The past few years have been stressful for individuals and families alike. Starting with the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020 that left many in pain including the death of a spouse and/or a family member, and the loss of employment or businesses.
Additionally, the skyrocketing cost of living has not helped alleviate the challenges we are faced with today. Prolonged drought has seen many people deal with severe starvation.
Although we have managed to pull through into the New Year that is full of hope, the impact of what we have survived may have taken a toll on our relationships.
Because of the dynamic nature of relationships, many families found themselves crumbling at the weight of these challenges even after many years of emotional and spiritual investment.
When tough moments come, the many years of relating together including the history a couple may have made together, the network of friendships and children raised together, and experiences that have shaped the marriage can be shaken.
The question is whether we have invested well such that we can withstand the storms. If not, how can we invest differently so that such history of joy can be protected against such odds because it is worth fighting for.
In conflicting moments, the foundation of the relationship will be tested to the limits. However, we have to keep in mind certain key practices:
First, the quality of your first love is key to your stability. While some spouses build their first love on infatuations and unrealistic expectations, others found theirs on simple love with no complications. What we built our relationship on counts in stormy moments.
Experience has shown that each relationship is built on unique memories that formed part of its foundation. These could be shared habits or values that enrich a relationship.
In retrospect, when spouses dream of dating and later getting married, their future relies on a firm foundation of rich memories and values that become the bedrock on which years of history, favour, fare fights, joyful moments, and dreams rest.
If care is not taken to build and nurse your relationship on such special memories, the foundation can crack during moments of upheaval and testing.
The fact about relationships is that the foundation elements such as respect, trust, responsibility and faithfulness are crucial because they set great families apart. Therefore, to stand the test of time, we must avoid building on momentary pleasure.
Secondly, pick your values with care and stick to them. The choice of a spouse is as key as the ability to build and maintain a healthy relationship with them.
Therefore, although starting right is key, it is more gratifying to build on the characteristics that both spouses were passionate about at the inception of the relationship.
The problem starts when those sacred core elements that the relationship was built on are eroded through negligence or lack of investment.
It is of interest to note that in the army, picking a target and maintaining it is part of the game plan of winning any battle. On the contrary, during conflicts and because of poor investments in the core values of a fun-filled satisfying relationship, the crumbling of a relationship becomes eminent.
Consequently, care must be taken in protecting and nurturing those values like respect and honour if the relationship is to produce the desired fruit.
If for example, certain character elements of your spouse formed part of your first love experience, nothing should be allowed to distort or kill it. Therefore, values like being trustworthy, faithful, honourable, and open should form part of the culture on which the relationship rests.
Sadly, resting your relationship on a foundation of lust and half-truths will be risky and unproductive for the marriage. So, remembering the values that made your first love thrive is part of maturing your love life.
Of course, if some of the values we rested love life on were based on fleshly desires, then they need to be shed off. If not, this will become the bedrock on which future experiences will be built.
Third, mind the visible and invisible cracks. Seeing stuff in the relationship and ignoring or sweeping them under the rug can be dangerous. Such issues can build up into a volatile volcano that will cause cracks and erupt unexpectedly.
When cracks like uneasy silence, regular poor communication stunts, and distancing start to show, they should not be ignored. Cracks in any relationship speak of weaknesses emanating from past or present experiences. Therefore, they must be investigated to the core.
The issue at times is not if we can understand the causes of the crack, but rather if we have the collective will to seek resolution together. A couple will most often discover that the issues causing the cracks could have started earlier in the relationship or as a result of a fault line in the upbringing of either spouse.
I have written about relating intelligently in this column before. This is helpful where a spouse uses the known to help in the resolution of the issues at hand. Most spouses would normally be tempted to use what they know about the other as a secret weapon.
Instead, information at our disposal if used negatively to confront the bad traits without involving wisdom will deepen the cracks. The most dangerous are the cracks that are visible to one partner but surprisingly invisible to the other. In relationships, the one with knowledge about the crack must seek to build consensus in dealing with the crack. It takes two to make a relationship work.
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