“The three great essentials to achieve anything worthwhile are, first, hard work;
second, stick-to-itiveness; third, common sense.” ― Thomas A. Edison
Standing in the church of my childhood, I made a vow to love and honor this guy I had known for almost 18 months for the rest of our lives. I was 23 years old and thought I had lived a lot of life in those few years. Being married was going to be a piece of cake, or so I thought. That was 30 years ago, and it turns out that being married wasn’t really a piece of cake, but with a lot of love and effort could be grand. We’ve had friends who didn’t stay together as long as we and some who have been married longer. There are no guarantees in relationships, but I think Edison offers great advice. Hard work, stick-to-itiveness, and common sense are three great essentials you should have in your corner.
Not many of my friends are still close to folks they knew in childhood, but my husband is, and I see in these friends qualities we all need to emulate if we want to have successful relationships in life. They do the simplest of things, and apparently one of the most difficult for many of us — they pick up the phone and check on each other. When I was a kid, I loved talking on the phone, but as an adult, I find it tires me. You know what, it might be uncomfortable, but it matters. Lesson one seems to be: do the hard work. There are many things that fall into that lesson of doing the hard work even when it isn’t what we really want to do. For instance, everyone ends up working overtime on a project or at a job at some point. It’s also just as likely that some of those times will be without financial compensation and maybe even without someone saying thanks. If we care about a project, about a job, or about a relationship, we have to recognize that hard work is involved and our efforts are often not recognized.
While I am not a big believer in forcing kids to stay in activities they hate, I do believe that if a person has committed to something, they should do all they can to see it through the season — season of the sport or the club or the season of life. But sometimes, we are crazy about an activity or a person, and we just need to be reminded of Lesson Two: stick-to-itiveness is required, often when we are the most tired or discouraged. What exactly is stick-to-itiveness? Webster says it is, “dogged perseverance; tenacity.” When I most want to throw in the towel on my writing or my photography, I remind myself of how much it matters to me, and I put my stick-to-itiveness into action. My marriage is one of the things that matters most to me, and I am tenacious in my efforts on difficult days to keep it that way.
The guy I married all those years ago is very nice to me and has given me room to grow and change through the years — I call that love. Not only am I grateful for his supportive role, I believe that without that support it would be difficult to sustain a relationship, and I believe that many relationships fail — friendships, marriages, work because someone isn’t willing to allow another person the freedom to be themselves. Lesson Three, for me, is recognizing that we must give the other person in a relationship freedom to be who they are and not who we think they should be. We are humans, and we will always be evolving into, hopefully, better versions of ourselves. My husband and I are a team, if you work for a company, you are part of a team, and if you play a sport, you are typically on a team. You know the old adage, Teams are about we, not me.
There is an exception to all of this hard work, stick-to-itiveness, and freedom granting: No matter how much you love your partner or your company or your team, if there is abuse, Lesson Four must come into play: common sense. Common sense means that no matter how much you want a relationship to work, when a coach is abusive, when a boss is abusive or overlooks abuse among employees, or when a partner is abusive, it is self-care, not being selfish, to get out of there. While I think it’s awful that our society has become something of a disposable society, I think saving ourselves matters more than trying to save face in a bad relationship.
Relationships are ultimately about people, though, and if we think they are worthwhile, if we care about preserving relationships, we will follow Edison’s and Steen’s advice. My husband and I have already begun year 31, and I know there are even greater lessons to be learned.