Having done my share of marriage counseling, I have found a somewhat unique approach which one day I would like to develop more. It is based on three basic pillars of a successful relationship. They are the following:
Trust – For a relationship to get to first base there must be a basic trust between two individuals. Do I trust that she tells me the truth? Do I trust that he is loyal to me? Can I trust that she will follow through on things she says she will do? Can I trust him to be a good provider in a legal and honest manner?
If that trust is not secure, then it is very hard for a person to really invest in a relationship, because the very foundation of the building is still not solid and as a result it could fall apart without notice when our worst fears of distrustful behavior come to the surface. Once trust is compromised, it can take a long time to repair.
Respect is a much more complicated pillar, which comes in many packages.
Do we speak respectfully to each other? Do we give sincere compliments?
Do one or both of us want to change the other?
Do one or more of us often criticize the other, even in a positive, helpful manner?
Do we respect boundaries that we know can cause embarrassment, in public or even in private? It is important that we share those sensitive areas with our partner so they are away from what boundaries we expect them to respect.
Are we aware of how comments, some of which may seem very innocuous, are perceived by the other?
An important part of respect is letting our partner know in a very real way that we not only respect them and their opinions, but only their personality, idiosyncrasies, and even some of their ‘strange behaviors’. It is our job to build up our partner and help them with their self-confidence, self-esteem, and personal happiness. It is important to know that money cannot really be the main part of establishing either trust or respect in a marriage. It has a role, but our very being must be invested in order to put our partner at ease that these two pillars are on a solid foundation.
When a person feels disrespected, even if it is only their perception, it can easily undermine the relationship and deaden the emotional bond.
The third pillar is meeting a persons needs. We count on our partner for those needs to be met and fulfilled, and hope that they will want to rise to the occasion. This is one way to show our love and respect when we do respond to those needs, be they financial, emotional, intellectual, or social. They may be complex and sometimes difficult to meet, but they are the cement that makes the relationship a well oiled machine that we want to continuously invest time and energy into. If a person feels trust and respect, but their needs are not being met, it still can push a relationship to the edge. Obviously we are not all in a position to meet all the needs of our loved ones, but if most are not met, it can put a very real obstacle in the way of a successful relationship.
The acrostic TRAIN is not coincidental, being that:
There are many stages in the process of internalizing these three pillars, and we have to keep them moving.
Most importantly, we have to train, or retrain, ourselves and exercise our free choice on a regular basis in order to make sure that we are practicing all the stages in a sincere and effective manner.
When these three pillars are all getting a fair shake and our partner feels that an effort is being made, then a marriage can grow and the love can increase with time.