A while back I was at a buddy’s birthday party. It was for a guy I’ve known for a long time, but our friendship is more casual than it is close. We share some interests, and we talk those things; but I don’t really know him on a deeper level.
Often friendships and relationships are like this. We have a small window into that other person; maybe through work, through seeing each other in our neighborhoods, or through some sort of social setting.
We probably know bits and pieces of their personal life. Maybe they have a picture of their family on their desk, or they talk about their weekend and mention their wife, their husband, their parents, their kids. And over time these things help us build a picture of who we believe them to be.
If we connect with them through social media, we probably get a bit more of a view into their lives. We see pictures of vacations and special events. At some level we realize that they choose which pictures of their lives they want to show to the world, and that the window we see through social media is not an accurate picture of their lives (rather it’s a sanitized version, showing the “good times”). Even still, this window allows them to become more “real”, and not just someone we see at work, or while out for a walk in the neighborhood.
Sometimes in a social setting I will take moments to sit back and observe, and to watch people’s interactions and their body language.
At that party I watched my buddy and his wife for a bit, and honestly, what I saw was beautiful.
This is a couple that has been together for around 20 years, and has teenage children together. Yet when I watched them, there was a tenderness in their interactions – little touches and signs of affection when they were together. Smiles, and shared looks when they were apart and would see each other across the room. When they would make eye contact you could see a light in both of their eyes, a light that was meant only for each other.
I don’t know much about their relationship. I’m sure they have their struggles and their bad days. I’m sure they argue and fight just like anyone else. But based on watching their interactions I have no doubt that after 20 years they are still very much in love.
To me, that’s what relationships are all about. It’s about that energy between two people, and that light they get in their eyes when they see each other or even just think or talk about each other.
That connection is what relationships are all about, and are what LOVE is all about.
It may not always be the passionate desire of new relationships, but there always has to be desire in the sense that you still WANT to see the other person and to spend time with them.
Relationships can be hard.
They start about the couple, about learning each other and sharing and building something together. Something where the two of you are more, or better together than you are apart.
Over time though, relationships often break down into resentment and apathy. When that happens, and the connection has broken down a couple often feels more alone together than they do when they are apart. And often a part of them knows what they have lost, and mourns for that, but they don’t know how to find it again.
When you look at your partner and there is no light in your eyes, or there is light in your eyes but all you see are dead eyes in return, then what do you have left?
Shared material things?
I’ll admit family is a tough one. But I have never believed in staying together for the sake of the children. I think that does more harm than good to everyone, including the children. If you want to use the children as a reason to actively rebuild, great. But if you (or your partner) don’t TRULY want the relationship anymore?
Then there’s no point.
There’s nothing left to hold onto.
When there is no light left in your eyes, it’s time to let go.
Because once you are at that point, it’s almost impossible to turn things around.
The trick is to not get there, and for that to happen you need to understand that long term love doesn’t happen by chance. It’s a choice, that we can nurture. It’s built into your interactions each and every day. The looks, the touches, the signs of affection. It comes from wanting to be there, and waking up and actively CHOOSING your partner, each and every day. From celebrating them for their strengths and appreciating what they ARE, instead of focusing on what they are not.
Life will always get busy. There will always be times that it’s hard. But you need to always prioritize each other as must as you can. And be there to support each other, and promote growth both individually and as a couple.
I think you can ensure connection never fades with three simple (though not always easy) steps:
- Actively love each other – each and every day. No one should ever have to question if their partner loves them. They should see it, and feel it through the little things. Looks, touches, and signs of affection. I don’t care if you are newly dating or married for 50 years, these should never go away.
- Don’t be selfish. It’s easy to get caught up in ourselves and all the things going on in our world; and there are times when we will need to put ourselves first. That’s alright. But it shouldn’t be a pattern, and it shouldn’t happen over an extended period. Relationships are a balance between “we” and “me”. And if the focus is usually me, then maybe you shouldn’t be there.
- Communicate. This is probably the hardest part. As humans we are always always interpreting things through the filters of our own experiences, so misunderstanding is always a risk. So communication is the most important skill you can ever learn. When you are with your partner, if there are things that are difficult to talk about or you don’t want to talk about; then those are probably the things you NEED to talk about the most. Don’t keep things in. Be willing to grow, and learn each other, each and every day.
In relationships, connection is the most important thing there is. But it doesn’t just happen.
Working on it, and growing it (or at least maintaining it) is the key to keeping your relationship alive. You need to look forward to seeing each other, in both the exciting times and the quiet moments. You need to WANT to be there, to see each other and support each other even when times are hard.
You need to keep that light in your eyes alive, by actively choosing each other each and every day.
Because when that light goes out, then you really have nothing left.