Relationships & Love

I don’t pre­tend to be an author­ity of any kind, but I’ve learned a lot about liv­ing with and lov­ing peo­ple by doing it. I have been mar­ried three times. All three mar­riages ended in divorce. I did, at least, make dif­fer­ent mis­takes each time! Count in all the oth­ers I’ve known, and I have to say that my life has been blessed with an abun­dance of love.

I am hon­ored to have enjoyed a fourteen-year life part­ner­ship with Sam that was the deep­est and health­i­est rela­tion­ship I had ever expe­ri­enced up until that time. I learned a great deal from it. My rela­tion­ship with Rick is even health­ier, and grows deeper day by day.

Over the course of time, I’ve been a cus­to­dial and non-custodial mother and step­mother, as well as a step-grandmother. I’ve lived in nuclear fam­i­lies (my par­ents are still mar­ried to each other after all these years) and blended fam­i­lies and on my own (before and after becom­ing a par­ent) with and with­out kids and as part of a cou­ple with­out kids or one with kids vis­it­ing on the week­ends. I’ve been in monog­a­mous and inten­tion­ally non-monogamous rela­tion­ships. I’ve been through the remar­riage, divorce and death of my daughter’s father. All this stuff adds up to a lot of life lived in 48 years, and that’s before all that I’ve learned from observ­ing oth­ers’ rela­tion­ships. Oh — did I men­tion that I am appar­ently related to the entire pop­u­la­tion of Alabama and most of that of north Geor­gia? Lots of mate­r­ial right there in the family.

Any­way, I’ve come to the con­clu­sion that rela­tion­ships that end or change are not fail­ures. I real­ize that there is a school of belief that says every roman­tic rela­tion­ship is sup­posed to be “hap­pily ever after.” That’s right up there with the whole “soul­mates” meme for caus­ing harm, as far as I’m concerned.

Peo­ple change. Some­times they change in ways that cause them to no longer be com­pat­i­ble with their part­ners. The health­i­est way to deal with that, I think, is to admit it, mourn the loss, and try to change the rela­tion­ship to one that does work for all involved. That avoids the drama and hard feel­ings that come with assum­ing that such rela­tion­ships have “failed,” and the con­comi­tant harm from the peo­ple involved con­sid­er­ing them­selves failures.

Rela­tion­ships are not about win­ning and los­ing, or keep­ing score in any way. They are suc­cess­ful if they con­tribute to the well-being of those involved in them. That don’t have to last for­ever to do so.

I am more and more con­vinced that healthy rela­tion­ships can only be built by healthy peo­ple who know what they want, ask for it, ful­fill their com­mit­ments, and live a very con­scious, inten­tional life. Rela­tion­ships take work. They take skills that are the same across all types of rela­tion­ships, whether roman­tic, famil­ial, busi­ness, aca­d­e­mic, social — you name it. At one time my dear friend Ron and I were talk­ing about the “life cur­ricu­lum” Sam and I had set up for our kids, and one of the things that he brought up were rela­tion­ship skills. That wasn’t on my list before, and I real­ized that their pres­ence is a major con­trib­u­tor to a person’s over­all func­tion­al­ity and hap­pi­ness in life.

Chil­dren are best raised sur­rounded by peo­ple with whom they can have long-lasting rela­tion­ships. Peo­ple of all ages, related by blood or not, who care about them. In fact, the more diver­sity the bet­ter, as far as I’m con­cerned. They’ll be able to con­nect with peo­ple who aren’t their par­ents, they’ll see how other fam­i­lies live and love, they’ll see how other peo­ple par­ent, they’ll see what other peo­ple with dif­fer­ent kinds of jobs or edu­ca­tions live. They can ask ques­tions they might not wish to ask their par­ents. I grew up with a very large extended fam­ily. Our chil­dren didn’t have that much blood fam­ily nearby, but they were sur­rounded by our fam­ily of choice, as we were truly blessed with deep friend­ships with incred­i­ble people.

Is there one true, right way to “do” rela­tion­ships? No, I don’t think so. The “right” way is the way that works for the peo­ple involved at any given time. But the com­mon ele­ment is always love.

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