Recently the new United States, Mexico and Canada Trade Agreement was signed by three national leaders. This happened because those involved worked out their differences and came to agreements that are beneficial to all concerned. There was a lot of meetings with expert negotiators to get to this point.
Watching the signing ceremony this morning, I was reminded about the negotiations that take place every day in our relationships. The giving and taking, the arguments, the apologies and a renegotiated settlement to keep the relationship strong and satisfying to both involved.
The relationship I am most interested in is marriage. Marriage appears to be in retreat in this country with couples opting to live together rather than create a lifetime legal, social and sometimes religious contract. When young people are asked why they are choosing this option, their answer is consistent. They say marriage is just too hard. The message that marriage is hard is ubiquitous. No wonder they are afraid of it.
The Center for Relationship Education dispels the myths of the “Marriage is Hard” messaging. We do that by giving couples a toolbox of skills regarding effective dating strategies. Dating is not all about fun and games. The purpose of dating is to find out what one likes and dislikes in an exciting, “getting to know you” atmosphere. When dating becomes more serious and exclusive, there needs to be a shift from fun and games to what one expects from the relationship long-term. Compatibilities need to be explored, expectations negotiated and mutual values agreed upon. Dating is where the work needs to take place to set the foundation for the relationship moving forward. Once the work is done, areas of differences are negotiated, expectations articulated, communication and conflict resolution skills strengthened, the couple is ready to commit to marriage.
Only after doing this work, can the marriage part be easy. Unfortunately, it is far too common to date without any sense of intentionality and purpose. As long as the couple is having fun, relishing in the excitement and newness of a relationship, falling in love, not wanting to be apart, getting into a rhythm of being together, all is well. If this couple does not do the necessary preparation and work to negotiate their marriage contract, the marriage will be hard.
The analogy to this concept is planting a garden. One needs to choose a spot for the garden, prepare the soil, remove the rocks, add the fertilizer, select the contents of the garden and plant the seeds. There is a ton of work to create this garden. Once the work is done and the garden is established, the harvest comes. Now the workload is diminished. In order to keep the garden thriving and beautiful, one needs to only maintain the garden. The work was in the building not in the maintaining.
If you are dating, think about the work that it takes during this time to create a relational garden that satisfying, committed, thriving and easy.
For more information contact: firstname.lastname@example.org or go to myrelationshipcenter.org.
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