Do you want to have a fantastic relationship? Do you know how to tell if a relationship has what it takes to be great instead of somewhere between "okay" and "good enough"?
Relationships can seem like tricky things, but the basics really aren't that complex. There are certain things that any really good, great, or fantastic relationship will have. Some lesser relationships will still have some of these things, but often only on one side. In other words, one person possesses the quality, but not both. Other lesser relationships will feature both people showing some of the attributes listed below, but missing others. Sometimes these lesser relationships can turn into great relationships if effort is put into learning, and adopting, the other pieces.
There are many lists of things a relationship needs to be successful, but most of them are of a more mechanical nature. I've even posted a few of that kind myself, listing things like time together, communication, etc. This list, however, is not things you do, it's things you have.
If you want to know whether your relationship has what it takes to be great, and to last the test of time, then evaluate it based on the attributes of a fantastic relationship listed below.
You Both Know How To Love
Do you know how to love? To really love, not to like, or do things for, or get turned on by, your love? Do you feel that you are soul mates, that you have a connection so deep that it will be there forever, no matter what happens to the relationship?
Love takes more than buying someone flowers. It takes more than holding their hand when you're out… Love is when you take them by the hand and it reaches out and touches their soul, too. If you don't know what I'm talking about, or that sounds scary or too deep, then you may not be ready for love. That's okay… you don't have to be in love, and trying to force yourself when you aren't ready only backfires.
"Love is patient; love is kind and envies no one. Love is never boastful, nor conceited, nor rude; never selfish, not quick to take offense. There is nothing love cannot face; there is no limit to its faith, its hope, and endurance. In a word, there are three things that last forever: faith, hope, and love; but the greatest of them all is love."
The Bible has some great pieces of wisdom concentrated down to their basics, and this is one of them. Love is patient and infinite… trials and tribulations can scratch the surface of it, but never damage its depths.
You Both Know The Complexities Love Contains
So you both know how to love, but do you know the complexities that love contains? Love can encompass and contain your whole awareness at one moment, and be rejected in pain the next. It never really goes away, not if you truly loved, but you can certainly bury it deeply. You can bury it so deeply that only you know it's what is causing you pain, or so deeply that even you don't know that's where the pain is coming from.
Love can have good days and bad days, but it never really goes away, and as soon as you let go of the walls you use to hold it back, it will come surging in again, often bringing with it whatever pain caused you to build those walls, but only temporarily. The flow of love washes away the pain, though the time required varies.
Love is complex, bringing both pain and healing, leaving you vulnerable but making you stronger. If you don't understand this, if you don't accept it, your relationship is going to be weaker than it could have been.
You Both Have Forgiving Hearts
There is one thing that is certain in any relationship: You are going to hurt each other. If you have a good relationship, it won't be intentional, but it will still happen. If you can't forgive each other when it happens, then your relationship is going to be very shallow.
If you can't forgive someone for hurting you unintentionally, you are building walls to keep love away, probably because you are scared of the way it makes you vulnerable. Those walls will keep the other person out and limit how deeply love can spread its roots. Shallow roots can still keep it alive, but when trouble comes along, its grip is weak, and it can be ripped away.
Learn to forgive, and relax those walls… getting rid of them can be scary, and usually hurts right at first, but it will make you a LOT happier in the long run, and the pain is only short-lived.
You Love The Other Person, Not The Attention They Are Giving You
When you are "falling in love", it's easy to mistake loving the attention you are getting for loving the other person. You are getting closer rapidly, you haven't hit your walls yet, and you're getting loads of attention. Attention is the universal currency by which you show that someone is important to you, and it's an awesome feeling to know that you are important to someone specific, especially if that person is someone you like. This is also what leads to a lot of affairs, unfortunately… people need to feel important, and if they feel that they aren't important to their spouse because they aren't getting attention from them, and someone else comes along and offers that attention and feeling of being important to someone… well, it's a bad situation.
There's a relatively easy test to see if you love the person or the attention, though. It works like this: close your eyes. Now bring up the other person in your mind. What is it about that person that comes to mind? If your answer is a part of their body (a la eyes… if it's certain other portions of their anatomy, don't kid yourself, you know it isn't love), or the fun you have together, you may be loving the attention. If what comes to mind is more of a complete concept, something that's hard to put into words but is a representation of them and what they mean to you, something that if you're really open to it nearly brings tears to your eyes… THAT is being in love with the person.
You Don't Have Any Walls Just For The Other Person
I've been thinking a lot about "walls" lately… if you've been reading my stuff, you may have noticed. If you have any walls that are for a specific person, it means that person is important in your life. You may have walls that only your mother can hit, created in response to some pain she caused at some point in your life. You may have walls for any specific person who has caused you pain, and that can include your significant other.
Walls are built to keep pain out, but they don't… they keep pain in, trapped inside of you. When you build walls that are just for one person, you are doing two things… you are shutting that person out of that part of you, and you are holding on to pain that they caused. Holding on to pain that someone specific caused you isn't really a good way to have that relationship grow stronger and deeper, and a real love is generally either growing deeper or becoming more shallow.
Holding on to walls at all limits the heights you can reach, but holding on to walls against just one person also limits your depth.
When You Close Your Eyes, You Know They're There
In any really good (fantastic, anyone?) relationship, you share a bond of a depth that anyone who has not been in such a relationship cannot imagine. This connection can be stronger or weaker at different times, but one thing should always remain: if you close your eyes, you should know that the other person is there. I'm not talking about any psychic phenomenon, like knowing exactly where they are even though you're hundreds or thousands of miles apart. I am talking about that unshakable certainty, that depth of connection, that unmovable mountain that says "I am here".
If you've been in a good relationship where there is real love, you know exactly what I'm talking about. If you haven't, I can't explain it any better than that. You might be able to guess, but when you feel the real thing you'll know that your guess wasn't even a shadow of the truth.
Does your relationship have these elements? If you're not in a relationship currently, then may I recommend that next time you find one, and you think it might be THE one, you pause the breakneck plunge for just a moment to come back to this list and see if it has the signs of what could be a fantastic, long-lasting relationship?
As I said, this is not a list of "mechanical" type attributes of a relationship, things that can be quantified. It's a list of… well, I don't know how to describe the common thread, but it's there.
Does your relationship have these things? Does it have more or less of any given thing? Do you think any of the points listed above are more important than the others? Let me know in the comments.