Where are the Relationship Role Models?
I grew up odd, because unlike so many people in this country, my birth parents remained together, we all had the same last names, I didn’t have any step-siblings and all I knew was a strong family sensibility.
My parents are past their celebrated 50th Wedding Anniversary! And what is even more remarkable, they wrote a book (“Still Holding Hands: A Whimsical Guide Through the ABC’s of a Long Term Relationship”) to commemorate their accomplishment and also to give out the wisdom being together for so long ensures.
So what does one do with the knowledge that their togetherness has ingrained? Most of my married friends say they use my mom and dad as a model for how they would like their relationships to go. And I agree. What I think most people don’t get to have when their parents split up, is a day-to-day upfront seat around what makes love, life, and getting through the good and the bad work.
So here is what I learned:
1. It takes work.
We tend to forget that if a garden isn’t tended to, it will go haywire, bring out lots of messy weeds and not bring us the greatest pleasure it was meant to do. Same as relationships. Tending to them, nurturing, watering, seeding. Sure it takes extra time, and the sun might be too hot, or you may be too tired, but there is no excuse. Take care. Give care. No matter what.
2. Respect seems to be the way to go.
As important as loving and liking your partner, I have noticed that respecting them is almost more important. Because then you will make a note to listen, to pay attention, to give credit and ‘props’ where and when they are due. And the other person just blossoms under that. Who doesn’t feel better after being acknowledged and attended to?
3. Generosity and kindness, not just for each other but for the world.
My folks are brilliant out in public. Whether they are conversing with a waiter, a CEO or a child, they are always playful and giving. Imagine a life that is so full that it can’t be contained just for them, it must trickle out to others. And there are always extra perks - upgrades everywhere, extra attention to their needs, just because they smiled, or joked around or lent a helping hand.
4. Sex. Keep having it.
Yeah, they used to embarrass the heck out of me when I was a kid, but I have to say, the PDA were great learning tools. Expressing love and not hiding it is pretty liberating. Also being so relaxed around passion and lust keeps everyone from gathering hang ups along the way. Not that anything needs to be graphic or uncomfortable — but you can feel the electricity, the bond and it is inspiring. (Although I will say, I came up with the final line in the bio for their book, and they had to think about it since it was kinda racy…but I mean, hey, who taught me to be ok with it, after all??)
5. It’s always a choice.
The mantra in our family when someone did something nice was, “OK, we will keep you for another week.” I don’t think I ever wondered whether there was an actual potential that I would be kicked out for any reason, but there was something to re-upping the commitment on a weekly basis. Don’t take for granted that we want to be with one another. My parents renewed their vows at least 3 times through the years. And their speeches at their 50th Anniversary were wonderfully committed to the great idea of their being a couple and keeping at it…for at least another week.