Post Valentine’s Day musings by Steven Lake on the value of a long-term relationship.
If you practiced some skill for twenty years, odds are that you would have developed some level of proficiency at it. Whether you were an electrician, an accountant or a massage therapist, after years of practice you would have encountered many situations, honed your skills, and if you were still in love with what you did, be reaping the rewards of your efforts.
To achieve this end you had to be committed. That doesn’t mean that every day was a bed of roses. Sometimes you screwed up, sometimes your clients were a huge pain in the neck, sometimes third parties interfered, sometimes communication was a problem, sometimes money was an issue, and sometimes you just tired of doing the same old thing day after day.
But to develop mastery at anything, means sticking at it for a considerable length of time, whether it is your job, your hobby, or your relationship.
It is bandied about that 10,000 hours are needed to become an expert in any field. How many hours have you spent “practicing” your relationship? Maybe a couple of hours a week, now and then, maybe?
One definition of commitment is to pledge oneself to a course of action. In a relationship this means dedicating yourself to the success of the union. We do this for many reasons. Sometimes, like the description in the first paragraph where we encounter many challenges, remembering why we got involved in the first place helps us stay on track.
Because, if we keep jumping from one relationship to another, we might become a Jack of all trades and a master of none. True mastery and knowledge of yourself, your partner, and relationship dynamics (and the riches within) are a manifestation of many elements, with time as a major variable for a deep and profound relationship. Like a good wine, it takes time, and over time a good wine can become great.
Valentine’s Day is over and it was a strange one for me because I was not well. I was able to partake of most of the activities my partner and I planned but it was physically an uncomfortable process and my partner was not able to fully enjoy herself due to her concern for me.
This experience left me in a reflective mood about the energy and expectations of the day and why I prefer to be in a committed relationship. Without further delay, here are seven reasons to stay in a committed relationship. I’m sure there are many more. Feel free to add them in the comments section.
- You get to stop dating . . . other people. Yes, no more cruising the bars, dealing with rejection and dashed hopes. No more waiting for the phone to ring or receive a text. No more jittery stomach wondering if she or he feels the same way you do. And no more laying in your bed thinking about how much you wish you were in a relationship. No, in a committed relationship you exchange insecurity for security. Some might say you lose excitement for dullness and boredom. In can happen, but it is not a necessary outcome if you and your partner take the time to stay connected and create excitement in your lives.
- The biggest reason for me to be in a long-term committed relationship is the opportunity for personal growth. Being in a relationship is one of the biggest challenges you will ever face other than having children and that is kind of the same thing – a long-term commitment with loved ones. The key difference being that you can always get rid of your partner but your children will always be your children, no matter the quality of the relationship. Staying in relationship with your spouse over time is an act of will, not biology. This can be challenging at times even in “good” relationships. Whether tempted by the “grass is greener” on the other side syndrome, or a particularly bitter argument, or a disagreement over how the kids should be disciplined, coming back to a state of love after these kinds of challenges can be emotionally exhausting and when repeated year in and year out, it is easy to question if the relationship is working. Being committed is working through the hard times.
- Being in a committed relationship has taught me that there is another way of seeing the world. Yes, there is a multiverse out there. And to think I though my universe was the only and right one. But no, she (my wife) has her own reality that is just as legitimate as mine. Now, any relationship offers this teaching, but being in a long-term one gives you the time to see the truth of this statement.
- Being in a committed relationship has taught me to share, not be so self-centered, and that I am not always right (unbelievable but true).
- The biggest joy I have received from a committed relationship is seeing my partner change over time. Watching her achieve, grow, change, adapt, enjoy, play, and become more, is truly a marvel. It is a gift I have received without knowing that it even existed. Participating in this process, knowing that in some small way I have contributed to her well-being makes me feel proud of both her and myself. It is like a gift that keeps on giving. The more she grows and becomes the more I bask in her being.
- Having someone else to care about and love is so much better than being alone with myself (which is different than having alone time which I like). There is something freeing about not having only myself to care for. By directing my energy towards my partner I am able to distance myself from the banality of my self-concerns (which is different from self-care).
- Sharing the load, stress, worries, and frustrations of life, in other words, having a partner helps me deal with it all. On the flip side, having someone to share the pleasant surprises, the sunrises, and wins in life seems to double the pleasure. Having a partner makes losses more bearable and the wins more enjoyable. Furthermore, over time, confidence in the relationship is increased when having survived, as Shakespeare said, “the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.”
My partner and I have had both good times and bad over the last sixteen years. We have survived and grown as individuals and as partners in the relationship. I love her more now than I did all those years ago and in much more profound ways. I consider myself a lucky man to have had the opportunity to share these years with my wife and I look forward to many more.
Photo: Flickr/I love art I love art/artist Raphael Perez