There are several types of relationships: friendships, parent-child, marriage, teams and so on. Some of these relationships form naturally as in parent-child relationships or being assigned to a team at work. While some relationships come and go, there are some relationships we want to hold onto. Here are 12 vital things every relationship that lasts needs:
1. Communicating early and often
Relationships do not just spontaneously generate. They typically start with a conversation. Talk about what matters to you early in the relationship, and talk about it often. We usually complain about things that bother us, and we share things that make us happy. Communicating early and often brings to the surface the things that are most important and allows each person to decide whether or not to pursue the relationship.
Before any relationship begins to grow, you must accept the other person. However, acceptance is continuous act. In lasting relationships, there will be change, growth, failure and success. These will show up at different times, and you have to be willing to accept them when they do.
Two of my classmates were known as being attached at the hip because they were always together and behaved in similar ways. Their identity was distinct. They dressed a particular way. They participated in the same sports. They took the same classes. They even used the same idioms. Essentially, they had their own culture. They are still friends to this day. Lasting relationships face and endure many trials.
All relationships require trust. You are constantly building and evaluating trust. The level of trust determines what other supporting factors you need to strengthen the relationship. Low levels of trust might require exorbitant demonstration of loyalty and commitment, whereas high levels of trust means the relationship can grow with more freedom.
Even though the relationship has an identity, each individual is free to be themselves. They are free to expand their knowledge. They are free to be creative. This freedom strengthens the relationship.
6. A defining moment
Unfortunately, many relationships end when someone chooses betrayal instead of loyalty or inflicts injustice instead of fairness. The opposite is also true. A defining moment is when one person’s decision leads to an outcome that forces a critical response from their partner. Failures and successes can be defining moments.
Stephen Covey describes integrity as “the value we place on ourselves.” In a relationship, each person understands and contributes to the integrity of the relationship. The relationship is now one entity with a unique attitude, behavior and perception. Integrity is a balance between humility (how you view others) and respect (how you view yourself). Strong self-respect and a high level of humility portrays high integrity, while weak self-respect and feelings of inferiority or superiority signals low integrity. High integrity requires strong commitment.
8. Commitment to purpose
When you start a relationship with someone, you commit to purpose. Everyone has a purpose, and every relationship contributes to that purpose. The contribution is either negative or positive. Relationships that last are made of individuals who understand this phenomena and work to make a positive contribution to the relationship so that the purpose is fulfilled.
9. A definition of happiness
Her needs are important. His needs are important. Your overall happiness is not a permanent compromise but a perpetual collaboration. You must communicate what makes you happy not just the things that make you unhappy.
10. A place of escape
When each of our children was born, we were happy parents, but we faced several periods of fatigue, anxiety and frustration. We took turns allowing each other to escape, whether with friends or a hobby. We also made time to escape together, soliciting the help of family and close friends. Taking time to relax allows you to escape the rigors of life. While you are in a space of rest, you can re-evaluate past mistakes, plan how to integrate the lessons learned into your goals, identify the good in your relationship and decide where to go next.
11. A support system
No relationship operates by itself. While we learn many skills we can use on a job or to execute an event, the value of the skills take shape when we actually perform. Only at the end of the performance can you measure the value of the skill. A support system allows you to prepare, execute, evaluate and then prepare for the next performance. That is why professional athletes have coaches. Relationships that have strong support systems will last.
12. Frequent checkups
It is too late to do an oil change when the engine is completely dry of oil. At this point you need a new engine or a new car, which is a lot more expensive than an oil change. I missed out on a promotion because my supervisor felt I did not demonstrate a particular skill. Had I known that I was struggling in this area, I could have made the adjustments and gained a better outcome. It’s a good idea to have a structure in place that allows you to run frequent checks on your relationship. Counselors, pastors, each other and family members are good examples of people who can help you monitor your relationship.
Evaluate your own relationships. Do you have the 12 important qualities to make your relationship last? If you find yourself falling short in any of these areas, that’s OK. All relationships take time and effort. Keep trying together to improve on these things and make your bond stronger each day.