Many of us have spent far more hours with our spouse lately than we usually do. For some, it’s been a wonderful time of sharing a moment in history and finding new ways to bond with their best friend. For others, this has caused strained relationships, frayed nerves and the intense desire to spend some time apart. So, what makes the difference between these two experiences?
My Theory of 5 mentors and I have found that there are many qualities the most successful couples have in abundance that makes their lives together a magnificent adventure — love being the most prominent and vital ingredient. Today, however, I’d like to examine two other factors that go into creating outstanding relationships: Respect and Support. Without these two elements, a marriage or domestic partnership will never reach the heights that two people are capable of achieving.
Successful marriages and relationships are unions of equals. If one partner feels he or she is innately superior (or inferior) to the other, the foundation of the relationship is cracked and most likely will crumble over time.
That being said, each partner brings his or her own set of skills, talents, knowledge and experiences to the relationship. While each of us should have equal footing on the grand scale, couples will find that one person’s expertise allows them to be better at specific tasks while the other shines in different areas. Our skills as handling the household finances, fixing things around the house, making sure we stay connected to family and friends and a host of other important day-to-day tasks will not be equal, and that’s okay. Over time — sometimes quickly and sometimes over a period of months or even years — we find our areas of expertise. When each partner respects the other and his or her abilities, these areas of specialization allow us to achieve more in the same amount of time. This type of interdependence is a key ingredient in the strongest relationships.
That’s not to say that we give up our right to have our voice heard. If we’re figuring out a household budget for instance, both of us may need and want to be involved in the discussion — we’ve all heard the phrase “involvement equals buy in” — but we allow the other to be the lead of their “zone.”
One pitfall that the happiest, most fulfilled couples avoid at all costs is when one partner starts to take for granted the other partner’s skill and knowledge in their areas of excellence. It’s important to let them know how much we appreciate what they do for us, and how much we value what they bring to our relationship. If he or she fixes a delicious meal, we should always let them know how much we enjoyed it. In the everyday running of a household, it’s easy to forget basic manners. If they do something for us, we should thank them — especially when they’ve put in the extra effort. Expressing simple appreciation strengthens any relationship. Let’s always commit to letting our partner know we appreciate them and how they “wow” us!
Something else to keep in mind is that, In our modern world, traditional gender roles are continually being reassessed — and in some cases discarded entirely. He might be a better cook than she is. She might excel at her career and produce more income toward the household, so they decide that he will stay home with the children. That doesn’t make her “the boss” or him “less than her.” Part of genuinely respecting our partner is to look at our abilities objectively, and not through the lens of past generations, and letting each other take the reins in the areas where we excel. When we both contribute our best efforts is when we’re building a life together that will weather any storm.
In the best of times, each partner in a relationship is at full strength, contributing equally and bringing their best to the relationship and the world in general. There will be times, of course, where this is not the case. There could be illness, career difficulties, emotional setbacks, family tragedies or just the inevitable ebb and flow of moods and energy.
In secure, vital, healthy relationships, each partner understands that there will be times when they have to do a little more of the “heavy lifting” to allow their partner to get back up and return to full power. They do this knowing that their partner will do the same for them when they need the same consideration. After all, it is “for better or for worse.”
When we understand that our partner will be there for us no matter what, when we know they will have our back, their support gives us the strength to rise above most every challenge we are facing.
Having someone there who we know will listen to us when we share what’s troubling us is a huge benefit. Even if they just encourage us by listening, that goes a long way toward bringing us back to our “A” game. And, when challenges come that will test us both, we’re stronger for having the other there so we can hold onto each other.
When we’re already at the top of our game and ready to strive to become more, our path will become more apparent and our energy will be greater because we know we have someone to cheer us on and support us whenever they can. When we’re part of a team, we can do far more than we’d ever be able to accomplish alone. When two people commit to “It’s the two of us against the world,” the world opens up with opportunities.
If you and your spouse or partner want this kind of relationship, the best way to build respect and support in your relationship is through communication. Too often, partners don’t say the simple words and show the necessary actions that let each other know that they are valued and loved. There was a reason you and your partner chose each other at the beginning of your relationship. If we take just a moment each day and remember those reasons, we’re building and reinforcing a foundation that will support a love affair for the ages.