We recently received an email with some wise snippets from our mentors, Gay and Katie Hendricks, who named these as the three secrets of long-lasting, loving relationships:
1. You can be completely yourself and completely close… the best kind of intimacy – deep, vulnerable, passionate – only happens between two people who feel free to be exactly who they are as individuals, while making time for each others’ needs and desires.
2. You know how to dissolve conflict… Conflict is a natural part of any close relationship… it’s inevitable… The ability to understand why you’re fighting to begin with and to take responsibility for your part in the conflict is key. Once you have that, the communication part usually comes easily.
3. You celebrate each other every day… We tend to think that appreciation is a trivial thing, and that your partner doesn’t need reminding of what they mean to you. Appreciation is the heartbeat of a satisfying relationship. Without it, no couple can survive.
We had a wonderful time studying in person with Gay and Katie for 10 days last summer. As you can see, they’re on our wavelength, and we’re on theirs.
And these tidbits of wisdom also made us think about the phone chat Ruth had with Michelle a few months ago. Ruth was at home in California, and Michelle was a motel room in Gallup, New Mexico, en route to spend some time in Santa Fe with an old friend. Michelle told Ruth that she’d had a great day, and added, “I felt a lot of joy today.” Ruth teased her, “If you really loved me, you wouldn’t feel joy when you were away from me!” Then we both laughed, and had a nice conversation about all kinds of things.
This kind of joke works between us, because we have no tension, no charge around the fact that we take separate vacations quite often. In January, Ruth spent three weeks on her own in Southern CA because she was so desperate to escape the Northern California rain! And then, Michelle was off for two weeks herself, and chose to make the two-day drive from California, because she loves driving. It’s a kind of moving meditation for her — she listens to podcasts and music, watches the scenery roll by, and thrives.
Ruth, on the other hand, does not love long car trips. For one thing, her favorite place to be is always outside in the sunshine. Spending long hours indoors, whether in a house or in a car, is not so fun for her. She also don’t like to spend so much time just sitting. She gets restless. So she’s happy for Michelle to do her long-distance driving without her, and also happy Michelle is getting to spend time with an old friend she rarely sees, though they talk on the phone every week.
Do you have this kind of freedom in your present relationship? Or, if you’re single now, have you had it in past relationships? Often we talk to women who assume that having a partner requires a steady stream of sacrifice and compromise. Personally, we don’t believe that’s true. What it does require, though, is knowing your own preferences, being willing to state them, and being willing to honor your partner’s needs, too.
Now, we don’t assume that what works for us is what does, could or should work for everyone! We live and work together, so we get plenty of “us time.” If one or both of us worked full-time elsewhere, we might not choose to spend vacation time apart! So what’s important here is not the specific choices we make, but the fact that we both feel completely free to choose what we want – and for us, that’s a key part of our love.
It’s also funny that Michelle happened to stay in Gallup that night — because fifteen years ago, the most tortured relationship Ruth ever had ended with the woman she loved leaving Ruth in California and driving back east to reconcile with her previous ex. She called Ruth and wrote her the whole way across the country, sending all sorts of mixed messages that kept Ruth in an emotional frenzy. When she called her from Gallup, she said, “It’s so strange to keep driving East, when so much of me wants to just drive back to you.” Then, of course, she kept going. You can imagine how that made Ruth feel!
At that time Ruth could never have imagined being where she is now. She was so caught up in “being in love” with someone who was so intensely ambivalent. It was hell! Now Ruth is so grateful to have emerged from that, and similarly difficult relationships, into the deep, sweet, solid love we share now.
And guess what? Ruth made that journey, and you can, too! We are here to help.