This week I am writing about my marriage and the three relationship principles that have helped us stay together all these years! Up until this point, the topic has been ‘off limits’, mainly because:
1. My husband is a very private person.
2. What do I really know about relationships?
3. Do people really want to hear about what I have to say?
However, over the past couple of weeks, I have had some readers ask me how I have stayed in a long-term relationship and look ‘so happy’ ? (I mean, let’s be honest, ‘so happy’ depends on the day).
This is something I never consciously thought about before, but as I started to focus on the question, I realised there are three principles that have underpinned our relationship.
Hopefully, they will stand the test of time!
Values, Expectations & Growing Together – My Three Key Relationship Principles
I am sure there are more, but for simplicity, I landed on 3 foundational relationship principles that have been the common thread in my relationship over the past 19 years:
1. Aligned Values
Although I was born and raised in Australia, I am the child of first-generation immigrants from Italy. I grew up in a culture where ‘sleepovers’ and bringing boyfriends home was the norm for everyone except my sister and me (our teenage years were really easy to navigate…).
When I started dating boys my father had pretty straightforward guidelines – “Don’t introduce me to anyone who won’t be your husband.” Noted. Thanks, Dad.
In the past I had boyfriends who didn’t understand why they couldn’t come and ‘hang out’ in my room. It was hard to explain that I didn’t even ‘hang out’ in my room because my parents were concerned that the carpet would get ruined.
I was far from a ‘rule following’ child but I did respect my parents and knew that when I decided to get into a serious relationship with someone, there were things they would have to accept or it would unlikely last.
To my pleasant surprise, Rahni understood where I was coming from. He was also the child of first-generation immigrants and although he didn’t face the strictness of an Italian father, he had grown up with similar family values and knew upfront that sleepovers and moving out before we were married, was not something my dad was ever going to get on board with.
Before we got married, we both were aligned that our careers were important to us and that having children wasn’t something we wanted immediately.
This might sound trivial, but it became important when we were getting pressure from family and friends to ‘start a family already’. We were together for 12 years and married for 8 before we had our son, Nayer.
2. No Expectations
This was all Rahni’s genius. We were in our early 20’s when we began dating and one of the first things I remember him saying is that he had ‘no expectations’ of the relationship. Meaning, he didn’t expect me to be a certain way & I shouldn’t expect for him to be a certain way.
We had the complete freedom to be who we were at that moment in time.
This is not to say I didn’t have expectations on myself to achieve and grow, but they were mine to own; not something he was projecting on me, and again, I offered him the same in return. He was free to be who he wanted to be.
The number one thing I have learned is that it is my responsibility to make myself happy, it is not on Rahni to fill my cup for me. Nor should I be the sole reason that he is happy. This is unrealistic and doomed to fail.
Sometimes my mind wanders and I think about how I would guide my son one day if he (hopefully) asks me about relationships, and I would say something like this:
When you hear people saying you need to be clear on your expectations of a relationship, I would say that it is important to have aligned values, a clear understanding of how you want your future to look, and if a family is something that is important to you and your partner.
However, if you are going into a relationship in the hope that the other person is going to change to fit the image of what you are expecting – then you may want to reconsider the intention of this relationship.
But he will probably never ask me, so, yeah. This will be wasted.
3. Growing Yourself to Grow Together
This is a big one.
Rahni and I were young when we met, so we have kind of grown-up together. You are a very different person from when you are 20 to 30 and now almost 40!
I feel very blessed that we have been able to grow at our own rates as individual people, but have been able to ensure it is aligned with the wider relationship.
This is not an easy task. There have been times where one of us is in the trough of disillusionment and the other is riding the wave of new heights. But we made a conscious decision to not resent the other person for the achievement or success the other is experiencing.
I would say the toughest growth period we had as a couple is when we had our son. Boy, if you want to test a relationship, have a baby!
A child and how you raise them brings a whole new dimension to the relationship. When you are a couple you are just trying to understand each other and that is hard enough.
But when you have a child, you have to work through how you choose to parent together. What I hadn’t appreciated is that although we grew up with similar family values, how we expressed those in the way we were parenting our son was completely different.
We are continually learning how to live in the family dynamic, and also have enough space to grow ourselves.
It is a wild ride and I am only 7 years into this parenting game. I am sure as each year passes, I hope to have accumulated new learnings.
The Top Three Resources To Help You Follow These Relationship Principles
Falling in love is easy. Staying in love–that’s the challenge. How can you keep your relationship fresh and growing amid the demands, conflicts, and just plain boredom of everyday life?
I recommend this book to everyone. It helps you have a better understanding of yourself and how you prefer to express love.
I have provided a link so you can take the Love Language Quiz! They also have a teens quiz for those with older children.
We all have the capacity to raise children who are highly resilient and emotionally connected. However, many of us are unable to because we are blinded by modern misconceptions of parenting and our own inner limitations. In The Awakened Family, Dr. Shefali shows you how you can cultivate a relationship with your children so they can thrive; moreover, you can be transformed to a state of greater calm, compassion, and wisdom as well.
Drawing on more than twenty years of experience as a couples therapist, Dr. Esther Perel examines the complexities of sustaining desire. Through case studies and lively discussion, Perel demonstrates how more exciting, playful, and even poetic sex is possible in long-term relationships.
Dr. Esther Perel also has a podcast called ‘Where should we begin?’.