Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The Chase for the Perfect Relationship...

When people ask me to describe my relationship, this is usually what I say:

"It's fabulous, perfect. Totally drama free. I wouldn't trade it for the world" and I usually get one of two reactions - either they think I'm being totally sarcastic, or they want to know what it is that makes my relationship so perfect and drama free. I'm not being sarcastic, so I have to tell you the answer to the second reaction.

Here is the secret: WORK. I learned from my own experience, and from watching my parents that all relationships take incredible amounts of work.

I am a lucky, blessed girl. I grew up in a household that really set the tone for a lot of my relationships. My parents are very much in love and it was very evident growing up. I can only remember them ever fighting once as a child, though they have told me that there were times they wanted to kick each other out of the house - they quietly, and hidden from us kids, worked out their problems to the best of their abilities. In fact, they hid any arguments so well that I never realized (and I am not making this up) that people divorced regularly until I was about 14 and started going to a public school, where many of the kids had divorced parents. I thought this was an anomaly, used only in extreme circumstances. Divorce was, simply put, never given to me as an option in a relationship. Once you were married, that was it.

They live out that practice. I can tell my parents get annoyed with each other, my parents have become a lot more open about the work that goes into the relationship now. (I can't figure out if it's because we are adults and they are a bit more relaxed or they are subconsciously trying to show me that marriage needs tolerance and patience since I talk about it every so often with them...).

My parents also seemed to be a frustratingly united force! My sixteen year old self could NEVER get away with going to mom if dad said no. (well, sometimes, but usually they had to "talk about it" and then get back to me. Oh the agony of waiting!) They recognized that they were a team and brought their unique skills and trades to the table. My mother, sharp as a pin with the empathy and understanding that only a mom could have was our advocate and our psychologist. My dad, who shares many of the hobbies I have was my friend, instructor, and cheerleader. Both of them created my spiritual character in equal measures. My mom and dad FOUGHT for me every day, against things I didn't even realize parents had to battle at the time.

Once, when I was eight or nine, I asked my dad who he loved most in the world.

He said, of course, "God." I told him that didn't count! It had to be a human!

Without hesitation he said "I love your mother first, then you three kids equally. You'll understand that one when you grow up." I filed it away and pondered it a lot, keeping it in the back of my head wondering when I would get to understand it.

Well, I grew up. I understand it. My relationships with boys became relationships with men, and I see where he's coming from. My parents realized that without that love for each other we kids wouldn't have much to go on.

Now about that work: My parents taught me the value of working. Every day when I left for school my dad would say "Work hard for the Lord!" Every single day. Even now, when I'm complaining about my job he says that...It applies to relationships too.

I have put a LOT of work into this relationship that I'm in now. It's the hardest one I've ever been in, but it's the most rewarding one I've ever been in. I can't say we've never bickered or we have never had a disagreement but we work really hard to proactively communicate with each other and stomp out issues before they become problems. We are usually able to resolve any issue (with each other...don't get me started on my bank!) in five minutes or less. We tell each other to snap out of it, give each other time to cool off, and talk it through, calmly. 90 percent of the time we realize that the arguement isn't worth it.

So, we give both give 100 percent. And it pays off.


  1. Thanks for sharing that, Elizabeth. I'm not in a relationship, but I look at the people who are around me and think, "dang, it's not easy."

    Once I said I thought in a relationship one person gives more than the other, but after thinking it through for a long time, I'm more in the opinion that it takes both partners at 100% each. Otherwise one person will suddenly get burned out and you'll be left wondering what happened.

  2. Beth, I just wanted you to know that I read your post to my Sunday School Class this morning. I'm teaching a parenting class and thought that it would provide the parents with hope and inspiration. We all agreed that we would feel like successful parents if our children grew up to write similar things. Thanks so much for sharing!