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Valentine’s Day, Lasting Love or Flowers And Candy?
Valentine’s Day can mean different things to different people. Depending on one’s perspective, some are happy with flowers and candy while others yearn for a marriage proposal. And for some, it’s a dreaded day – a reminder that another year has come and gone and they are still single.
When it comes to relationships, our perfection-driven society tends to promote getting out once we find fault, justifying it with reasons like “they no longer make me happy,” “it’s just not exciting anymore,” or “I’m bored.” Instead of looking at what is good about a relationship and building on it, we toss it away in our need for instant self-gratification.
So regardless of whether we are married, in a relationship, or single but hoping to be in one someday, it’s enlightening to hear from people who have built long and loving relationships and a great way to learn their secrets for making it work in the long term.
Jennifer Graham and her husband-to-be, Michael, were the ultimate odd couple. They met in 1974, complete opposites personality-wise and poles apart socially and in terms of education in South Africa’s social and political landscape at that time, yet this February 14th will commemorate their 38th Valentine’s Day together – so obviously they have found what it takes to make it work! Jennifer shares her 14 Tips for a Lasting Relationship below and wants us to honestly ask ourselves if we apply these rules in our own relationships:
1. Respect. The very first building block of a relationship. Have mutual respect for each other. Don’t get into blood-curdling shouting matches (raised voices, yes) but no name calling. Try to listen to what the other one is communicating.
2. Mutual reciprocation. Marriage is not a 50/50 deal. Rather it’s each partner giving 100% and beyond of his/herself. Don’t keep score.
3. Striving to enrich each other’s lives: Love is about giving. It’s not about competing or dominating, but looking out for each other and building each other up.
4. Understand each other’s unique personality: Learn to communicate in a way that fosters mutual understanding and acceptance. Learn to bend rather than taking the attitude “It’s my way or the highway.”
5. Love is a choice – not only a feeling: When serious conflict arises, remember your vows. Ours have stood the test of time, “To love and to cherish, for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health…”
6. Honesty: A loving relationship must be built on honesty, integrity and trust. Deception is destructive but the truth will set you free.
7. Vulnerability: Allow yourselves to be vulnerable. Lay bare your soul to each other. It’s never easy or comfortable, but it leads to acceptance and intimacy. (This is particularly difficult for men) The result of vulnerability affords growth and trust.
8. Willingness to forgive: Cultivate a willingness to forgive rather than casting blame or keeping score of the other’s wrongdoing. Sometimes forgiveness is not instantaneous and can be a process, but it is ultimately freeing.
9. Listen to each other: Pay full attention to what your partner is trying to communicate rather than formulating your comeback. Try to be a peacemaker rather than being bent on being right or winning the argument.
10. Speak words to build up and not to tear down: Learn to hold your tongue (count to ten) rather than blurt out hurtful barbs in the heat of the moment.
11. In a conflict, stick to the issue at hand: Don’t dredge up the past or attack the worth of your partner.
12. Communicate. Communicate. Communicate: Discuss with your partner matters about your relationship, money, sex, politics, religion, literature, family relations, etc. The world is full of wonder. There’s much to talk about. Make sure you reach an understanding and respect of how you feel about certain issues.
13. Learn and appreciate each other’s “love language”: Because of different personality types we don’t necessarily express our acts of love to each other in the same way. Your partner’s love language may be touch-related, acts of service, spontaneity – for instance, one might take a foot massage over a bunch of flowers, and the other might derive great pleasure in being served a special snack tray while he’s watching the ball game.
14. Learn to be tolerant of quirks and irritations: It’s said that the very thing that attracted one to the other in the first place, can later become a source of great irritation. There are things about yourself that might equally be a source of irritation to your partner. Let the good qualities overshadow the minor irritations.
Jennifer B. Graham is the author of An Immoral Proposal: Forbidden Love Under Apartheid – a remarkable memoir that documents her own journey to self-acceptance, and a love that would not be denied – no matter the odds.