There are five which most people who have been able to achieve a really loving relationship identify. Over 85% of those questioned concurred on these attributes, which are:- Commitment. Over the last two generations (the duration of the research) the decline in social stability has been pro rata to the other degree of commitment couples have been prepared to make to each other. It is significant that in the studies made those who did not attach much importance to commitment were those with the greatest degree of relationship instability. Ours is a ‘use and throw away’ society and this attitude has widened to include intersexual relationships. Women in general are no longer discriminating to the extent that they expect a man to make a serious commitment to them; in other words, they have devalued themselves; consequently men take them at their own face value. Men also lack the discrimination of former generations and are prepared to accept any female who is willing to fulfil the needs of the moment. The whole thing boils down to a matter of responsibility; people seem to lack the ability, the will if you like, to choose a suitable mate. The Japanese have carried out some fairly comprehensive social studies on the matter and figures show that where the parents have chosen the marriage mates, the likelihood of a divorce is one in twenty-four marriages. However, where the couples have chosen their own mates, the likelihood of divorce is increased to one in six. This is not a phenomenon confined to Japan; it is also confirmed among other cultures and appears to be worldwide. There should be nothing surprising about this, nor is there any mystery here, for research also show that where a man or woman chooses a marriage mate wisely, with due seriousness, sense of responsibility and commitment to love and parenthood, the divorce rate is not much different from that in arranged marriages. We are back with the old question, ‘Is freedom without complementary responsibility a viable proposition for a society which wishes to remain healthy?’ Research confirms that there is a need for greater discrimination in the choice of a marriage mate and that an essential ingredient in a really loving relationship is commitment. Communication. This is undoubtedly the most essential skill for sustaining any loving relationship, and we refer to it as a skill because it is something that needs to be worked on. It does not come easily and most people seem to find the effort too great. The time for developing it to maturity is during courtship, but many are either unclear as to what they want to convey, or are unable to put it into the right words. Apart from this, many couples during courtship appear to be playing games of pretend with each other, rather than seriously settling down to communicating. This putting on of a false front, which collapses when the two get to know each other better, is also a cause of disillusionment which, in turn, sours a relationship. Good listeners are a rarity, and sharing, so vital to loving communication, ceases when one senses that the other is only partially listening. What every couple has to develop is its own methods of communication and response, for the latter is no less important than the former and an insensitive
response can often be very hurtful. Each partner should make plain, publicly and privately, that he or she values and respects, as well as loves, the other. There should be no reticence about this. Research shows that nearly 70% of couples are deficient in communication or response. It also indicates that it is among these that relationships most readily break down. Affection. A demonstration of affection can be beneficial in many ways, but the majority of people seem to be self-conscious both about giving and receiving it. It is true that a certain amount of reserve, modesty and decorum is necessary and one should not go to the unnatural extreme either way. It is again a matter of balance. The affection of one who freely bestows this affection on all and sundry is of little intrinsic value. Lines must be drawn somewhere, but what is generally lacking today is affection within a relationship where it can properly be expressed. It is probably significant that those who spread their affection indiscriminately are often lacking the capacity to display it fully in an intimate relationship. However, it has been amply demonstrated that those able to achieve a really loving and fulfilling relationship have an above average capacity for demonstrating and responding to affection. Forgiveness. There is something wholesome and strengthening in the concept of true forgiveness; something which transcends the flaccid, mealymouthed supplications of the religious mendicant. However, forgiveness often comes hard, especially when we can find no explanation for another person’s hurtful behavior. We can forgive only when we are wise enough to perceive the wrongdoer with compassion, as a vulnerable, imperfect human being like ourselves, capable of weakness and frailty. Love enables us to put the wrong in perspective and view the act apart from the person. We can see our long-range relationships as greater and more valuable than the momentary pain caused by an isolated negative act. Forgiveness should be viewed responsibly, for indiscriminate forgiving can be negative and destructive. We have to consider whether forgiveness may be taken as condoning something and whether it will encourage a repetition. Our law courts, for instance, can operate on the principles of justice and leniency, but their operations would be impossible if they embraced forgiveness. Forgiveness is essential in a loving relationship, but outside of the intimate family circle it should be exercised with discrimination and responsibility. Honesty. Our personal security is based upon the assumption that those we love will be honest with us. When that security is shaken by a deception, lives can be shattered. Trust is impossible without frankness, and without trust there can be no love. Even insignificant deceptions such as those meant to spare feelings can lead to tangled webs of distrust. The harshness of truth can be mitigated by consideration in a truly loving relationship, providing there is no outright deception. For instance, instead of saying, “I don’t like that dress, I think it looks awful”, one could say, “I don’t like that dress as much as some of your others, but that is just a personal opinion and someone else may think differently”. We have to accept that we may fall from the path of truth from time to
time, but if we want our relationship to last and to grow honesty and trust must be our constant goals. These are the five qualities upon which the great majority of those who had established a stable loving relationship agreed. There are other qualities which are conducive to harmonious relationships. Consideration immediately comes to mind. For men it is one of the three Cs – consideration, chivalry and courtesy. It may not be the big problems that cause relationships to falter and fail, but the small incidents which occur over a long period of time, the little inconsiderate behaviours, thoughtless comments, words left unspoken or well intentioned acts that are deferred. We frequently treat casual acquaintances more thoughtfully than we do those we love. Human beings develop best in an atmosphere of loving consideration. Another quality is that of acceptance. True love is the acceptance of another, with all his or her imperfections; it means loving the unlovable in some cases. Developing as a whole person is a lifetime process and is very far from complete when two people come together in a relationship. From then on they have to develop together, in accord and for the time being have to accept each other as they are. If we are afraid to disclose our imperfect selves, as so many are, we cannot expect others to disclose theirs, and we remain strangers. To form lasting relationships with others we must be happy with what we and they are. We must have as deep a respect for their feelings and attitudes as we do for our own. A big stabilizing influence in relationships is tradition and custom. Those who lightly discard these are the ones who tend towards relationship difficulties. Nowadays tradition is often denigrated as romantic nonsense, but again, it should be noted, only by those who have problems with relationships. As society discards its culture and traditions so does it decline and that is what we are seeing happening today. The traditional family Sunday meals, the holiday get-togethers, the customs which used to bring people together and bind them in stability, have largely been pushed aside. The customs and traditions of a culture, passed along from one generation to the next, remain a certainty in a world of uncertainties. They reflect the influences humankind has discovered to be stabilizing ones, as it moved upward from primitivism, and we discard them at our own cost.