Five keys to effective relationships
February is usually associated in The Bahamas with love. February 14th is the date that has come to be recognized by years of tradition as Valentine’s Day. For many years, I followed this tradition, buying flowers and gifts like many other men. The origin of Valentine’s Day is the subject of speculation – some call it a pagan celebration, others attribute it to a famous religious figure centuries ago. I am not entering the debate and will leave that to the prognosticators; instead, I will focus on some
principles that can help anyone in a relationship to succeed.
One of the most important principles of relationships is that love is not enough. There were songs in the past that said love will keep us together, but the problem is that most people who break up or get divorced love each other. If love was enough, then most relationships would not face extinction. Love often brings us together but is not enough to keep us together. So, what is it that keeps us together? There are five principles that I have concluded that will keep a relationship together – knowledge, understanding, communication, forgiveness and commitment.
If you lack information or knowledge about someone, it can hamper a relationship. What you do not know can be more harmful than what you do know. This is why conversation, research and exchange of information is important. If you do not know what your girlfriend or wife prefers, it can create issues in a relationship. Many persons make assumptions about their partners only to find out after the relationship has ended that their assumptions were wrong .
It is important to get knowledge, even basic knowledge, about the physical, psychological and emotional makeup of the opposite sex. Knowledge is power and lack of knowledge can make one powerless.
Women are usually more volatile, emotionally, and it is because of their physical makeup, the hormone estrogen and the monthly cycle that each woman goes through. This is simple information, but it can be helpful in a man understanding a woman. Men tend to be less vocal about their emotions and do not have to go through the “cycle” – and are, therefore, not subject as much to major mood swings. Sometimes, we are not taught about these things and end up confused in a relationship and this lack of knowledge causes arguments and fights.
Many relationships are ended because of misunderstandings. Sometimes, you think a person is saying or doing something and you act on your perception only to find out that what you thought they meant was not what they meant but the action you took based upon your misunderstanding has already caused so much damage that the relationship cannot be repaired. It is so important to ask questions and get clarification when communicating. You may even want to ask, “do you understand what I am saying”, or “please tell me what your understanding is of what I said”. This allows for clarification to take place.
Marriage is actually a wonderful idea that we believe was created by God – and marriage is actually perfect. The problem is not marriage, the problem is the people who enter into marriage. A writer once said, all marriages are happy, it’s the living together afterward that causes the problem. One of the keys to understanding is what is called the five love languages. Without going into detail, the premise is that everyone has a love language. For one person, it may be receiving gifts; for another, it may be quality time; and for another, it may be acts of service. If we do not understand each other’s love language, then we give love in a way that is not received well because it’s not the other person’s love language.
How you communicate is often more important than what you communicate. If you are upset and you say, ‘you are stupid’ – you may have done irreparable harm to a relationship. You made a character statement when you wanted to make a behavioral statement. You could have said ‘please do not do that, it is hurtful to me’ or you could have said ‘I do not like the way you did something or the way you spoke to me’. When you call someone stupid, you are not just speaking to their current behavior, you are calling the person stupid as a general statement leaving them hurt because you did not separate the behavior from the person. We all may do things considered stupid, but it does not mean we are stupid people. The way you communicate can exacerbate or de-escalate a situation. The Bible says, “a soft answer turns away wrath”. Sometimes, if one person is shouting, if the other shouts also, it means escalation. If one person is calm, it can have a calming effect.
Forgiveness is one of the greatest keys to success in a relationship. In the course of a relationship, we all say and do things that offend one another. It is important that we understand that everyone makes mistakes and if we do something offensive, we should learn to apologize and if someone sincerely apologizes it is important to forgive. The famous Lord’s Prayer admonishes us to forgive even as we have been forgiven. Forgiveness allows healing to take place. Where there is no forgiveness, disagreements and offenses become embedded in relationships and eventually become cancerous to a relationship. I have done many things that were offensive to my wife and vice versa. We have had to learn to forgive each other and it has been one of the keys to success in 35 years of marriage. Be slow to anger and quick to forgive.
Love is important in a relationship – but just as important is commitment. Some persons enter a relationship and exit at the first signs of turbulence because they did not fully commit. Every relationship will be challenged. One of the reasons the marriage vows have things in it like, for richer and poorer, in sickness and health, is because a good relationship and a good marriage are founded on commitment. If you are not committed to working through problems and challenges, then your relationship will not last because there will be problems and there will be challenges. Commitment represents stability. If there is a lack of commitment, then one cannot trust a relationship to last.
As you consider this season of focus on love, please be mindful of the importance of these principles to assist in achieving a successful relationship or marriage. Love is not enough.
• Pastor Dave Burrows is senior pastor at Bahamas Faith Ministries International. Feel free to email comments, whether you agree or disagree, to email@example.com. I appreciate your input and dialogue. We become better when we discuss, examine and exchange.