Photo by Yvonne Letourneau Rego
Originally I was going to title this “Love Can Die.” I was going to write about all the ways we destroy our romantic relationships, family bonds, and friendships through neglect, selfishness, and/or the insidious notion that the grass is greener elsewhere. I was going to talk about how, despite the fact that we have more tools, more opportunities for relationship help than ever before, we also have less resiliency, less perseverance, less hope—and we’re more fickle and more jaded—than ever before.
But that last word—jaded—stopped me. My brain filled with forty-plus years of memories and facts I’ve been blessed with: a marriage that just hit its twenty-five year mark (Crazy, right?), adult children who love me and seem to enjoy spending time with me, true, faithful friends . . . and I realized, no, in our day and age we are all inundated—by life experience, the media, and so many songs, stories and articles—with the knowledge that love can die, that the sincerest of promises get broken, that even the very best of intentions can fail.
So maybe what we need to know, to remember, to cling to in our slightly disillusioned era is that love can last. If it’s broken, it can often be fixed. If it’s weak and failing, it can often be healed. If it’s lost, it can often be found.
It’s intimidating to talk about how to maintain or build love over the long haul because I’m fully aware that at least some of it comes down to luck. So please, don’t take this as advice, but as encouragement—a note about things that took me a long time to learn (and that I’m still figuring out how to practice more consistently) that have brought me a lot of joy, peace and love in my relationships with family, friends, and my husband.
Don’t look for—or expect perfection—in anyone, not your spouse, not your kids, not your parents, not your friends. Not yourself.
Manage expectations. No one person can fulfill all your needs. Don’t hold it against someone if they can’t talk about all the things you need to talk about or don’t share your passion for XYZ. Get yourself a tribe—and allow and encourage the people in your life to build other friendships too.
Understand that people are the way they are for a reason—and it’s most likely not to hurt you or piss you off. It’s easy to hold things against someone, to see all their negative qualities, and the ways they possibly injured you. The remedy to bitterness is to recognize that we all have struggles. Looking at my own failings always makes me less critical of others.
Focus on positive qualities and quirks, not perceived flaws.
Watch out for the demons of regret, unfulfilled dreams, self-loathing or unresolved issues from your past that might sneak in and tempt you to put your shit on someone else.
Be gentle and kind. Admit, and apologize, when you screw up, are grouchy, are hurtful (and try to do better!), and pray like crazy they extend you a lot of grace. Extend a lot of grace yourself.
Say what you need (people aren’t mind readers!), and insist on decent treatment and respect. We all have our lines in the sand—and they’ll be different for each individual. What I find hurtful, someone else might find totally okay, but be honest and vocal or you’ll harbor resentment—a relationship killer.
Be loyal. Don’t backstab or trash talk people you care about.
Give people room to grow and change. Don’t expect them to be mini yous. Having differences isn’t threatening; it’s what makes you interesting.
Have fun! Seriously, people underestimate the value of doing things just because they’re fun. Good times can make up for a lot of rough ones.
Love can last. Healthy relationships can endure. It, and they, may take a lot of work, at times—and you may have to confront things in yourself that you really don’t like, put in strenuous effort to better yourself, or ask—and work for—forgiveness, or, even more difficult, offer forgiveness, but nothing is more worth the effort. And thankfully, it doesn’t always feel like work!
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –