Mary and I celebrated our 48th anniversary in June, so here are some thoughts about making your relationships fresh.
One of the inevitabilities of a long-term relationship is that life gets in the way!
When we first met in 1970, everything was bright and beautiful. And for the first ten years of our marriage, it was natural and effortless to pay loving attention to each other. But then again, life began getting in the way.
We had our two daughters, we both worked, and modern living began to intrude, interrupt and interfere. In addition, our culture encourages us to put our own needs on the back burner and more significantly the needs of our partner on the back burner. We began learning that we can survive inside this state of deprivation, reassuring ourselves that it is temporary, or noble, or maybe just the cost of being married so long.
However, those needs don’t actually go anywhere. They just go unmet.
And studies have discovered that we then become more and more deprived, unhappy, and distracted by them NOT being met. We can skip a meal and it’s fine; but eventually, we’re going to be really hungry. The same thing happens with our need for attention and nurturing by our partner becomes acute. We can cope for a while, but eventually, it’s all we can think about.
However, studies are discovering that focusing on our own needs is by its very nature, insatiable. In other words, when you lock onto your own needs, they will never be completely met
There is a parable called the “Parable of the Long Spoons.” In this allegory, there are two groups of hungry people, both set up at tables with plenty of food, but forced to use spoons that are too long to reach the food that is right there in front of them. In one group, each person is solely focused on feeding themselves, forever failing, continuing to starve and suffer. The other group, however, realizes that while it is, in fact, impossible to feed one’s self – what they can do is feed each other. And so, each one uses their spoon to feed someone else, learning that the more their focus is on feeding others the more that they themselves are fed.
So Mary and I have discovered (and are still discovering) that our relationship thrives the most when we choose to reach out to each other.
So, here’s the secret: We are at our happiest when we are actively loving the other person.
This has meant my telling Mary how beautiful she is, or taking her out on a surprise date. It also might mean her making a surprise meal for me, or buying a shirt for me at Macy’s just to say, “I am thinking about you.”
So, today, this is my encouragement to you. Let your focus be on lovingly tending the heart and health of your beloved. By doing that, you will discover, for yourself, how to keep your relationships fresh, but with those you love, and with yourself.
Steven Campbell is the author of “Making Your Mind Magnificent.” His seminar “Taming Your Mind, Unleashing Your Life” is now available on line at stevenrcampbell.teachable.com. For more information, call Steven Campbell at 707-480-5507.