Some weeks ago, a friend sent me an instant message on the mobile phone. He asked, "How do you sustain a marriage?"
At first, I was taken aback by this question. What would I, an unmarried wildly single individual, know about sustaining a marriage?
But, since I am not the type to turn down the challenge of addressing difficult issues, I decided to help him find an answer.
As I prepare to mark three decades of my life tomorrow, I realise that I have had many relationships with different people - as a son to my parents; as a sibling to my brothers and sisters; as a colleague at the workplace; as a mate to those who went to school with me or those that I met randomly; and, in the past, as a partner to another, albeit unmarried.
With these different relationships have come unique lessons about how to sustain each of them.
I have realised that three things, which I personally call the HAT principles, apply to all these relationships:
a. Have a strong reason to sustain that relationship.
b. Act on goals to strengthen that relationship.
c. Trust those in the relationship to do the right thing.
I think these HAT principles would equally apply to sustaining a marriage. I will deal with each of these in turn.
It is important to have a strong reason to sustain the relationship. In doing so, one has to take personal responsibility for finding those reasons and to use those reasons as a call to arms!
We see this a lot of time when one is courting another. Very often, the courtship develops into something more because the person has strong reasons to take it forward.
More than a decade ago, I received a calendar from a life insurance company which had the following quote on one of its pages, "It is easy to make friends but difficult to keep them."
Since then, I have taken a lot of responsibility in keeping the friends that I make and I want to stay in touch with.
EXECUTE GOALS AND PLANS
A year back, I found the strong relationships I had with my university mates strained; these were relationships that are precious to me and I did not wish to lose.
I decided to organise regular lunches to enable me to meet them once a month. I do the same with several other friends at my Third Thursday Thinking Talkies.
My ex-boss has a habit of setting annual relationship goals with his wife. As part of these goals, they would plan very early in the year and set aside at least two weeks of their annual schedule to go on two or more holidays at places they mutually chose.
TRUST THOSE YOU LOVE
Some months ago, I made this point about trusting those you love, which I find increasingly tested among my friends.
Trust those you love to do the right thing. Questioning the motives or agendas of those who you love is not the way to run a relationship because it will only bring more negativity into the relationship.
You must accept that your loved one will from time to time make wrong decisions in life and these are learning milestones for those that make such decisions.
You must also accept that there are certain matters among those you love that you cannot change.
If one cannot accept these things, it is reasonable to just end the relationship.
It is important to bring positive energies into a relationship and focus on the things that one can change.
If you wish to sustain your relationship, use the HAT!
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