PsychologyToday.com has an article talking about, “Seven Things Resilient Couples Do Differently.” [Paula Davis-Laack, J.D., M.A.P.P. 2/28/14]
There’s nothing wrong with what the article suggests. But I personally find a need to go deeper.
With decades of self-help books and psychology always on the march, many marriages and relationships still end up in divorce or break-ups. While this is not automatically and always a bad thing — people change, or simply grow apart, and some relationships are toxic — it does seem there’s a lot of unnecessary pain in the world of romance.
It occurs to me that the title of the article reveals part of the problem: The word resilient. “Resilient” implies that you’re constantly battered with emotional storms and challenges, and the best you can hope for is to get through it, somehow, with good communication and all those other things we know are right.
But think about it. Why should a relationship have to be resilient? If you’re compatible with the person you chose, and if you remain compatible, then no resiliency is required. The only way you’d need resilience is if something awful happened to the person you love, or if they disappointed you in some shocking or unexpected way. You’d need resilience to somehow go on. But you don’t require resilience for something that’s fundamentally happy and stable, do you?
This leads to the question: What makes for a good relationship in the first place?
I believe that philosopher-novelist Ayn Rand nailed it even better than her fans may know when she stated the following:
It is with a person’s sense of life that one falls in love—with that essential sum, that fundamental stand or way of facing existence, which is the essence of a personality. One falls in love with the embodiment of the values that formed a person’s character, which are reflected in his widest goals or smallest gestures, which create the style of his soul—the individual style of a unique, unrepeatable, irreplaceable consciousness.
If you have ever loved or been loved as anyone wishes to be, then this sums it up beautifully.
Think of relationships that stand the test of time. (If you’re fortunate and a little older, you might happen to be in one.) If you still love that same person after all these years, is it because that love has survived the perilous things each of you has put it through? Or is it because of something else?
It seems to me that if there’s one thing that long-lasting relationships have in common, it’s this love of the person’s sense of life. The body ages. People grow and change, hopefully for the better. Time, in a best case scenario, seasons a person’s soul; in the more difficult cases, time batters a person. But if you can look at the person you love and find that this sense of life — the thing that drove you to them in the first place — is still there, isn’t that really the most essential and important thing uniting your emotions of love over the years and decades?
I realize that people stay with their spouses for various reasons. Sometimes they feel they have no other choice. Sometimes they’re afraid to take a leap and start over, even though they’re not particularly happy where they are. There are relatively loveless marriages which still exist on paper, in practice and by habit, though not in the sense of authentic love.
But probably more often, there is something still holding the two people together. I maintain that it’s deeper than communication, trust and fidelity, as crucial as these things are. With someone you love, these are important byproducts of the fact you love them in the first place.
Ayn Rand was right. It is with another’s sense of life — one’s fundamental and stylistic way of facing existence — that one falls in love. And, if you ask me, sense of life enables one to stay in love.
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