I’m an expert in something:
Kind of a funny day, yesterday.
One of those days you recognize as some sort of an “accomplishment,” but a very intangible one.
Not like, say… a college graduation, where you’ve done “X” to get your diploma… and not even like your wedding, or the day your first child was born. Those are obviously significant milestones in your life.
And yet, it’s a simple day we kind of recognize and laugh and have fun with, as each year goes grinding by.
21 years ago yesterday, my wife and I had our first date.
My son was telling me that’s a big accomplishment.
But I don’t really think the passage of time alone, is much of an accomplishment. I mean, shit, surviving 21 years in jail and coming out and functioning again, is far more of an “accomplishment” than staying together in a relationship for 21 years.
I think the accomplishment is that somehow… over these last 21 years, my wife and I still like each other – a lot. We still laugh and smile, and enjoy each other’s company. We turn each other on, mentally and physically. And I can’t speak for her, but there’s no one I’d rather spend my time with.
And while I can’t call myself a relationship “expert” — after all, I’ve only been really good at one of them, right? I think I’ve had enough experience at it, to at least have some sense of what’s made it successful.
So without any further ado, let me share with you a few things that have had a big impact for us:
1. Work it.
In some ways, a relationship is kind of like a business. In the sense that, if you stop working it, it definitely stops working.
And in other ways… your spouse or partner, is like your doctor.
It’s easy to think your doctor is the best stomach guy, knee surgeon, eye doctor or whatever… when things are going well.
But wait till you get some kind of medical problem the guy can’t solve.
Or wait till the guy promises you things will be ok, and they’re definitely not ok.
My point is, relationships are easy during good times. It’s the bad times, when life feels like it’s just collapsing all around you, and you’re really not sure what to do next, that test your relationship.
It’s times like this when that “for good times and bad” clause resonates with you.
Because these hard times aren’t easy and they usually go on for a lot longer than you’d like.
For us, this has been where we’ve earned our stripes and where we’ve worn grooves into one another — in a good way, of course.
Supporting each other, through anything – even when we’ve’ve made the mistakes that got us into whatever mess we’re in (and for the record, I’m usually the guy making the mistakes), is the greatest gift you can give your partner.
For me, anyway.
I guess, maybe for me, this is more important than anything because of my childhood. When the people who are supposed to take care of you, throw you out to the wolves… and then suddenly you get someone who says, “Hey, don’t worry, we’ll get through this together…”
To me, this is incredibly meaningful.
2. Listen – even when you may not want to
Ever wonder why social media is so popular?
Sure, there’s a voyeuristic component of it. People want to know what other people are doing, and women like to pick up on chit-chat and gossip.
But one HUGE reason why social media is so critical to some people, is because they just want to be heard.
And social media gives you the perception, and most often, the reality… that someone out there is listening to you.
Even if all you’re saying is something meaningless like, “I’m making chicken tonight,” – someone, somewhere… is bound to say, “Oh, how are you preparing it?”
And this makes you feel like someone’s listening to you.
Most of the divorce casualties I’ve seen over the years — aside from infidelity — in my opinion, could have been avoided, by just listening to one another.
But listening is an active thing, not a passive thing.
It’s the same listening you need to do when you’re working with clients, only with your spouse, it should hopefully be a lot more important.
Communication – which is basically “Listening back and forth” is absolutely critical, in any relationship. But especially in a romantic one, and especially if you spend a lot of time together.
I couldn’t imagine how sick I’d feel, being around someone and not having anything to say to them… or holding back loads of things I’d like to say, but couldn’t, because the weren’t listening to me.
That would be quite upsetting.
3. Lastly, don’t take each other for granted
Sure, that’s an old and tired expression, but what does it mean?
It means, you gotta put ONGOING effort into it.
Love isn’t a passive activity. You have to actually “show” someone you love them, continuously, over time.
And this takes work.
And of course, “how” you love, is different for everyone.
Some people show their love by giving gifts… some are affectionate… some go out of their way to do small everyday things that recognize you… some people are able to express things outright, and so on.
But whatever your method is, your spouse or partner should be aware of it, this way it doesn’t go, unnoticed.
Even more important though, is to figure out how they “love” and even if it’s not the way you do it… you bend and flex and do the things they need, to know you care.
And mind you, that’s not an easy word, “flexible.” Nor is “compromise,” “not judging,” and “not being controlling.”
But for us, learning how to do every one of these things, in spite of our inherent strong personalities that made it difficult, has brought more rewards than I think either one of us could ever imagine.
And if I had to do anything over again, I don’t really think I’d do anything different. Except, I’d hopefully get smarter, sooner.
Anyway, i hope this e-mail doesn’t come across like I’m preaching, or something. And I also hope it doesn’t come across like my relationship is always perfect, no hiccups, no fighting, no arguments, no stress, and so on.
Because that’s definitely not how it is. I assure you, in 21 years, we’ve had MUCH more than our fair share of ups and downs, fighting and “standing our ground.”
But this is exactly why I think I’m so fortunate:
In SPITE of all the stress and the highs and lows, and all the unplanned and unanticipated negative crap, we’ve survived, and we’re still happy.
And I hope you are, too.
Comments? Leave ’em below.
Now go sell something, Craig Garber
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Hard Times Lovin’ – Graveyard (2012)