This post is going to differ a little bit from my normal ones. I don’t usually write about relationships, but I do try to share what I’ve been learning and reflecting on in life lately, and this topic is appropriate right now, for a few reasons.
Firstly, since getting into a relationship almost a year ago (another reason this has been on my mind lately), I’ve taken a lot more notice to the relationships around me. Where I didn’t pay attention much before, now I’m very keyed in to what other people are doing in theirs.
What works? What doesn’t? What do I want to mirror and what do I want to avoid at all costs? Are there keys to a strong, happy, fulfilling relationship? What are they?
When I first got into a relationship, I was – for lack of a better word – terrified. I never realized how scary trusting your heart to someone else is. A good relationship requires vulnerability and opening up to another person in ways that I may not want to. I spent lot of time in prayer, and asking the happily-married people around me what their advice was.
A year later and I’m no longer (as) terrified, but I still don’t know exactly what I’m doing, and I know that there will always be room to grow. So I continue watching and asking the people around me whose relationships I admire for their experiences and advice.
In particular, my parents.
I realize that I’m extremely blessed to have parents with a strong relationship. They’ve been together over two decades now, and I’ve grown up knowing that my parents love, respect, and trust one another. They have worked together in raising their children, in their business, and – most importantly – in continuing to serve the Lord. I’ve always wanted to have a relationship like theirs some day. I know there are many people who don’t.
So naturally, I’ve been asking more questions and paying even closer attention to the particulars recently. To the every day applications of the qualities for a good marriage.
I’ve also been paying more attention to the relationships I see that aren’t healthy. Sadly, there seem to be far more of those than there are strong ones. It breaks my heart to see such broken relationships, and makes me feel even more determined to avoid that.
This is not meant to be a “I’ve got it all together, here’s my expert advice” post, because I certainly don’t have it all together. But it is a collection of some of the biggest relationship lessons I’ve learned from watching my parents over the years – and witnessing others do the opposite of these things with poor results. I wanted to share and reflect on them today, and I pray you find value in them too.
1. Communicate honestly
My parents have always taught me to communicate honestly, and that definitely applies to a significant other. Playing games in a relationship (not the fun kind!), or hiding or lying about how you feel about something isn’t beneficial. Kind honesty and being upfront are much better. No one has the ability to read minds, so we can avoid so much drama if we’re simply honest in what we say.
The opposite is also worth mentioning – there are certain things best left unsaid. Things that may be honest, but aren’t helpful to anyone if spoken. Things that just lead to hurt feelings and unneeded stress. That’s where the kindness really comes in. My parents make an effort to be honest about what needs to be said, and kind when something doesn’t.
2. Don’t yell or name-call
Speaking of hurt feelings and unneeded stress…is there any faster way to rile someone up then to yell or call them names? My parents made a ‘rule’ in their marriage that they wouldn’t yell at one another, or call each other names when upset. They don’t swear at one another either (or ever). They can still obviously communicate when they’re upset, but not in those ways. I’m very blessed to say I’ve never once heard my parents break that rule.
It’s very hard to have a productive conversation and resolve anything when there’s yelling, name-calling, and swearing – it just makes everyone angry. Nasty words are impossible to take back once spoken, and leave painful scars that last far longer than the actual argument. A lot of trust and respect can be lost once those things are involved. My boyfriend and I are following the same path, committed not to using them either.
3. Make time for each other
My parents are busy – always have been, likely always will. Between kids, work, other family, gardening, and various other commitments, they don’t get a lot of free time. Despite that, I have many memories of both parents joyfully making time for their kids, and perhaps even more impressively, making time for each other. While I’m sure they’d prefer far more time together, they still keep the other person a priority.
As kids, we grew up recognizing that some Sunday afternoons had ‘Mom and Dad time’ for an hour or two, and we just played while they took the chance to catch up after a long week. Some nights we’d be heading to bed and my parents would be making popcorn and setting up the living room to watch a show together. Quality time together was more important than sleep. I remember being glad that they liked each other so much.
4. Praise one another
Now, I don’t mean praise as in worship, but praise as in building one another up, and even ‘talking up’ the other person in conversations with others. Sharing what the other person had done for them, how sweet or good with the kids they were, what they were really skilled at, the expertise they had, what they’d said lately that meant a lot…. Just generally not being afraid to let the world know how blessed they were by their spouse.
I can tell by just watching my parents together that they’re fond of one another. They’re not showering compliments or being over-the-top, but they take opportunities to show their love for the other person in whichever ways they know their spouse will appreciate most. They’re quick to thank each other, and to show appreciation for the little things. Their sincere love toward one another is a beautiful thing to witness.
5. Seek the Lord together
I saved the most important one for last: my parents are seeking the Lord together. And their strong, common foundation has been the bedrock for their entire marriage. My parents have made it through many life trials and sufferings that are ranked as high-number causes of divorce. And they’re still together, and their relationship is stronger because they held fast.
Has it been easy for them? Certainly not. But some of my most vivid memories of my parents are of them praying together, or watching them handle some of the most difficult things a parent can deal with together. My parents have some of the strongest faiths of anyone I know, and they are always encouraging one another to keep seeking Jesus. That’s a truly powerful thing, and something I believe is a requirement for a persevering marriage.
This is such an expansive topic, far more than is possible to cover in one short blog post. But I’m slowly learning and growing, and I hope you found these lessons as inspiring as I do. Do you have any relationship advice to share? Have you found any lessons or truths that are particularly helpful? I’d love to hear them, so feel free to let me know in the comments!
Love is patient, love is kind.
It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.
It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking,
it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.
Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.
It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Love never fails…
(1 Corinthians 1:4-8 NIV)