Over the years I have heard many great pieces of advice and heard incredible stories of couples who have beat the odds, weathered incredible adversity from the death of children, to houses burning to the ground, to living homeless together (or taking shelter separately when the family shelters were full). I have heard amazing ways that they have found to show their support and love and dedication to each other. I have seen years melt from their faces as they recalled their “how we met” stories and told the story of the birth of their children. I have seen them giggle like teenagers when telling stories of their wilder years together and the look of humble disbelief as they tell of the times when they hurt each other and had to find their way back.
One of my favorite questions to ask is “what was your secret to staying together so long?”
The answers are always enlightening and are nearly as varied as the people themselves…but one of my favorite answers (there have been many of course), which I have heard more than a few times, is simple, unromantic and REAL:
“What is the secret?”
“The secret is…..nobody left.”
Said with a simple, straight face, the facts are the facts. Sometimes the secret to staying together is as simple as “nobody left.”
Rarely am I satisfied unless I am asking another question, the next inquiry from me was “what stopped you from leaving?”…and that is where the road forks again into a myriad of answers. Because we were both too stubborn. Because I didn’t know where to go and by the time I started to figure it out, I wasn’t mad anymore. Because I didn’t want to be the one who split first. Because I was too tired. Because I was too busy. Because it seemed harder to start over again. Because I didn’t want to have to train a new one. Because being hurt or angry passes, unless you don’t let it. Because I knew that if I held on long enough, this too would pass and we would settle down and make it right again.
No matter what the answer, the answer is still the same “nobody left”. Sometimes not leaving takes a great deal of perseverance and sometimes it doesn’t. It has a lot to do with your perspective, but one thing I have seen over and over again from these long-term, strong and loving couples is this: They didn’t leave and all these years later, they are glad they persevered.
PERSEVERANCE: HOW DO YOU DO IT?
But how do you persevere when all you want to do is quit, you might ask (this is a common and good question). Here are some steps to take:
- Make a solemn pact from the beginning to never make a permanent decision when you are in a place of distress or elevated emotion.
- Be willing and verbal about agreeing together that there will be times ahead where one of you will be more vested in the relationship than the other and just know that this is normal and IS going to happen (more than once if you are going for forever).
- Make sure you get some help by an unbiased helper (counselor, coach) when this does happen so that they can help you with the difficult conversations and keep communication going.
- Focus on what is good, what is right, why you chose this person to start with and allow them the grace of making mistakes and being human sometimes. Do this for yourself as well.
The bottom line is to give each other your best patience and understanding and keep the communication going (get help if this is too hard!).
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