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
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:
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.