The Love Connection

Every day each of us encounter someone, somewhere. Maybe it's at work, the grocery store, or the gym. Eye contact is made, perhaps a greeting or even a conversation. Some contacts are superficial while others are more meaningful and depending on the mood, stress or activities of the moment. These relationships can be strengthened or weakened in any given day.

Materials of this world come and go. Jobs come and go, but our relationships are all we will die with. When we are newly attracted to a person, we want to spend all of our time with them. Once an avid hiker, we find ourselves on the couch watching movies with our new interest, because we want to spend each waking moment with that person. The relationship blossoms. 

The work environment gives the opportunity to spend time with people we normally wouldn't have had the opportunity to know. Most of our waking hours are spend with our co-workers. Relationships can grow and become quite meaningful. Likely, there are people you have worked with in the past that remain friends. We have to opportunity to share life experiences and frustrations. The key is to not overstep the boundaries between work and play. Co-workers of the same gender can be safe, while those that are not, can be tricky to navigate. Working closely to a person of the opposite sex can easily move into a relationship that is not healthy, especially if both parties are married. These relationships are further strained when one or both marriages are not a happy. Office affairs commonly happen because of the closeness felt when striving to meet the same goals, working closely together, and late night meetings, social entertaining with clients make a window for opportunity to cross the sacred boundary.

Raising children is both rewarding and stressful. It's a very busy time of life that puts strain on many marriages and friendships. The core of life seems to be wrapped around raising the children and just surviving another day. Pressures of work and career with late nights, traveling and meetings, puts an even bigger strain on the relationship. Statistically, only 50% of marriages make it through to the end, with the other half calling it quits. In Christian marriages, only about 10% end in divorce, however, of those staying in the marriage, only about 20% report being happy. What happened to those thrilling days in the new relationship?

In the beginning, we want to spend all our time with the other person, often taking on roles we wouldn't have otherwise. According to Harville Hendrix, PhD, in his book Getting the Love You Want, he identifies four stages couples go through. The first stage is romantic. It's the selection process and attraction, and we try to be what the other person wants us to be. From that stage we move to a power struggle when each person resumes their own identity. At this stage couples move from diffusion to differentiation. Not as much time is invested in the relationship as hobbies, careers, and activities draw the couple away from one another.

The third stage, according to Dr Hendrix, is the resolution stage. There are two possible scenarios in this stage. First is the parallel relationship, whereby, the couple withdrawals from each other and operate their lives with great care around their children or business. They engage in social activities, but are no longer intimate or sexual, but decide to stay together and individual needs are met through careers, spirituality, or affairs. The other relationship is the hot marriage, whereby the couple continuously and constantly fight. Most of these end in divorce.

The fourth then, is the coming together stage. When two people have become aware of the unconscious interactions in their relationship, they can decide to work on the relationship. The first thing that needs to be done is to close the exits that take each person away from the relationship and make a re-commitment to the each other. Not fulfilling self desires or one's own needs, but the other persons needs. Removing negativity and accept the other partner's otherness and who they are.

Dialog is vital to any relationship, especially in a marriage. By taking action that sustains the connection, it will deepen intimacy. When one partner speaks, listen. Repeat what you think they have said. Validate what they are trying to say, and then, accept their truths by showing empathy. Relationships can wax and wane throughout the years. The daily stresses can be magnified and become a real fracture in a relationship, but working together, couples can come out on the other side victorious.

health bite: The relationship that is nurtured is the one that will survive.