Tuesday, April 16, 2013

What’s Your One Thing?

When your romantic relationship is right, every other problem in life feels a lot less difficult. You feel stronger, more capable of handling whatever life throws at you; there lies waiting for you in your romance a respite from the storms, a refuge from the chaos, and a resource for handling almost anything.

When your romantic relationship is wrong, however, every other problem in life gets magnified. Nothing tastes as good, and everything feels heavier. This is because every event, every occurrence carries with it a reminder that your most significant relationship, what matters most to you, is at the core of your discouragement.

So what makes the difference? What tips the scales towards your romantic relationship being either the right that makes everything easier, or the wrong that makes everything more difficult? In one word, priority.

You ever notice those moments that are so significant that they bring into clarity all other moments?

  • Your baby’s being born, and there are some complications, and suddenly you don’t care about money—at all. Whatever it costs, doc, do it.
  • You finally get away for that anniversary trip, and the beauty and serenity of nature makes clear that you have been chasing after all the wrong things.
  • You connect with your spouse in such a sexually-charged way that it really does feel as if you’re the only two people in the universe, even though your kids are asleep in the next room.

All these moments carry weight because they refocus our priorities; we experience an authentic connection with what… matters… most.

Well, what are we supposed to do when those moments don’t seem to be happening enough? We’re not having any more children, or we’re not able to get away, or our romance seems distant at best. What do we do if life is not re-prioritizing itself for us?

We do it ourselves. In the words of Cowboy Curly in City Slickers, all that matters in life is “one thing, just one thing. You stick to that, and all the rest don’t mean $h!t.” Now, Jack Palance doesn’t tell Billy Crystal what that one thing should be, but given what we know about the transcending power of our romantic connection (see above), I think we can figure it out.

As long as we are trying to squeeze in time, energy, and effort toward keeping our most significant relationship alive and well, we will lose. The only way it happens is if it is our number one priority. Number one over our work. Number one over our extended family relationships. Number one over our friendships. And yes, even number one over our kids.

I’ve been telling my teenagers their whole lives that I love their mother more than I love them (just a little bit). My relationship with them is so dependent on my relationship with her, that I owe it to them to pursue her above all others. My marriage is my number one priority in all my human relationships, because that is the only way I will “find” the time necessary to nurture that relationship into the passionate, transcendent, and lifelong connection I crave the most.

Here are some practical applications of putting your romantic relationship in first place:

  • Times for dinner dates, important decision-making conversations, trips together, and yes, sex sessions, get put on the calendar—just like doc appts, kids’ soccer games, and business mtgs.
  • Great couples, who put that relationship in first place, usually schedule one relationship enhancement event a year, be it a marriage retreat, a few sessions of couples’ counseling, or at the very least a romantic getaway.

Most important—above all else—when your relationship is your greatest priority, you do NOT discuss problems in that relationship with anyone else first (unless you are working individually with a professional). This means you work hardest at authentically addressing your issues with each other, as uncomfortable as that may be, before you even think of complaining to your friends or family.

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