2. The Two Parts to a Relationship
Updated: Jun 27, 2019
Rome and Julie have been married for over fifty years. The love between them is so dynamic--they can’t dance like they used to, but no other partners are as in-step as they are. If you see them at dinner, whether with friends, family, or just the two of them, you’ll see beaming smiles and hear their laughter from across the room.
We’ve all seen couples like this. We’ve all dreamed of having a relationship like theirs. What’s the secret magic to it?
The secret is that there is no magic. Every relationship needs to be nurtured--both parts of it, and by both partners, which gets more difficult as time goes on.
Nothing can stop us from growing and changing, but we can work together to create parameters that enable us to grow in the same direction. That does take work… but it doesn’t need to feel like work.
When you started dating your partner, did it feel like work when you went on all those dates together? Did it feel like work when you were getting to know each other? When you started to get a sense of what makes them happy, and finding ways to impress or surprise them?
All of that was work that you did to build your relationship. After all, the love that binds partners together doesn’t flourish overnight--in the same way that a tree doesn’t grow as soon as the seed is planted in the ground.
Part 1: The Relationship Tree
For a tree to do well, the roots must first take hold--the primary “roots” in a relationship are commitment, and trust. When you’re dating and you make time to see each other and start to prioritize the needs of your relationship, that builds commitment. When you show up on time, when you show you have your partner’s best interests at heart, that builds trust. This is the foundation. Eventually, when your relationship tree has taken root, it will support a strong trunk, which then branches out into leaves and fruits--the experiences you have together.
Part 2: Branching out to Business
Challenges begin to branch out from the trunk. In the early stages of dating, they’re seldom as serious as bills, mortgages, children, or some of the challenges that can be faced in marriage. Overcoming challenges nevertheless made you stronger together. Just the same as balancing your busy early career schedule with finding time for each other when you were dating made your relationship stronger, the larger challenges you overcome will too. The beautiful leaves and sweet fruits of your labor in building this relationship stem from those branches--these are the good experiences you have.
But every tree has its bad apples. Sometimes you’ll face challenges like a financial setback that are hard to move on from. For many couples, the accumulation of minor setbacks and the responsibilities that take up more and more of our lives as we progress through our lives and careers can drive us apart one twig at a time.
Think of miscommunication as the branches of the tree getting tangled up, making it harder for fruits to grow properly. Eventually, the weight of all the tangled branches becomes too much for the roots to bear, and the tree collapses.
The Shift That Throws Us Off
From the moment you make the commitment to marriage, a new part of the relationship is born: The Business Partnership, which puts every relationship to the ultimate test.
It usually starts with the wedding and all the planning and decisions involved. Many engaged couples find themselves on dates discussing budgets, color patterns, the guest list, and a myriad of other decisions. And once the wedding is over, the partnership continues, and the decisions grow larger: where to live, what to fill your home with, how to raise a family, etc.
All of a sudden the time you spend together is spent focusing on all those things, instead of what made you fall in love in the first place.
Put First Things First
Most people don’t get married just to pay bills together. They get married to build and spend a life together. Logistics are a component of life, often require urgent and immediate attention, but they are not the main aspect--not the trunk of our relationship tree. The relationship came first, and it needs to continue to come first.
That doesn’t mean ignore the business aspects, it means don’t let the business overtake your relationship. Spend your dates dating--not discussing whose Netflix account to cancel or why the electric bill was so high. We can make time for those conversations too, but separately and only as they’re needed--there will be times when you don’t have fires to put out. There will never be times when you should neglect your relationship.
In many ways, relationshipping is like parenting. Parenting is to promote and support the physical, intellectual, and spiritual development of a child; relationshipping is to promote and develop the same aspects of your relationship. Both children and relationships thrive with ample love, attention, and care, and both suffer greatly from neglect. And just as children grow and evolve, so do relationships. That’s why it’s critical for both partners to work together to make time for the relationship and nurture it the way two parents nurture a child.
In a successful relationship, you’ll never be with the same person you married: you’ll be with a better version of that person, and they will be with a better version of you. This change happens because relationships are not possessions that we have, they are emotional journeys that we experience.
As you navigate your journey with your partner, you’ll find that your relationship is much more than something you have, but something you experience. Start thinking about all the ways being with your partner is something you do, rather than how your partner is somebody that you have, that little mind shift could lead to much larger discoveries.
Stay tuned for more about how to cultivate your relationship as an experience with your partner. Subscribe to our newsletter, like us on facebook, and look out for new blogs every Friday!