The Four C's of a Long-Term Relationship
How many couples do you know who have been married to the same person for 20, 30, 40 years or more? How many do you know who have been at the same job for 15, 20, 25 years or more? Most of us could probably count on one hand the number of people we know that fit into one or the other of these categories. Why does it seem that long-term relationships are on the decline in America today? Why is it we can't seem to maintain personal and business relationships for any length of time? Statistics indicate that 40 to 50% of marriages today are ending in divorce. I believe the cause for failed relationships in today's society is due to a lack of what I call the four C's of marriage, commitment, communication, compromise, and consideration.
I personally have been married three times. The first two both lasted less than two years. My present marriage, however, has lasted over 20 years. Looking back I can assure you my first two marriage's were lacking in several if not all of the four C's.
Commitment is like a contract. Whenever you sign a contract, regardless of what it's for, purchasing a vehicle, borrowing money, whatever, what are doing? In most cases you are committing to certain terms for a certain length of time. Like contracts relationships must have commitment.
You cannot enter a relationship and expect it to last if you are not 100% committed going in. How many times have you heard or perhaps even said things like, "I've decided to get married and if it doesn't work I'll just get a divorce." Or "I'll give this job a shot, if I don't like it I can always quit." No matter what it is your entering into if you haven't made your mind up to be totally committed then your chances of it lasting is zero to none.
Then there's the myth that love can overcome anything. This is indeed a beautiful thought but unfortunately it just isn't true. Regardless of how much you love, your spouse, your job, your friend, love is not always going to be enough. Without total commitment there is no way you're going to make it through all the trials that are going to come your way. Just because you love your job doesn't mean it will last. The first time you get ticked off at the boss or a co-worker or someone gets a promotion you feel you deserved, no matter how much you love your job if you're not totally committed to doing whatever it takes to stick it out you are going to quit. It works the same way in personal relationships. When the going gets tough and it will, if you're not 100% committed you will soon find yourself looking for a way out.
Take school for instance. How likely are you to complete a 2, 4 or 6-year college program unless you've committed yourself to doing whatever it takes? Without commitment most of us would drop out in first year. Commitment is the first step in achieving a long-term relationship, whether it is in business, school or in our personal lives, but commitment is not enough in and of itself. You must also be able to communicate.
According to everything I've read written by psychologists they all seem to agree that one of the major problems with relationships today is lack of communication. Communicating involves much more than simply sending a verbal message. Communication also means listening. You can talk all day long but if your message is not being heard then you are not communicating. If someone else is speaking to you and you do not listen then you are not communicating. In order to maintain a long-term relationship we need to be aware of how we communicate, what we're communicating not only with our words but also with our body language and we need to learn and be willing to receive whatever feedback is returned.
Think back to when you were first dating, or when you first got married, or when you first started a new job. It seemed you where always communicating. You probably talked in length about things like your likes, your dislikes, your dreams, your goals. And weren't you eager to listen and really hear what your partner had to say, or even your co-workers. Stephen Artburn listed several principles for good communication in his book, Winning at Work Without Losing at Love. Three of those rules are: Avoid name-calling and placing blame, be aware of your body language, and be conscious of when to use the word "I" and when to use the word "You". For example: instead of saying "Johnny you are such a slob. Why can't you ever pick up after yourself?" Try saying something like, "Johnny I would appreciate it if you could help me out by picking up your clothes and putting them in the hamper." Sometimes simply by thinking before we speak and learning to phrase things in such a way that the other person doesn't feel put down we can resolve a lot of issues. The minute you start blaming someone, they automatically get defensive and communication stops.
In order to keep communications flowing in a relationship you need to communicate daily; not just about the big things but the little things as well. How often do we tell our friends or even acquaintances about something our child did or something we saw or felt but never shared that same little tidbit of information with our closest partner? How often do you ask your friends or co-workers questions to find out little things about them that will help us to know and understand them better? We should use this same tactic with our partners. Don't assume just because you've been with someone for a while that you know everything about him or her. I've been married twenty years and though I believe I know my husband fairly well, I feel certain there are simple everyday questions you could ask me about him that I probably could not answer.
The third thing I believe is imperative to any long-term relationship is compromise. It has been my experience that most men have a harder time with this then women. Maybe it's just in our nature to be more compromising then men, I'm not sure. But what I am sure of is, no relationship is going to stand the test of time without a willingness to compromise. No two people are exactly alike so all relationships from time to time or going to be faced with situations where one or the other has to be willing to give in. I'm not saying you should compromise your beliefs in order to maintain a long-term relationship. What I am saying is we have to be willing to analyze the situation and come to an agreement that both parties can live with. My mother once told me that the word Love does not include the letter "I".
In the beginning of a relationship it seems easy to compromise. "Where do you want to eat? Oh, anyplace is fine with me whatever you want. Well I want whatever you want." Or, what movie do you want to go see? I want to see want ever you want to see. You pick." How far do we usually get into a relationship before these responses turn into things like? "We always go there I want to go here." Or I really hate science fiction movies I'd rather see a comedy." Compromise is probably one of the hardest things to maintain in a long-term relationship. Why? Because once the newness of a relationship wears off, and it will, then compromise becomes work. Once you learn the art of compromising you'll find that when your partner sees your willingness to compromise he or she in return will also become more willing to compromise.
The fourth C is consideration. Just how important is consideration in a relationship? Think about the people that we are considerate of everyday; our friends, our neighbors, or teachers, or employers, or co-workers, our fellow students. If we were not considerate of all these people in some way how hard would our life be? The majority of the time when ever you've been considerate of someone they usually try to show you the same consideration. Consideration seems to breed consideration. Being considerate means being thoughtful, respectful, thankful and willing to put the other person first. How often do we tell our partner's thank you? When your spouse or partner does something that is routine say like taking the trash out, or washing the car do you tell them thank you, or do you wait and save your thank-you's for the big things? How often do you take into consideration what kind of day your partner had before you bombard them with first one thing and then another. Sometimes when we receive negative responses from others it's simply because the timing was bad. I believe that in order grow a relationship must be sprinkled with consideration in order to make it grow and blossom.
Now that you know the four C's to establishing a long-term relationship, commitment, communication, compromise, and consideration, there is one more thing you must know. None of these are achieved by accident. It takes work. Sure youre going to slip from time to time but the key is not giving up. So you have an argument with your spouse or co-worker and you realize, hey that could have been handled differently. If I had been a little more considerate or if I had communicated my feelings better things may have turned out differently. So do you throw in the towel? No. You vow that next time you'll take moment to think before you speak or act. Relationships are an ongoing work in progress. You just keep working till you get it right.
I'd like to leave you with a quote by Ronni Lundy; "Onion soup sustains. The process of making it is somewhat like the process of learning to love. It requires commitment, extraordinary effort, time and it will make you cry."