How Do You Keep All Your Long-Term Relationships Vital and Fresh?
How do you sustain a long-term relationship, whether it is with your partner, friends or family? With a new relationship, there are whole new areas to explore that can take years, but as time accumulates, you tend to feel that you know everything about them – their likes, dislikes, interests, quirks, phobias and sensitive areas, whether armpits or armaments. How can you find anything new in such familiarity?
Even though we are all such unique and complex beings, these assumptions of complete knowledge and understanding do take place and often lead to complacency, lack of attention and an expectation of predictability. This can easily create a cycle in which you are less and less engaged and pay less and less attention to what is going on with the other person. This often unconscious attitude relies on a deeply flawed premise: that people stay the same, remaining static and unchanging.
Nothing could be further from the truth. One important antidote is to be present. There is no groundhog day; nothing ever repeats exactly. In our personal lives, pleasure is found in the present. Ice cream is delicious even though we have tasted it 3,000 times before. Similarly, a relationship is the dynamic between two people: familiar, different and enjoyable, all at once.
The view that we feel is important for a truly vital relationship is that growth is always happening for both people in any relationship. The outer world is constantly changing and the inner world adjusts and grows to meet those changes. Shakespeare recognized this and described the seven ages of man. Be it the changes of aging, the rapidly altering outer world, new understandings, or the results of self-work, growth is always happening. You continually grow and learn. A constant source of novelty is exploring the changes, motivations and understanding both of yourself and the other person. One of the surprises we have both had is how much we are still changing at our age.
How do you sustain a long-term relationship and maintain freshness with such familiarity? Click To TweetThis can be a wonderment and an enrichment of your long term relationships when you factor it in. Stay present and aware that now is not the past. No matter how much information you have about the past, it will only inform but not describe the present. Create new experiences together. Leave room for surprise, discovery and adventure with each other. If you open up to the viewpoint that this person opposite you is a constantly changing and growing individual with their own needs and reactions, you will find great riches available to you that will strengthen your relationship.
Besides these changes, you can also dive deeper. What motivates you? What really motivates you? What lies beneath that? To do this work needs honesty, both with you and with your partner. It’s not easy; it’s hard to admit your weak and wayward aspects, and being open and undefended in front of another runs contrary to how you usually act in society. The deeper truths like fear, curiosity, loneliness and compassion are primarily felt, and it is a challenge to find words to express them. The basis of relationships is that humans need each other.
We have found that practicing Our Process for making decisions and finding mutual solutions all these years has given us a great basis for allowing such exploration to happen. We have seen that there are so many layers to the underlying values of our expressed wants and needs, that even when we are not seeking to solve something together, we are aware of each other’s depth and how we come closer and closer by sharing and exploring together.
Long term relationships offer a treasure trove of possibilities for joy and personal revelation. If you can find your path to awareness of the truth of the moment you are in together, and create out of that both new meaning and fresh shared experiences, you will use the gold you have mined all those years to reach ever new heights together. Your relationships will become the motivators toward further inner understanding and the promoters of peace and harmony.
Photo credit: Phil Mayes
Photo note: Maude and her dear friend Barrie.
Read what some other writers have to say on this topic.
Get our free weekly newsletter about how to have a harmonious relationship.