What I had meant at the end of the last entry, was that 'the stuff' that settles in, as a relationship endures, but largely takes the place of the sparkly exciting stuff, (which served to get us in to the relationship to begin with), gets overlooked, because it is not AS exciting. But what it may lack in the Excitement Department, is made up in other ways. For instance how many people will tolerate your 'funny' little idiosynchrosies without (hardly ever) complaining, or who else can you be in the company of for several hours, with very few words being spoken between you both, yet it is still OK? Who else is your allie against the world, who else have you teamed up with, to raise a child, or to pay a mortgage? It is that stuff that is at the core of successful long-term relationships, yet it is largely invisible, being over-shadowed by the sexy & exciting chemically driven stuff that helped us to get hooked up to begin with, when the relationship was in its infancy. But if that initial buzz is not there now in the same way as it might have been, it does not mean that the relationship is no longer working. And I am not saying that relationships should still not be exciting as they unfold over time- of course they still can be. But that will not happen without you working at it. And do not underestimate the importance of the other stuff that is the glue of the longer term relationship- that is where the real relationship satisfaction can come from.
Look at the successful long-term relationships that you know of already- what is it that makes them work?
I guess one of the things that helps to really make a relationship endure over time, is how conflict is managed. Conflict is likely to be present to varying degrees, in all our core relationships- not just with our partners, but with our siblings, our parents, our kids, our friends, our workmates, etc. And that is OK- conflict with others is part of the human condition, whether we like it or not.. Therefore it is important to think about our own individual models (or maps) for conflict. How do I 'do' conflict, and what taught me to do it in this way?
There will be a bunch of factors that will shape our conflict model or map. One of these will be our own temperament, but perhaps of even greater significance will be what we were exposed to as maps or models of conflict (and also conflict resolution) were being formed, ie., when we were growing up..So did our parents have a means by which they worked through their issues..Or did we even see any conflict from them at all- did they never argue in front of the kids (probably not helpful, as you could potentially grow up thinking think that there is no such thing as conflict- which is of course inaccurate). Or did they fight and argue non-stop, recycling the same old issues, and never working through anything? (By the way, it is not helpful to have frequent, huge blazing rows in front of young kids - but even younger children can tolerate a degree of conflict so long as (and here's the thing) they see Mum and Dad being OK with each other again soon after- eg., a smile, a laugh, a hand on a shoulder, etc).
So a key factor in our conflict with others, is not so much the conflict itself, but instead how much my model of conflict fits (or not) with the person I am in the conflict with... What does it mean if I really feel quite energised with a good and hearty yelling much, yet the other person has had very limited exposure to conflict, and finds it very scary or overwhelming, and therefore runs a mile? How will we ever resolve anything, if we have completely different maps for conflict management?
There are of course some tactics or strategies that can ensure conflict has less of a negative impact on relationships- I'll talk some more about that later on..It's pretty straight forward stuff, yet not always well known. But what I think is more important is how your model of conflict sits alongside (or opposite to) those people whom you are likely to get into conflict with....
See related post: Conflict and the Noisy New Yorker.
"Some occasional thoughts about families, relationships, and other things that distract us...."