Fairy tales are wonderful stories for young children. They give us a sense of place and a great deal of hopefulness for the future. Of course, someday my Prince (or Princess) will come and we will live happily ever after... Yet, why does the story always end when the two finally meet? What does happily ever after mean?
Contrary to popular belief and, perhaps, our own fantasy life, good relationships don't just "happen". They take thoughtfulness, time, love, and work. Progressing through recognizable stages, all relationships experience crises and demand at least some flexibility on our parts. A willingness to stay together through the storms is the only way to get to the peacefulness on the other side. Yet (in my opinion) it is all very much worth it. A good relationship can not only bring us much joy and happiness, but it can also be one of the most freeing experiences of life. With that in mind, let's examine the process.
The Stages of Relationship
The first stage of a relationship is the attraction/ honeymoon phase (Oh, my goodness, we're JUST alike!). You meet. You think you like one another. You've been lonely for so long and now, finally(?), here's someone who understands you. You fall in love. Now, you can't get enough of each other.
The second stage begins when you get to know each other well enough to become aware of the FATAL FLAW (or flaws). THIS wasn't what I bargained for! Isn't there some mistake? Hopefully, you haven't totally gotten past phase one yet, so there's still some interest in hanging out together and seeing what happens. EVERY RELATIONSHIP GOES THROUGH THIS STAGE.
As none of us is perfect (who would want to have to be?) and we all bring our past histories into new relationships, no two people automatically fit together like hands and gloves. Even your soul mate (and I believe in them) won't exactly "match". Think about it. If we live thousands of lifetimes (as I truly feel we do) and only sometimes connect with our soul mates, then he or she has a completely different "set" of past experiences to color where he or she is at. That's just how it is.
The third stage of a relationship involves sorting it through. What, exactly, can you learn to live with and what needs to be addressed? The fact that the toothpaste tube gets squeezed from the top or the toilet paper comes off the roll from the bottom is, in the grand manner of things, not that big of a deal. If, however, one of you wants children and the other doesn't, that needs to be discussed. Or, if you would like to live in Hawaii and he or she prefers England, you need to talk.
The next stage of a relationship requires working it through. If you get resentful that you're the only one who squeezes the toothpaste from the bottom, stop. Who really cares if there's a little pile of dirty socks at the end of the bed? A smoker living with a nonsmoker could be asked to limit this activity to one or two rooms.
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A sense of humor can make all the difference in the world during this phase. Plan on doing some give and take here; and I emphasize BOTH -- not just give and not just take. And, remember, it takes time. Communicate. Listen. Bargain. And, perhaps most important of all, THINK.
In my opinion, one of the commonest mistakes made in relationships is believing that love is enough. While love is absolutely necessary, don't forget to use your head! Human nature may be strange, but it is absolutely predictable. Think it through.
The final stage of a relationship is a great and abiding friendship with ease. By this time, you know each other well enough (probably better than you even wanted!) to know what to expect. You have a history together. You've survived a few crises. You've quite literally learned to live with one another.
This is the payoff phase and it can really be quite wonderful. But this stage doesn't come after a few short weeks or even a few months. It generally takes years to get here. Hang in there because it is well worth it.
Rules For A Great Relationship
All relationships are different. They come in as many shapes and sizes as the bountiful palette of humans. However, the following are a few guidelines designed to assist you in the building of a good, long lasting relationship.
1. Be fair. Who wants to live with someone who isn't?
2. Be honest, but not brutally so. There's a fine line between what you could say and what you truly need to say. Be aware of where it is and don't cross it.
3. Keep it even. Good relationships happen between equals; whatever that means to you. It is helpful to have similar backgrounds, values, and goals, but more necessary to keep a balance between you. If you feel you are doing more than your fair share, stop. Allowing your relationship to lean or list to one side is the fastest way to make it fall.
4. Fight fair. It's healthy to fight. It clears the air and keeps resentments from building. However, keeping the fight to the matter at hand is crucial. Never, ever, make proclamations such as "You're just like your mother", etc. Remember, too, that although most of what we are shown in this world is us versus them, a relationship is built on a partnership model.
5. Maintain a strong sense of self and know who you are. As far as I'm concerned, we come to this planet to learn individuality and free will (my husband, Bob, calls it Freewill 101). We do, indeed, create our own realities. Because our major lesson in life is selfhood, relationships that don't honor this fact do not last. We cannot complete ourselves in another; it simply isn't allowed. It is also important to realize that human beings have very addictive personalities. While some folks may think that they want to have happy lives and good relationships, they are actually much too addicted to the drama of being able to tell sad stories.
6. Know and nourish your own boundaries. Fairy tales and soap opera romances would have us believe that the purpose of a healthy match is to immerse ourselves in one another. Nothing could be further from the truth. Once we lose our boundaries in a relationship, it is only a matter of time before it dies. Shakespeare spoke of this in Romeo and Juliet. Again, because this, too, is a violation of individuality, it simply isn't allowed to continue.
7. Have fun. Relationships shouldn't be all work, but sometimes learning how to have fun is actually quite a challenge. Learning how to laugh at ourselves can speed up this process greatly. Laughter can also be very disarming and a touch of humor is the fastest way to break tensions. If you aren't blessed with a good sense of humor already, don't despair. It can be learned.
8. Listen and communicate. Words. What do they mean? The same words actually mean different things to different people. Because we all bring our pasts with us and no two individuals come from exactly the same place, words often contain unintended hooks and barbs.
I have a friend who used to routinely answer his wife's inquiries with "I don't care." What he meant, of course, was, "Well, if that's something you want to do, go ahead." One day, she collapsed in tears and said, "How can you keep saying that you don't care?" He never said it again.
Words are also the means by which we continually create the stories of our lives. Our thoughts are constantly imprinting on our own subconscious "computers" and what we think and believe to be true about ourselves happens. Don't underestimate your own very real power.
9. Be forgiving. Everyone makes mistakes. I suspect that every relationship has moments when any self-respecting man or woman should pack his or her bags and move out. The bottom line is, do you really want to? Because if you don't, you could be complicating things with a show of temper. Then, again, sometimes statements are necessary. Think it through but be ready with forgiveness when the time comes for reconciliation.
10. Nourish the love. Be affectionate. Love is the glue that keeps people together in relationships. After all, it's hard enough living with somebody that you DO love. Lovers should also be friends, but friends who are not lovers are just playing house.
11. Avoid ultimatums. Ultimatums are very dramatic and can easily grab attention. They can also get you into big trouble fast.
12. Cultivate activities done together and separately. Relationships need common ground, but they also need spaces. Keeping some of your own interests and friends gives you something to talk about when you get back together.
13. Don't share absolutely everything. Do we really need to know that your last lover was better in bed or a bigger wage earner? I think not.
14. Last but not least: If you MUST throw something, make sure it's soft because it's probably coming back!
Reprinted with permission of the publisher,
Sweet Fern Publications, New Hampshire, USA. ©2000.
This article is excerpted from the book:
by Celeste B. Longacre.
This is a book written all about you, your loved ones and your relationships. Through the lens of astrology, Celeste describes-in detail-all of the signs of the Zodiac and how they get along with all of the other signs. Imagine discovering not only which match or matches are the sweetest for you, but how to make the best out of each and every one! At the end of the book, Celeste describes how to turn a romance into a relationship. With a great deal of humor, Celeste has filled this volume with love and understanding.
About the Author
Celeste Longacre is a member of the New England Chapter of the National Speakers Association. Her appearance on NBC's "Today Show" was picked as one of the best of the year. She also has a syndicated weekday radio show in New Hampshire. Visit her website at www.yourlovesigns.com or contact her at [email protected].