Building The Foundations


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A number of years ago I built a house.  Alright, fine – I paid someone to build it for me, but you get what I mean.  I didn’t know much about construction at the time, but I learned a lot and I remember the process well.

First the foundation was poured, and in some ways this initial step was the most important part – because the foundation is needed to support everything that comes after.  The foundation bears the weight of the whole house, so it needs to be strong and it needs to be stable.

After the foundation the frame went up, and once that frame was in place you could really get a sense of what the house was going to look like, but you didn’t know all the details.

This frame was sealed, and it acted as a support for the functional parts; the electrical, the plumbing, the venting.   After that other things went in; the insulation, walls, paint, fixtures and all the finishing touches.

The process of building the house took some time, around 6 months; and then I got possession of it.

I was now the proud owner of a new house, and when I first moved in it was pretty awe inspiring.

Getting possession of the house wasn’t the end though, and in some ways it was just the beginning.

 

Houses require maintenance.  Little things, like vacuuming, cleaning and changing furnace filters.  I’ve heard you are supposed to dust sometimes too, though that’s one that I have a tendency to neglect forget.

And beyond the regular day to day maintenance, there are other things that need to be done.  Over time things break down and need to be fixed or replaced.  Walls get damaged and periodically need to be patched and painted.

And sometimes, you just want some changes.  So maybe you do some renovations, which can be anything from repainting to tearing down walls and restricting rooms.

Really, there are always things you CAN do; it’s just a matter of how much time and energy you want to spend.

 

In many ways, I think you can compare the construction and maintenance of a house to building a relationship.

In the early days, you are laying your foundation.  And that foundation will support everything that comes after.

So what is the foundation of a relationship?

To me, at the foundation of a relationship you need to have trust, and shared core values.  Core values may not match 100%, but you need to have an understanding and acceptance of each other’s core values.

In order to understand each other’s core values, you also need to have vulnerability and open communication.  So communication is probably also a foundational element in a relationship.  Unfortunately communication happens to be one of the biggest problems in relationships.  Communication is hard, and it doesn’t just happen – we don’t learn healthy communication naturally.

Instead, it’s common to believe that our way is the “right way”, become critical of anyone who doesn’t agree with us, and take criticism as a negative thing instead of as a way to improve.  But communication is a skill, and for those who are willing to put ego aside and be self-aware, it is something that can always improve over time.

 

If trust, core values and communication are the foundations of a relationship; then I think connection is the framework that everything else hangs off of.

I see connection as existing on 4 different levels:

  • Physical
  • Emotional
  • Intellectual
  • Spiritual

Not all couples are able to connect on all of these levels, and for those that they do connect on, some types of connection may be stronger than others.  For example, some relationships may have a strong physical connection, but nothing else.  That may seem fun for a little while, but personally I think a relationship needs connection on multiple levels in order to succeed.

Also, connection isn’t a fixed thing, and the strength of it will change over time.  Sometimes you will feel very connected to your partner, and other times you won’t.  That’s fine, and is normal.

To me, connection is what love is all about.  Like communication though, it doesn’t just happen.  Connection requires you to be vulnerable, and be willing to let the other person in.  It requires to you be willing to share yourself with someone, and to in turn listen to and truly be interested in them.

When people talk about falling out of love, or loving someone but no longer being “in love” with them, I think they are actually talking about the loss of connection.

And what I think people often overlook is, connection requires consistent effort over time.  It requires you to make them a priority in your life, always.

 

Going back to my house analogy, you can have a great foundation and you can have a great framework.  Your house can initially be beautiful when you move into it, but that’s not enough.

Over time things will wear down and get damaged.  Sometimes it’s the regular wear and tear that comes with the passage of time; and other times it’s an accident or an incident.  Things happen, and nothing stays new forever.

Just as you need to maintain your house you need to maintain your relationship.  You need to put in effort to keep it strong, and keep it thriving.  We are always evolving, so you need to be able to accept that change will happen over time, and try to change together when you can, and accept each other for who we continue to evolve to be.

Connection and love will fade and die over time if you neglect it.  It’s important to understand that your feelings towards your partner are not their responsibility.  Yes, it’s important that they put effort in, and they try to treat you well.  And when they do, it makes it easier to love them and feel connected to them.

But feelings of love for your partner are YOUR responsibility.  It’s up to you to try to see them for who they are, instead of who they aren’t.  It’s up to you to look at the good in them, instead of focusing on their flaws.  And it’s up to you to wake up and choose them, each and every day.

 

Healthy, strong relationships require a strong foundation; and should be built on trust, shared values and communication.  Just building the relationship isn’t enough though, you need to continue to make your partner a priority, and continue to put in effort each and every day.

Relationships aren’t always easy.  They have good days, and bad days; and sometimes those bad days can last for an extended period of time.

It’s easy to get along when things are going well, but during the hard times cracks will show.  When that happens, a strong foundation can help ensure you make it through.

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9 thoughts on “Building The Foundations

  1. “But feelings of love for your partner are YOUR responsibility. It’s up to you to try to see them for who they are, instead of who they aren’t. It’s up to you to look at the good in them, instead of focusing on their flaws. And it’s up to you to wake up and choose them, each and every day.”

    This is truth. However good your foundation, the day to day upkeep is what keeps the rest of the relationship strong and healthy. Thank you for putting this into words so beautifully.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you for agreeing 🙂

      It surprises me how many people don’t see this, and feel it is their partners responsibility to keep them feeling “in love”.

      I don’t think life works that way. I think we are all responsible for our own feelings and emotions. Yeah, our partner should be good to us and treat us well. We need to appreciate it though, and we need to nurture our feelings and keep them alive.

      I think the combination of a solid foundation and consistent effort leads to great success.

      Liked by 1 person

      • It was one of the issues I had with my ex. It felt like I was the one doing all the maintenance work on the relationship, and he was just expecting things to be repaired without doing anything about it.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Sadly, that’s very common. Many people seem to believe you just need to build the relationship and that’s it. Umm, no.

        Try buying a car, and never changing the oil or doing maintenance. Try never cleaning or fixing your house.

        Pick a sport or hobby, and then build some proficiency at it and then stop doing it.

        Anything in life requires continuous effort. I will admit, in my marriage I fell victim to that thinking to a degree. Don’t get me wrong, I never “stopped” trying, but my effort was minimal for a while. When I realized what I was doing I changed that, but it was too late and she never had any interest in trying.

        Hence the reason they are exes I guess.

        Moving forward, I hope this is one thing I never forget. And I want to be sure that anyone I am with will hold me accountable and give me a kick in the ass if I start slacking 🙂

        Better that then have someone just detach themselves and become resentful over time.

        Foundations, and maintenance. I think your primary relationship should be one of the most important things in your life – maybe THE most important.

        Jobs come and go, people retire. Kids grow up and start their own families. Friends are always there (hopefully), but that type of relationship is different.

        I want to be half of the old couple walking down a beach in some tropical destination one day, hand in hand and still very much in love. And that doesn’t just happen, you need to build it in to your interactions every day.

        Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks again Zombiedrew, I have been away from my blog for months, I lost my dad, but now find I need to hear the words of our community and express myself.

      You are so right about the foundation, but what about when you “think” you have a solid foundation. I felt I married the right man, for the right reasons at the ripe age of 40. H however, kept many secrets about himself…hidden for years in fact..never showing me who he was and what he was capable of. Sharing the history he wanted me to see.

      In my eyes..(and it was not infatuation), there was communication, like mindedness, family values, core values….

      I know we probably both as you say, neglected to “maintain” the integrity of our house by making our relationship a priority. This for sure happened, but even in that, my foundation was solid…his was not….given that the other person is the wild card…I keep asking that age old question, how do you know if the person you are building with is not going to betray you?

      Liked by 2 people

      • I’m sorry to hear about the loss of your dad. Deaths are always difficult, but for some reason the death of a parent can often be significant, and much harder to recover from than many others. I hope you are able to cope with the loss in a positive way, and you have people to support you as needed during this time.

        You ask “how do you know if the person you are building with is not going to betray you?”.

        Geez, I wish I could answer that – I really do. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about that over the past few years, and really, much of my writing during that time is my response to that question.

        From your description, it sounds like you did all the “right things”. But even if you do all the right things, as you said – the other person is the wild card. And in your case, it sounds like your husband wasn’t being authentic with you. Instead of being open and vulnerable, it sounds like he gave you the parts of himself that he thought you would accept.

        I’ve written a bit on this in the past, and I have an upcoming post about fear, and how our fear can rule us. I think sometimes, people want the relationship and they want to be accepted. And they are so scared that they won’t be accepted for who they are that they present a version of themselves instead. Maybe we all do this to a degree, but I think many people hold back a lot of the things they believe will drive the other person away, or cause them to be rejected. Yet holding these things back becomes a kind of self fulfilling prophecy, because when you are holding back you are not allowing the other person so see you and accept you for who you truly are. And this lack of vulnerability and authenticity is a sort of a wall that you build up to protect yourself, but it actually keeps other people away.

        You mention marrying at the age of 40, and part of me wonders if maybe age (because people have more opportunities to have been hurt) contributes to them holding back.

        I’m 43 this year, and in single mode for the first time in decades. And frankly, it kind of scares the hell out of me. I know who I am, and what I bring to the table. And I think that when relationships are approached by two like minded people they should actually be pretty easy. But as you said – how do you know if the person is not going to betray you?

        For me, the ONLY way to approach a relationship is by being myself 100%. I hope that someone see me for who I am and is able to accept me for that. If not, failing fast is a good thing. In some ways I’m still young, but at the same time I don’t want to waste any more years. I still hope for “the dream”, where I meet someone who wants me for me (not for safety or security, not as a surrogate parent to their kids, not because they are scared to be alone, etc…). I want to grow, and build with someone. And have a chance at finding “forever”, and growing old with someone who will be my partner in life. And if I find that in the next few years, I still have a shot at hitting at least a 25 year anniversary one day (my parents hit 50 this year, and I know that is something I will never do).

        But how can you ever know what the other person actually wants or thinks? I really don’t know.

        A few thoughts thought, that I *hope* will work (or at least help)…

        – when it comes to communication, EVERYTHING needs to be on the table. Even, and especially the hard stuff. Sex and finances for example are two big ones that cause issues. I think you need to know you are on the same page, or at the very least understand and accept each other. If talking about something makes you uncomfortable, it’s probably an important one to discuss.
        – because people change, I think coupoles need to have periodic checkpoints where they are open and upfront about how they feel about the relationship. And I think it’s important to set goals and vision TOGETHER. When you can share things, great. When you can’t, I think it’s important to support each other in the things they want to achieve.
        – remembering that the relationship has to come first, or at least be a very high priority. Yeah, life can get in the way. But couples need to MAKE time for each other on a regular basis.
        – remembering love is a lot more than a feeling. It’s a choice. And it’s one we can choose every day.
        – remembering that everything has high and low points. And no matter how good or bad things seem, then can always improve if both people are on the same page and willing to put in the effort.

        I think a hard thing is not putting walls up, and allowing ourselves to be hurt again. Because we will be hurt in the future, that’s just part of life.

        I’ve come to accept that life doesn’t always work out the way we expect. But I’m trying not to be jaded, and I still believe in love.

        Liked by 2 people

  2. Thanks again for your kind words about my father. We were very close and his death has just floored me. I am dealing with it probably as most of us do….getting on with life, and dealing with the moments where it just takes your breath away. I miss him every day.

    As usual, your words always make so much sense and as I read them…I understand now about fear. In past relationships, I was not afraid to reveal my authentic self, and for the most part those relationships were easy, ran course naturally and it was good. When I dated in 2013 during the break up of my marriage, I was NOT my authentic self. I had been so beaten down, I was trying too hard to be the perfect match, morphing myself into what I thought the guy I was dating wanted. It felt horrible, uncomfortable and doomed. In the end, it was clear that we were not made for each other…and it was over and I was okay with that.

    H, unbeknownst to me, had such huge fear of being rejected for his past (sexual tastes and abuse and bullying), that he hid it and hid it well. There was one huge red flag I ignored, it was his past relationships and how they had failed (he cheated and also treated the two women with a complete lack of respect). I typically fell back on age old rhetoric of “that would never happen to me, he was young and foolish and knows better now, I’m different, we are married”, I feel like such a complete idiot for thinking along those lines and not being aware that the odds were against me. So I guess the lesson is that the flags are there..we have to be willing to see them.

    So many good points on your list, communication on hard topics was a big one for us. Periodic check ins…but for me I think the BIGGEST issue was hearing each other, and solving the issues on which we could not agree…its not like we did not discuss these hard topics but we did not actually hear or listen to each other in a precise way. We were both trying so hard to get ourselves heard..that nothing ever got solved and we spoke in circles. Anger and disenchantment grew but he was definitely the weak link…and cheating was already in his repertoire.

    In therapy, I have finally learned to hear…its taken time, I’m not perfect at it but I am 100% better than I was and so is H. The problem now is can I ever truly heal within my marriage. I’m so far from it. I have about 50% trust level that he won’t do it again…but my anger and sense of injustice are just blocking the road..still furious and huge brick wall around me.

    Any advice on that?

    P.S. Your insight and soul searching are so rare, I hope you can find your dream relationship, the woman who wins your love and trust will be lucky…:)

    Liked by 1 person

    • A few clarifications about my comments earlier (I re-read them, and some of what I said probably wasn’t clear):

      When I mentioned “periodic check-ins where people are open and upfront”, I wasn’t suggesting people should only be open and upfront during these check ins. I think we always need to be open and upfront, and when something is bothering us it should always be brought up fairly soon. I say “fairly soon” because sometimes after something happens we are reacting in the moment, and our thoughts may not be quite clear. So sometimes it’s good to have a bit of time to think things through. At the same time, I don’t think we should give things too much time as it’s beneficial if the issue/item in question is still fairly fresh in peoples minds.

      For the periodic check-ins though, I think it’s good to have a “regular” time to talk about where you are (individually and as a couple), where you want to be, and vision and plan together. Maybe that’s monthly, maybe yearly. Each couple needs to find what works for them – but I still think it can be a valuable thing to do.

      I like what you say about communication often involving talking but not actually listening or hearing. That’s super hard, and I think is something that causes a lot of problems for people. Not sure if you’re familiar with the ideas of “active listening” or “I messaging”, but I think they are important things to keep in mind. In some ways when you first try them it can feel a bit demeaning, like we are children. But you know what? When it comes to communication, often many adults aren’t much better than children. So if it works and allows communication to improve and evolve, then what the hell.

      One thing I learned a number of years back (from the Gottman book on 12 principles that make marriage work) is the idea that not all conflict points can actually be solved. Some can, and for those that can we should try to do so. But for other issues, they will be there for life and are just part of the nature of two people who have different approaches to life. For those, as long as we are able to understand why our partners have the approach they do and accept them for that, things can be alright. Sometimes two different approaches are simply that – two different approaches. One isn’t necessarily any more “right” or “wrong” then the other. That idea really resonated with me, and I think it makes a lot of sense. My way isn’t the right way – it’s just what’s right for me. And as long as someone else can accept and understand that, they don’t have to agree.

      Regarding trust, I think you and H will need to be patient with each other here. A few months back I wrote “An Open Letter to Cheaters”, and it has a lot of my thoughts in it. The fact is, H screwed up here. I don’t know the situation and circumstances, and I’m sure there were “issues” on both sides. But I will never excuse cheating – that’s always on the person who made that choice. So really, it’s up to H to make this right. At the same time, if he’s legitimately trying it’s up to you to start to let go, and accept and appreciate his efforts. Very, very difficult. And with what he’s done, you will likely be very cautious and see shadows in everything he does. Probably for a long time. He needs to get that, and be patient. He screwed up, he needs to show he actually WANTS to be there, and isn’t just scared to lose you.

      When it comes to repairing trust, I think of it kind of like any sort of wound that needs to heal. After it has happened, you are VERY conscious of things and you see it in every little thing. Over time, it will slowly get better until one day you barely notice or think about it. There will always be a scar, and that scar will be a reminder of what happened. But it is possible for the hurt to fade.

      One thing I always try to do is think long term. Where do I WANT to be? And are my actions today helping me get there, or are they hindering my ability to get to where I want? You know what walling yourself off is slowing down the healing. At the same time, your anger is justified. And only you can decide when you feel safe enough with him to let those walls down a bit more.

      You have a long road ahead – best of luck.

      Like

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