.
Practice – how does this relate to us transforming as individuals? What does it mean, “To be in a practice?” Medical practice? Law practice? Yes, these are clearly forms of a practice. What else do you think about around practice? As individuals, music, dance, sports, martial arts, and many other endeavors are well known for the demanding practice required to achieve mastery.
We are what we practice. This notion is very old, dating back to Aristotle if not before. And except for a few avenues of mainly spiritual practices, this notion of “We are what we practice” is virtually ignored in mainstream thinking. Our culture is one of, “Been there, done that, what’s next?” or a checklist of all the cool things we’ve done. We pay very little attention to being creatures of habit when it comes to the self we are with minimal attention to how practice, recurrent activity, and the shapes (of body/self) we have become due to practicing. Then we notice something like this:
“I do this thing, I know I do it, I don’t want to do it, and I keep doing it anyway!”
This “thing”has been practiced to the extent it has become embodied in us, not separate from who we are – it is who we are. The difference between who we think we are and who we really are is defined by how we actually act in the world, by what we have practiced to the extent that our actions, behaviors, stories, and habits become embodied. We cannot notact in these ways. And it is useful to remember that the most favorable aspects of who we are operate in us the same way. We also practice to get good at things. Our basic routines and ways of being in the worldare practiced as well. So what is your practice when someone cuts you off in traffic? How do you practice drinking coffee or tea? What is your morning routine practice? How do you sit? How do you listen? We are practicing something all the time.
As soon as we enter into a relationship, we begin a joint practice. One way to look at this is that the relationship begins to be defined by what is being practiced by the partners, and how it is being practiced. Unaware, practices in relationships will be defined by the individual’s own set of behavioral practices and habits; the intersection of two sets of practices. This interaction and blending practiced over time will set in place the positive aspects of the relationship as well as the limiting aspects of the relationship.
For this conversation, we will be offering practices to both reveal ourselves within a particular topic and to build skills. We become skillful through practice, and the best, most direct way of becoming the person we want to be is to clarify who that person is, then practice being that person, that self. To have the relationship we really want, define the relationship, design the practices, and become the best self that can authentically live that relationship.
In the next blog we will begin to explore Choiceful Commitment and offering insights into how to practice this aspect in your life and relationship.
As a way to reflect on and consider your own relationship and take full advantage of the upcoming blog posts, take a few moments to answer the following questions. You may want to do this individually or with your partner. Consider reflecting on these questions in a quiet, peaceful environment with as little interruption as possible.
What is working for you in your relationship?
What is NOT working for you in your relationship?
Where do you and your partner hit the “hard spots?”
Are you willing to do what is necessary to have the relationship you really want?
Are you settling for something less than what you deserve?
We look forward to being in this conversation with you!