“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.” – Helen Keller
Just one more push and the desk would be at the top of the stairs. She was sure she could do it by herself. That is until she ran out of steam and knew for certain that she would never get it moved on that day without some help. She was so close. Using the ever-popular admission of defeat, she phoned a friend. With a fresh supply of energy behind it, that desk flew effortlessly over the top step and into place in its new space. It is often difficult to admit we need help. Helen Keller’s words have special meaning when we consider she simply could not have navigated the world without another person to help her.
From the time I moved out of my parents’ house, I was doing every project and repair I could on my own. It took my mother’s admonishing me to remember I had a partner who might like to help do some of the work (otherwise known as feeling needed) before I finally stopped creating and completing my list of projects on my own. After 31 years of marriage, I wonder if he might prefer that I not be so thoughtful about letting him feel needed. Celebrating our relationship, in other circles called a partnership, has caused me to think of relationships in general and what it takes for any of them to be successful or long-lasting.
Whether you are partners in a 3-legged race on Field Day, partners in a business, or partners as we are in a long-term relationship, the idea is to succeed at working together, and moving in tandem to achieve success takes a concerted effort on the part of both people. The 3-legged race seems a good place to start when studying how to build a successful partnership.
SIMILARITY: It’s suggested that you choose a partner for the race who is similar to you — if you are close to the same height/leg length, it will be easier to navigate through the course. In the same way, a partner in business should be someone who has similar goals for the company as you, and in a romantic partnership, you will probably look for someone who has similar values and with whom you share similar goals for the relationship.
WORKING TOGETHER: In a 3-legged race, it is imperative that the partners work together. If you each are moving at your own pace, doing what you want to do, it will be as if one of your legs is operating on its own and against the other, and you’ll be sure to lose your balance and probably the race. In a working relationship, partners who try to move forward on their own not caring about the other’s movements will probably lose their balance, too, and that can mean important deals aren’t reached. It’s no different in a marriage or other romantic partnership. When the honeymoon ends, you have to be aware of your partner’s movements. Partners who operate solely on their own aren’t really partners, but more of co-habitators.
COMMUNICATION and FLEXIBILITY: When your leg is tied to someone else’s, you really have to talk to each other. One brother-sister duo said counting one-two, one-two really helped them to stay in sync. If you find that their leg is bending at the wrong time for your straight leg, you both have to be willing to be flexible. At work, communication with not only your partner but also with others will keep you in sync, too. If your partner is off every Thursday and you plan important meetings on Thursdays, that partnership might dissolve sooner than later. Communicating and bending where necessary to make things work for both people will keep the company on the path to success. At home, it is imperative that couples communicate so neither is experiencing unmet expectations on a regular basis. Being flexible means finding a way to pay bills, shop for food, and sometimes raise children that honor the desires of both people.
When we had only been married a few years, I would look to people who had stayed together much longer and question what helped them make it work. On this side of that equation, I have come to understand that marriage is really like every other relationship. Whether you are standing beside someone in the checkout line at the grocery, building your dream company, trying to maintain a friendship, or working to sustain a marriage, it takes the same things: similar desires, willingness to work together, to communicate, and to bend when necessary.
Some partnerships need to be dissolved, just as some friendships and even romantic relationships do. I know the only reason my marriage has stayed solvent is because both of us have been committed to it. If at any time either of us had changed course more than the other was prepared to support, it would have ended. It’s the way partnerships work. No matter how badly we want a relationship to last, it takes two to tango, and some folks just prefer solo dancing. When that happens, I hope there are always others who can step in to provide a shoulder, a helping hand, or a push up the steps until you reach a solid landing.
When you are five and wanting to tie your shoe by yourself, it’s a good thing. But going through life not allowing others the joy of helping you cheats everyone, and will keep you from accomplishing so much less than you could together.