Saturday, August 25, 2007

For the Long Haul...

When does the newness fade out when being in a long-term relationship? The days of laughter, butterflies and fun have taken a break and went dormant. Or has it gone away forever? The spark has turned into smoldering coal; still hot enough to keep the intimacy going, but not as blazing as it used to be.

Do people expect too much when it comes to relationships? Do they anticipate the “excitement” that new relationships have for the long haul? Or are people getting lazier when it comes to maintaining a relationship? Some people claim that relationships should flow; that they shouldn’t have to work at it. I disagree with that though. I feel that in order to maintain a healthy relationship, there’s work involved. It’s a gratifying work that comes from love. Sex is sex, but when love in involved, there’s a whole new meaning to it. Sex is just the bonus. Who can say that they would stay with their significant other, God forbid something bad should happen, like a disability where they couldn’t perform sexually? Can you answer yes, if your partner/spouse couldn’t be intimate with you? Would you stay? Better question yet----would you stray?

I think people have false illusions when it comes to the honeymoon stage. They think that’s how it should be all the time. That’s a lot of work after the first or second year. There’s going to be conflict, disagreements and differences that you’ll find throughout the course of the relationship, where it turns into more of a different understanding. It gets deeper, much more involved and much more complicated. Communication can be tricky when dealing with someone who cannot handle certain types of information. If your other half is a little too sensitive when telling them about your emotions, then it leaves the other person holding back from telling the truth---or telling them anything that may upset them. This always leads to a lack of communication and plenty of misunderstandings. And where does that lead them? Into the world of arguments, because both parties aren’t understanding one another because they’re too scared to admit their true feelings. If you can’t handle communication, you shouldn’t be in a relationship to begin with.

In my own personal opinion, a relationship has three stages. These are just my own thoughts about it.

1. The ‘in love crazy about you can’t get my hands off you’ type of stage- also known as the “honeymoon stage”. This is a great stage where the relationship blossoms.

2. The 'getting to know you' stage. The ‘in love’ part is still there, yet it’s more of an understanding, a learning process of the relationship. Both parties are still in love, yet they are trying to learn the deeper side about one another, developing a better “friendship”. Their actions will speak louder than words sometimes. The action of “giving” or “helping” provides a long-lasting future for them.

3. A deeper love, a 'family type of love', and a companionship type of living. These people may or may not still be intimate, however, their love for one another is strong and unconditional. Their actions show the way they feel. Both take care of each other and have a mutual respect for one another. Usually, this is the stage where a married couple or partners of many years at an older age continue on living their lives together. It’s a contentment of love; a love that endures and isn’t so complicated.

Let’s get back to stage one though…the fun stage. Stage one is that search for the potential mate. It’s the trial period, where you get to see if you really want this person for the long haul. I’m not saying that ‘testing’ your mate is a good thing, but this is trial and error on both parts. The way a person treats you is a little prelude into the future. I’m not talking about financial matters, but in terms of how they care for you, their way of loving you, the way they make you feel loved, and how “open” you can be with them. It’s very important to develop a good level of communication. If you have a fear of opening up too much, due to emotional explosions, then it might be a good time to reevaluate the entire relationship. Is this someone you want to be with for the rest of your life if you can’t tell them something that may be potentially upsetting? Can you go to this person if you need help, without feeling guilt? Can you expose your true self to this person, without feeling a tinge of judgment or ridicule? Is there jealousy in the relationship?

I always say make a list of pros and cons while being in the first year of your relationship. If your list of cons is much longer, it’s time to open up that communication barrier and let all of it out. Don’t worry about emotional breakdowns or a conflict of interest----it needs to be revealed. You need to nip it in the bud and let your significant other know how you feel and what your needs are, otherwise, they’ll never know. It'll either “make” or “break” the relationship, depending on how understanding he or she is.

My mother always told me, if the person you’re with can still make you laugh after years of being with them and you still have that foundation of “friendship” alive, then it’s then you've found 'the one'. Never stay with somebody who can’t make you laugh and don’t be fooled by that first year together. Some people put their best foot forward, eventually revealing the other side to who they truly are.

The best way to go is by your gut instinct. If something inside of you is telling you it’s not “right”, make that list and of course, go with your heart. There are people who are together who have many differences and conflicts of interests, yet they work well together. I’m not sure if the whole ‘opposites attract’ is 100% true, but I do believe you have to have some sort of common ground to make it work.

Going by financial statuses will always ruin a potentially good relationship. For me, I’d rather be financially strapped with the woman I am completely in love with, as opposed to being well off, while living with someone who nags and complains all the time. It makes all the difference. Money has ruined many relationships. With love, understanding and working “as a team” together on a financial issue, nothing can go wrong between you two, other than financial stuff---which is sometimes trivial. Is this going to matter ten years from now? Look at the long term.

There is one stipulation for me to be with a person for the long haul---and that’s being with another woman who’s also a believer. I don’t judge my friends and what they believe in, but for me to live and commit to someone I love and care for, they must also love God and have faith. For me, it’s important. I can’t be with someone who lacks faith. Try picturing an ex-smoker who starts living with someone who smokes. Eventually, that person will start to pick up that cigarette again and go back to their old ways. Maybe that’s a bad analogy, but that’s how I see it. My faith is strong, but sometimes people backslide when they’re with another person who lacks faith. For me, I need somebody who will encourage my faith in Christ and keep me going strong---stronger than I already am. I need someone who can edify and lift me up, instead of being pessimistic and dreary about life. Life’s too short and you might as well enjoy it with someone who can share your love for God, your love for life and the love you have for yourself!