Sometime ago, I came to the realization that the romantic interaction between a man and a woman must be the greatest source of comedy for the Almighty. He created two creatures that have complete different mindsets and different ways of looking at life. He then paired us up, and required us to live as one in a monogamous relationship for the rest of our lives. Now, who said that God doesn’t have a sense of humor?
Amazingly, there have been many couples who, in their relationships, have successfully reached the goal set by God. This means that reaching the goal set by the Almighty is not an impossibility. The question then is: Is there is a set of rules that if followed, can lead us from a dating relationship into marital bliss?
I am old enough to know that the factors leading to a successful romantic relationship between a man and woman are too many and too complex to narrow down into a set of rules that would fit all relationships. Factors such as emotional maturity, age, religion, ethnicity, culture, education, personal interests, general attitudes about life, upbringing, individual experiences, personality traits, and yes, the physical attractiveness of your mate, can affect our desires and decision to form a permanent relationship with the person we are dating.
As humans, we are complex creatures, and even if it were possible to create a single set of rules for successful relationships, every relationship would still have its own individual dynamics and idiosyncrasies. Relationships are as diverse and unique as the sand crystals on a beach. What a person may dislike about his or her mate, another may consider it as an attractive quality. Our emotions, feelings, and outlook on things tend to change as our circumstances in life change. As we get older, we get a better understanding of how life truly works, and this affects and modifies the way we interact with others, including our mates. These changes may serve to bring us closer to our mate, or may just take us on a different path altogether.
Common to most romantically successful couples I have met, is a set of seven principles that are interrelated. These principles can facilitate the expression of love and affection within any relationship. I live by these principles in my own relationship and while they are not mutually exclusive, they have served me well. I am referring to basic principles that should be cultivated in any relationship during the dating period and which will help you transcend from dating into a successful marital relationship.
These seven principles are: (a) respect, (b) caring, (c) acceptance, (d) patience, (e) trust, (f) communication, and (g) encouragement.
a) Respect in a relationship is perhaps as important as love itself. Respect permeates into all other aspects of a relationship, and sets the tone and boundaries for its development and growth. I remember when I was beginning to date the woman who became my wife, she insisted on paying her own way. Eventually it came out that she did so because in two prior occasions before meeting me, she dated two different guys, and each of them expected sex from her just because they had paid for dinner and entertainment. This I refer to as “prostituting the date”, and it is a sign of disrespect. If you are a guy, do not prostitute the date. Be genuine and offer your gifts (dinner and entertainment included) to your date without any strings attached. If you stop thinking about sex and enjoy the companionship of the woman who has chosen to spend some time with you. She deserves your respect! You should always keep in mind that without respect, the interaction between a man and a woman will lack balance and fairness.
b) Caring for each other is the best way to gain and establish a sense of trust within a new relationship. Caring not only allows you to show concern for your mate’s physical well being, but also allows you to be more attentive and sensitive to his/her non-physical needs, wants, believes, fears, wishes, and dreams. If your mate feels that you care for him/her, he or she will be more likely to share very intimate thoughts with you, and to reciprocate the feeling. In turn, this will cause each of you to grow fonder of one another and draw you closer emotionally. Without a good sense of caring you will lack the cornerstone to build the foundation for a strong relationship that could stand the test of time.
c) Acceptance goes hand in hand with loving someone. If you are in a long term dating relationship with someone who has certain small habits that drive you crazy, do not deceive yourself believing that you can make him/her change. If the bad habit is harmless, you are better off accepting it, and concentrating on the positive aspects of the relationship.
On the other hand, if aggression, abusive language, or controlling behavior, are the bad habits at issue, then, they must not be tolerated under any circumstances. No matter how emotionally invested you are in your relationship, if your mate is aggressive, abusive, and/ or controlling, then ending the relationship will be in your best interest. Many women make the sad and awful mistake of marrying men, who during courtship, demonstrate their propensity to be controlling, aggressive, or abusive towards them. Abusive individuals may not be evil, but they require long-term counseling, and behavior modification therapy, in order to develop the tools that would allow them to interact properly in an intimate setting.
d) Patience is a virtue, and normally it comes with time and experience. Developing patience early during the dating relationship will transcend into the marital relationship. In addition, patience has a symbiotic relationship with your ability to extend acceptance and your willingness to show your caring behavior. The more you care and accept your mate, the greater your patience towards him/her. When your mate feels that you are patient, he/she becomes more endearing towards you, especially if no one else has shown such patience before. The fact that you are patient, will make him/her feel special, and that you care for him/her, and will make her/him feel emotionally closer to you and less inhibited.
e) Trust is an element that is key to a loving relationship. If you are not able to trust your mate, or if your mate does not trust you during the dating period, do not even get engaged. Trust should and must be cultivated early during courtship. If you have issues with trust, seek the help you need to resolve those issues before getting involved with another person. It would be unfair to your new mate for you to contaminate your new relationship with the garbage of your past relationship. If you think that you can establish trust during a period of engagement, or after you get married, for get it. You may as well place your trust into the belief that the sun turns off at night.
If you have your mate’s trust, do not destroy it by acting suspiciously and/or jealously, by raising false accusations, by arguing about things that happened in the past, or by using information your mate disclosed to you in confidence against him or her. If you stay with a person after he or she did something hurtful, and after you have forgiven the wrongful conduct, then do not throw the past conduct on his/her face. He or she will do the same to you, and the relationship will soon find itself in a slippery slope heading into divorce court.
f) Communication is important and is the key element that opens the door to understanding, patience, caring, forgiveness, acceptance, and trust. Communication requires active listening and a non-judgmental invitation for the other party to express his or her thoughts. Trying to carry out a relationship without communication is like trying to swim in an empty pool. In order to achieve effective communication you must get rid of any judgmental attitude and embrace the words of your mate, assimilate them, and learn from them what your mate is trying to say. If your mate feels that you will judge him/her or get angry, he or she will be less likely to express the concerns, fears, dreams, aspirations, believes, or any other feeling he/she may have. The judgmental attitude may manifest itself in your tone of voice when you speak or on your reaction to what your mate is trying to tell you.
Keep in mind that the inability to communicate freely can have a deteriorating effect on other aspects of your relationship. Trust, caring, acceptance, and respect will suffer the crippling effect of the communication gap. If your mate does not feel able to communicate with you, he or she is likely to find someone else to talk to, and this may unfortunately lead to an emotional attachment to the third party, and can eventually lead to an affair even if there was no initial intent to create a love affair.
g) Encouragement is the most inexpensive and priceless gift you can give your mate. Think of it. It feels good when you receive encouragement from someone, even when it is a stranger. It feels even greater when the person encouraging you is someone you love or care deeply about. When you encourage your mate to accomplish something, you lift his/her spirit and you send shiploads of positive messages such as, “I love you;” “I care about you;” “I have confidence in you;” “I think you are smart;” “I respect you,” and “I am proud of you.” In addition, by encouraging and providing support to your mate, you not only validate your mate but also your mate’s wants, wishes, dreams, and desires.
One time, after ten years of marriage, my wife expressed to me her hidden long-term dream of becoming an actress. She was floored when I told her that she would make a great actress and encouraged her to find an acting school. She began to cry and I became very confused. When I asked her why she was crying, she told me that she never shared her dream with me because the men she dated, before she met me, laughed at her when she told them of her dream to be an actress.
In conclusion, the best way to transcend from a dating relationship into a successful marriage, and to maintain the relationship alive after many years, is to treat your mate, as you would like your mate to treat you. Be positive and constructive at all times. You should always be respectful, caring, accepting, patient, trusting, openly communicative, and (g) encouraging. If you say or do something that may make your mate feel uncomfortable be quick to apologize and do not make things worse by trying to minimize the incident. Be ready to admit that your conduct was inexcusable and do try your best not to repeat the same action.