Relationships are made up of a lot of skills – compromise, communication, problem solving and more. These skills can be difficult in general in life, but when it comes to affairs of the heart, these skills are significantly harder to demonstrate. I would venture to guess that most people learn these skills (whether good or bad) from a couple in their life. Traditionally our relationship models would be our parents or grandparents. We might draw from the experiences of friends as well. The problem is, however, finding couples worth modeling is becoming more difficult when you think of the number of divorces, people avoiding or delaying marriage until later in life, or how common it is become to air dirty laundry rather than address it within the family without public knowledge.
So if we don’t have these couples around as we grow up or as we enter into relationships of our own, what are we left with? I personally believe this is one of the major reasons relationships are falling apart. We learn our actions, reactions, and people skills from those around us. If we don’t have role models or a support system, most default to reacting to problems as an individual rather than a couple. If we grew up and learned relationship skills from people who did not have the best relationships then I’m going to venture to guess our relationship skills won’t be all that great either. If you are surrounded by relationships full of mistrust, cheating, fighting, and other negative qualities, I don’t see how surrounding yourself with negativity will result in positive things for your relationship.
When you have your first fight, how will that go down? Will you yell and scream because that’s what you saw growing up despite the fact that you hated being in a house full of anger? What happens if your partner reacts to your yelling by shutting down or cowering scared? On the flip side, how do you like for someone to show they care about you? If you are someone who values spoken words while you partner values physical touch there will come a day when one (or both) of you feel cheated.
While having a couple or two to use as role models will not keep problems from ever happening, it does give you a measuring stick by which to judge your reactions. Think of these role models not as people on the pedestal that have an unreachable, perfect marriage, but rather look to them as mentors. They have seen the hard times, but they have learned to go through them together rather than separately. No couple will be perfect, but no one said you have to run your life exactly like theirs. Do you like the way they take on arguments but hate the traditional gender roles they follow? Learn from them what applies to your life and the style of relationship you want.
Do a quick inventory of the couples in your life. Who has relationships you would love to have? What makes their relationship great? If you find a couple who interacts with each other in an amazing way, they might be a great couple to start including in your life more. What happens if you find you don’t really have any couples in your life that have the relationships you want? Start looking – look at your church, in your neighborhood, maybe work. Look for couples who demonstrate qualities you want in your relationships: love, respect, support, appreciation, understanding, and a shared sense of purpose in life.
Who are your role models? What qualities do they exhibit that you want more in your relationship?