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Monday, January 9, 2012

What Makes Love Work?

I've been thinking quite a bit lately about what makes Emily (my fiance') and mine's relationship so good.  Don't get me wrong, we definitely have our problems in our relationship, but there is a solidness and security there that I don't seem to see in many relationships, even some marriages.  Over the 15+ month's we've been dating we've seen good (and bad) relationships crumble or go through some serious tribulation.  We've had our problems too, the first 6 months was a constant struggle and there were times when we both thought about calling it off (her more often then me though ;-)).  Still, we're now at the point of planning the wedding, so we must be doing something right.  Now, I will be the first to admit that the primary reason we are together is through the grace of God.  It if wasn't for Him helping us through some difficult situations, and Him wanting us to be together, we would have broken up a while ago.  However, after thinking about it for a while I've come up with the 3 basic elements that makes our relationship one of the most solid I know.  I think any relationship that has these three, as well as God's help (which is the most essential), can be a good and secure relationship.

1) Commitment:  If you think love and relationships are supposed to be easy, I suggest you re-examine the state of marriage in this country.  Love, marriage, and relationships of all kinds will be the hardest things you do in your entire life.  This is why love is not about feeling, but about commitment.  Emily and I CHOOSE to be with each other no matter what.  Our confidence in this decision is held strong by our prayers and the numerous signs that God has given us to be together.  I'll admit, there are times when I just need my space from her, when we fight and get angry, or when our "feelings of closeness" aren't so present.  That doesn't matter, because we know we will whether any storm because we are each others' vocation.  Commitment must be the building block of any relationship, otherwise it will crumble.

2) Communication: This is another obvious relational pillar that people, quite frankly, tend to suck at.  Communication must be open, honest, respectful, and consistent.  I worry when some couples tell me that they never fight... fighting is what healthy couples do! IF they do it in the right way.  When you have a problem it is important to tell your partner about it so that both your needs can be met.  However, do it at an appropriate time.  When discussing or arguing, don't use negative tactics such as name calling, score keeping, or generalizing.  You can find tips on these all over the net, so if you have problems with healthy arguing, I suggest you look up some advice, or get a hold of me and I'll help you.  Some couples are afraid to talk about problems because they are afraid that a fight could get ugly and end the relationship, or they just don't like confrontation.  Well, this is where the commitment comes in--if you know a fight won't break you up, then you can have it and still feel secure.  I could go on and on with this paragraph, but because you can find this info everywhere, I'll cut it off here.

3) Intimacy: This is the element that everyone thinks they do great at but know one really knows how and thus people end up in unloving marriages.  Put simply, intimacy is a mutual feeling of love between two partners.   Yes, this is the FEELING part.  However, its not just about sex! Sex can be without intimacy if you are using the other person, and a lack of at least occasional intimacy can break any committed bond.  You must show and communicate your feelings of love for each other.  This is tricky, since each person speaks a different love language.  In other words, each person expresses and receives love in a different way.  If you feel you are not receiving love you cannot give love.  It's a very delicate circle, but someone has to start it.  Gary Chapman writes a great book on this called The 5 Love Languages--check it out if you or your partner are feeling unloved, or if you just want to learn how to love better.  The movie "Fireproof" also has some very good examples of this principle.

Every relationship has it's weaknesses, struggles, and strengths.  It's primarily through the Grace of God that relationships work out, and some, quite frankly shouldn't last.  I don't have all the answers, but for some reason my relationship has lasted, and will continue to last, and I believe it is for these three reasons.  Please, if you are in a relationship that is struggling, examine which area(s) need work and talk about it as a couple.  If you have good friends or parents who have beautiful relationships, ask them for advice and help as well.  Good relationships don't flower in a dark closet, they are meant to be shared and thrive in a Garden of Relationships.  Cheesy I know, but its true.  A private relationship is a dead one.

Happy Loving


* hmarie said...

agreed on all accounts. I cannot wait for your wedding!

Nadine said... did I miss all these gems!?

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