A mix of accountability, commitment and forgiveness create the perfect recipe for a lasting relationship.
By Dr. Craig Martin
Being in a relationship requires a certain amount of readiness, and knowing what that means can make the relating so much easier. There are a number of factors that one should consider when getting involved with someone. The most important of them are accountability, commitment and forgiveness. Each one of these is a whole story in and of itself, but taken together they comprise the most fundamental elements of relationship success.
Let’s take a look at them one at a time, and see how they work together to create balance between couples.
Accountability is really about owning your actions and behaviors, both inside and outside of the relationship, but most importantly, it concerns a person’s capacity to fess up to what’s going on for him or her. This is a multi-folded experience for most people.
In the relationship, there are things we think about our partner that we might want to say. This is one kind of accountability — the kind of honesty necessary when dealing with someone else. How are they affecting you? Do you need to speak up and say something? This is not always an easy process, but being accountable to your feelings is one thing that makes a relationship more fulfilling.
There are countless examples of relationships where one partner feels if they told the other their feelings, then the relationship would end. But the truth is we have to voice our feelings, and that quite often the fearful expectations we have are not actually experienced.
However, there is also another kind of accountability — the one we think of more often — and that is accountability to our actions and our words. Too often in relationships we feel that we can act or behave with our partner in ways that we would never think of acting with anyone else. We sort of let our hair down and then decide we can whip someone in the face with it.
Accountability to our actions and words is a fundamental necessity to having a lasting relationship, and involves self-honesty. And it might even create the need for apology every now and then. But the process of owning how we behave with each other is how we grow in relationships — perhaps the most important part of having a relationship in the first place.
Most people want relationships because of the fun part. They want romance and companionship, love and respect, and most of all they want to feel good. And most of the time, when you chose a relationship that is good for you, you get just that — all the positive experiences that a relationship can bring into your life.
But there is more to a relationship than just the fun part. Relationships take work — they require a kind of effort that results from two people finding common ground. It’s called working it out. That’s the “work” of relationships.
Now, most people are not really lazy. They understand that something worthwhile is going to take some effort. The thing about relationships is that the effort is ongoing and ever-evolving. So, one of the most important aspects of your readiness for a relationship is your commitment to the ongoing work.
Commitment is a big word, and for some reason it often strikes fear in people. It brings up images of bondage and a feeling of being trapped. It’s as if commitment is a sentence to servitude, and not simply another word for dedication and responsibility. The whole process of being committed is actually a choice where you decide to dedicate your efforts to the success of the relationship. Continued dedication results in a lasting commitment. Being committed to someone is a choice to remain dedicated even when the going gets rough. It’s essential.
The third piece of your readiness for relationship success is forgiveness. No relationship can survive without it. In fact, no relationship between two people can have any measure of happiness or success without forgiveness. It is not only essential, it is indispensible.
So, the process of letting go of the hurts is another part of the work. Some people might say at this point, “Hurts? What hurts?” And the truth is that when there is any interaction with another person at an intimate level, there is bound to be disagreement, misunderstanding and even acting out. These inevitable experiences create painful feelings. Even when they are not huge, they are still real. And when we are the cause of someone else’s pain, manners dictate that we apologize.
Sometimes it’s hard to apologize. It’s entirely possible to be defensive and not see why we may have hurt someone. You could truly believe that whatever happened was unintentional. Yet, some apology is probably still in order. And when someone apologizes, which is hard enough, the only way to move forward is to forgive them.
In the end, apology and forgiveness is another maze to walk through within our relationships.
But it cannot be escaped. When hurts show up, the only way to resolve them and move on with the fun part of relating is to forgive and forget.
As people get older, they are more aware that relationships need a certain amount of conscious effort. Young people generally enter into relationships without understanding what it’s going to take. As we gain more experience though, an understanding develops about how connecting with someone on an intimate level requires accountability, commitment and forgiveness.
Realizing what it takes can help when it seems like it might be easier to quit than to push through. Remember — the joy in connecting with someone is in your ability to work it out.
ABOUT DR. CRAIG MARTIN
Dr. Craig Martin is an astrologer, interfaith minister and spiritual counselor. Working with both individuals and couples, he resides in Los Angeles, and practices in both New York City and California. He is the author of “Elemental Love Styles: Find Compatibility and Create a Lasting Relationship,” and can be reached through his Web site at www.doctorcraig.com.