It’s the morning post Valentine’s Day at U.S. central time, and the town is still rather sleepy. Regarded as the second most celebrated quasi-holiday after New Year’s Day, Valentine’s Day has its way into plugging the heartstrings of many people – young and mature alike. It would be no surprise if many couples wake up today to a new commitment in their relationships. (In fact, many choose to propose on V-day to make remembering their anniversary easy.)
Humor aside, many people have different opinions on love and relationship. As a universal virtue, the notion of love is recently amplified by western cultures by associating it to romanticism and archetypal representations. TED-Ed has a great video on the historical development of marriage and it gives us a peek into the past on how relationships are perceived by our ancestors.
Whether or not you believe in marriage, the definitions of love and relationships vary from culture to culture, from people to people. What is love? What makes relationships work? What are the core elements that keep relationships going? Here are my takes:
Relationship is construction
Mainstream cultures have taught us that love could happen at first sight and that being in a relationship means constantly feeling “in love.” The moment that warm and fuzzy feeling inside us fades, we begin to feel detached and lost. A feeling-driven relationship makes us feel good; however, what makes most relationships work is trust and mutual attractions. For all of us who have been in a romantic relationship, we know that biological drive doesn’t drive our passion too far in a relationship. Bodily desire may bring us together, but it is the work we put into relationships that will keep things going. So, keep building, keep working in your relationship.
Relationship is communication
Communication is key in any relationship. Love is more than just a few touches and smiles and eye contact. Love languages come in many forms. Some people enjoy physical contact (cuddles, pets, hugs, etc.) while some appreciate verbal acknowledgment. Whatever it is, people in relationships need to get connected. Communication is key to many successful relationships as people are collectivist creatures. Stay open with the people you love and don’t discourage difficult conversations. Always try to put yourself into their shoes to understand where the people you love are coming from. Just remember, you can only benefit from communication if you appreciate them. The moment you turn your listening ears off, communication stops and negligence embarks.
Relationship is commitment
In the first point I mentioned work. Relationship means putting oneself into a committed context. Yet, commitment doesn’t mean all-time happiness. When you are committed into a relationship, you are opening possibilities for discouragement or disappointment. The fact is, we cannot avoid those aspects of an imperfect humanity. Since people have flaws, we are bound to making mistakes or what could be seen as wrong in our lovers’ eyes. Hence, staying committed in a relationship means being accepting and understanding. Staying committed also means that you train your mind to not give in to temptations and undesired confrontations. Know that it is normal for human to be allured by lust or temporal excitement, but we should make a conscious decision when faced with situations that are trying our commitment.
Dr. John Adams and Dr. Constance Avery-Clark of Coral Springs, Florida, say that there is “not just one right type of relationship.” There are multiple styles that associate with happiness and longevity. There is also no measurement for a good relationship.
Just remember that neither our momentous senses nor “feelings” are the best indication for a good relationship. From a constructivist perspective, I contend that we give life into love and relationship by making meanings out of what’s happening around us. So, buying a bouquet of roses for your lovers may mean “love,” but what it really is, is simply an act of giving.
The above are merely me two cents for those who are working out a relationship. Determine for yourself what works best and what doesn’t. At the end of the day, Dr. Phil is not going to sleep in between you and your lover to help solve your issues.
This article originally appeared in the University Chronicle on Feb. 3, 2013.
Image by Marcus Meisler