Not that I believe the subtleties of love or relationship need to be reduced to a magic formula, but I when I discovered this checklist in The Tao of Negotiation: How to Resolve Conflict in All Areas of Your Life, which I found on the business shelf of my local used bookstore, it struck me as both pithy and succinct wisdom that I'd like to pass on to my kids.
According to the authors, "the overriding difference between those relationships that work over a long period of time and those that don't has to do with the presence or absence of the following characteristics." I've put the explanations into my own words, so if you want to read the original version, you'll find it on page 186 of the book.
1) The Spark. That hard-to-pin-down-in-words magic called chemistry. Strong attraction with a sense of comfort and compatibility that is not easily explained by how long we have known each other, how much time we have spent together, logic, or reason. They don't mention it in the book, but I'd also include truly enjoying each other's company, and easily having fun together in this category.
2) The intention and the willingness to be aware of and process everything of significance. I think of this as open minds and open hearts. Each is actively curious about the other's experience, as well as willing to take a close look at their own individual contribution to the couple's dynamic. Honest, intimate communication about thoughts and feelings is one of the cornerstones of the relationship.
3) Commonality of purpose, values, and interests. Without this one, the relationship is not likely to be sustainable in the long term. You can have great chemistry and honest communication, but if your individual lives are not on somewhat parallel trajectories in terms of direction and purpose, it might be challenging to stay together. It can and has been been done, of course, most easily by couples who are very committed to #2 above, which would therefore mean they share intention and willingness to process as a common value, and thus they meet this criteria!
Good stuff, eh? I am looking forward to sharing this with my kids as they go forth into the world. And of course, they may still need to figure it out for themselves the hard way, just like I am still doing. :) But at least they will have heard these concepts, and can reference them when and if they should choose to.
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