When men and women come together to form a relationship, it's a wonderful thing but complicated. Relationships don't conform to the idea that one size fits all: what works for one won't for another, because individuals and the relationships they form are unique. It's important to realize that there's no set of prescripts that can be uniformly applied to all relationships.
You can't even tell for sure why a relationship exists between a man and a woman - is it a union love of shared pastimes, or physical attraction, or something else? Because relationships are unique, the agreements that couples develop that keep them together are also unique.
While there are no comprehensive regulations for the conduct of a relationship, there are deeper elements of a relationship that can be identified. Without these elements, it's doubtful that the relationship will last.
Communication is the first great element of a flourishing relationship. This means the opening of hearts and sharing of things like dreams and plans for the future. It's easy to talk about the morning's headlines or last night's television program. Real communication, though, requires real honesty and self-giving. The kind of communication that occurs every day, of course, is different - couples have to be able to discuss everyday matters, plan the dinner menu, review schedules to make certain they can reach each other. But they'll also discuss the obstacles they're facing on the job, they'll talk about problems within their relationship, and they'll share their own feelings.
Relationships where the partners don't also share their emotions with each other have an unstable foundation. Good communication knows no fear - a couple should be able to share anguish and worry with each other as well as triumph and joy. The next component of a great relationship flows easily from the first.
Closely related with good communication, honesty is the next crucial foundation of a great relationship. Couples who make the commitment to start a relationship together, sharing their lives, impair themselves seriously if they cannot be honest with each other. There's a tendency at the beginning to over-romanticize a relationship and for couples to put each other on a pedestal - part of the purpose of honesty in a relationship relates to understanding and accepting that one's partner is simply human and actually mortal, not some perfect being that must be impressed and catered to at all times.
Lies - even the most well-meaning "little white lies," designed to avoid hurting someone - usually are exposed at the most inopportune times, and their motivation is often misunderstood. A relationship in which lies have been revealed faces significant obstacles. Partners in a relationship who are reluctant to share the truth with the other, even if it means at least momentarily hurting their feelings, are well advised to examine their own commitment to the relationship.
The last foundation of good relationships is forgiveness, which comes from true love. As God forgives us our sins, no matter how serious, we should emulate Him and strive to have a forgiving heart when our partner fails us.
Too often, people in a relationship will claim to forgive each other, but in the heat of an argument will dredge up these past "sins" or shortcomings they claim to have forgiven. Forgiveness doesn't mean stashing transgressions away like ammunition for use later on - it means erasing them and moving forward. Paradoxically, it is through forgiveness that a couple can realize the depth of their love for each other.
Couples for whom these three elements form the basis of the relationship can be assured of many happy years together. Far more relationships are broken up than survive, and the cause of that breakup is often the lack of one or more of these crucial elements. Couples who want to remain together and realize that their relationship is missing one of these components, like a stool with fewer than three legs, had better start work immediately to start growing the foundation of communication, trust and forgiveness that characterizes the greatest relationships of all time.
Steve Steiner enjoys helping men improve their relationship and manage the problems that they may experience in relating with and dating women.