No. 10

Building Foundations

A friend and I were talking marriage and weddings last night. She and her boyfriend have been together for 18 months, and they recently exchanged the sentiment that they would like to be married someday. Since then, they’ve had several more conversations about the subject and discovered that while they’re very much in love, they’re also a little nervous about such a big step. They’re young — not quite 25 yet — and they really want to do this right. They don’t want to get caught up in planning a wedding; instead, they want to focus on building the right foundations for a long and happy partnership.

While I have learned many lessons from past relationships, like the importance of honestly and non-critically communicating your emotions, I’m really curious to find out what you have to say about this topic.

If you’re married or in a partnership, what practices make yours work well?

If you’re single, what are some of the greatest lessons you’ve learned from your relationships?

Are there any books or online forums you recommend?

I can’t wait to see what conversations pop up in the comments.

{image by annstheclaf, licensed under Creative Commons}

About brandi

Brandi is a digital strategist, website developer, and founder of Alchemy+Aim, a company that helps entrepreneurs and business owners elevate their online presence and enhance their digital experience. Her academic background in theatre, philosophy and physics was the perfect foundation for launching her business, where she’s worked with Brené Brown, Laverne Cox, Judy Smith, and other notable thought leaders since 2013. She is an advocate for using technology in ways that humanize, connect and serve people as well as for asking deeper philosophical questions and teaching others to think more broadly about impact when they create, particularly in STEAM fields.

30 thoughts on “Building Foundations

  1. Being kind to one and other is essential, it’s so easy to take out frustrations on the person closest to you.
    And COMMUNICATE. I saw my parents marriage dissolve over several years because they stopped communicating, they talked but seldom actually SAID anything.
    And finally, show respect.

    1. Hazel, these are SUCH important points. Taking time to really communicate is definitely so very vital.

      Respect is key — do you think there are any particularly good ways to show it?

      1. It’s all in the little things – being kind, asking an opinion, being present, taking advice, treating your partner as an equal and showing them that they are important to you and that they matter. It’s so easy to take someone for granted whale they are around every single day.

  2. For us, simply letting things go has been key. I found myself just yesterday getting annoyed that J stacked all of his dishes in the sink when the dishwasher was empty. As I was putting them into the dishwasher I just sighed and realized that honestly, this is not a big deal. Even if I have to clean up his dishes every single day, it’s what, a whole minute of my time? Totally not worth getting annoyed over.

    1. Kate, you are a master. Do the little things ever compound to be too much? One relationship I was in made me feel that way. If it had just been one thing, it wouldn’t have been bad, but it was a whole collection of things that really drove me crazy. Any advice for that?

      1. It is true, the little things really do add up sometimes. Honestly, if you can step back and look at all of the little things and try to figure out why they drive you crazy it may help. Knowing that the little things that drive me crazy are things that J would never think of helps. However, if he knew they drove me crazy and still did it anyway, that is an entirely different story. I guess that is where communication comes in to play. If I have never told him that something irks me, how can I honestly expect him to just KNOW that it does?

        (All that said, some people just don’t think of others. If that is the reason why there is a whole collection of things, then usually nothing you say or do can change them. Often that means it’s time to move on!)

  3. I think that there are a lot of different ways to organize a married life. For me, the only thing that makes sense is a marriage that is also a work partnership, a collaboration of equals who have similar tastes and complementary skill sets, and for whom love is working together and working together is love.

    1. That’s really interesting, Mark. I imagine something like that would be very specific to each person. I’ve heard of married couples who work together wonderfully and others that need to work apart.

      For everyone else who’s reading this — would you rather work with your partner or do you need time apart during the day?

  4. I love this topic. While I’m eternally single (feels like it at least) and very young (just 21) I still love thinking about the logistics of actually making a relationship stick. I’ve learned the most from my parents’ successful relationship. It takes lots of respect, an appreciation for what the other person brings to the table and a whole lot of laughter. My favorite part of this post.. NOT focusing on the wedding and focusing on the marriage. It’s far to easy to think that the ceremony is the end goal.

    1. You’re still young, Allyson, so don’t worry about your relationship status yet (and remember how powerful our words are — your single status is only temporary, I’m sure). It’s awesome that you’ve already learned so much from your parents. You’re lucky to have them as role models.

    2. Allyson I also feel like I am eternally single and I am 26. You have a lot of experiences to go through before eternity comes into play… and luckily so do I. :)
      I’ve been doing my best to learn from the good relationships I see around me.

      1. Ah, C, you’re awesome as well. You won’t be single for very long. But keep learning from all you see around you.

  5. A while back, I learned about the “four horsemen” of marriage/relationships: criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and stonewalling. Inevitably, every couple fights, but how they fight really affects the relationship in the long run. I really, genuinely try not to fall back into any of these four things, and when I consciously do so, I find it really helps us get over the argument (and even find something constructive about it) much quicker.

    1. Gabriella, these horsemen do seem to destroy so many relationships. Sometimes you don’t even realize you’re slipping into one of them. Contempt was particularly destructive for one of my past relationships. Luckily, I’ve since learned how to do deal with things better.

      I’d love to know where you heard about these. Do you remember?

  6. It will sound like a joke but I assure it works. When I was getting married – 23 years ago – a friend sent me one of those powerpoints with a tip that I thought was brilliant to handle what would come.

    It stated that you should dance with the person you wanted to comit with and learn from the signs that would pop-up during the dance. Like for example if he steps on you foot if he jokes apologises or on the contrary he blames you… the way you can joke and playfully dance before both find the perfect step for the dance. And how you are so worried about the steps that you miss the smile, the embrace, eachother in the aim for perfection.

    That’s all you should consider before deciding in the BIG STEP.

    For us – me and my husband – basically we agreed on nothing is more important than Love. All the rest in manageable, this isn’t… and with that Love in your heart you forgive some, overlook a lot and Live. As Simple and Complicated as that :)

    When the time is right we feel t’s right… when it isn’t, well, keep on dancing and enjoying. People always set the finishing line and in fact there isn’t any.


    1. This dancing advice is so interesting — but I can see how useful it might be (assuming you could get the guy to dance in the first place).

      1. Well, if you can’t how will you make him take the trash out or staying with the baby so you can go out with friends?

  7. Being unselfish! If both people are always looking to make the other happy, they will have a blissful relationship. Yes, there will be hard times but at least you know it won’t be because of each other. I honestly still feel like we’re in our honeymoon stage and we’ve been married eight years. Not a long time, I know, but it’s been the happiest eight years of my life.

    Great post, Brandi!

    1. You and Mr. B are the cutest. I love that it’s been 8 years and you’re still honeymooning. I knew you’d have a fantastic answer to this one.

      Being unselfish is absolutely vital, but I suppose that comes with a very deep love for another person.

  8. Oh gosh, laughter. And mutual, unconditional respect. Also, approaching every major decision as a team. Knowing when to listen, knowing when to argue, knowing how to admit you were wrong and knowing when to hold your ground that you’re right. Making every effort to express your love and affection–there’s no such thing as too much romance. Honest, reflective communication. And last? Loving the absolute crap out of one another, no matter what.


    P.S. Before meeting, falling in love with, and marrying Tiho, I was in a few relationshops that did not exemplify the aforementioned characteristics. I think it’s a very powerful thing to possess the ability to recognize when your self-worth is not receiving the honor it deserves. We all need to love ourselves first.

    1. Kayla, I love that last point! It is so essential that we love ourselves first. We have to be responsible for our own happiness rather than look to someone else to provide it. I think that might be a key in a healthy relationship as well, as it really lets you and another person come together to really create something fantastic, rather than look to be completed by them.

  9. I am single but am a serial-relationship person. I think the biggest thing I learned from my relationships was respect. Without that, there really isn’t a foundation to build anything else on. I’ve been lucky enough to meet people who have that quality and continue to teach me to demonstrate that quality to others

  10. I believe it is important to place each other’s dreams high on the priority list. Believe in one another, support the chase, and do whatever is necessary to make sure the daily grind doesn’t overshadow the sparkle of love and the life each of you wish to lead, together. Laugh a lot. Never go to bed angry. And take care of yourself {in other words, don’t let yourself go just because you are married…stay sexy, dress-up, shower, and most importantly, be healthy!}. No matter how many things are on your to-do list, find time daily to spend with one another and talk about something other than money, kids, and work. Never let those butterflies in your belly settle…keep the love alive, strong, and fresh.

    1. Such brilliant advice. And I’ve seen you and Sean together — I love how in love the two of you are (with each other and with your crumb).

  11. Hm, my boyfriend and I are in a long-distance relationship which is starting to become more and more complicated, but I think that in ANY relationship, the basic core of it is trust, honesty, and respect. Without these things, the relationship is in danger of crumbling. I’ve only ever been with one but I’ve observed others, and in the failing ones, at least one of these things is always missing. Always.

    1. Long distance relationships are definitely hard. They do need those three elements. I think that’s what went wrong with the last LDR I was in — he stopped being honest with me in little ways which grew to big ways, and as a result, I stopped trusting him.

  12. Great post, again!!! Jake and I struggled when we first moved in together. I mean we have a little more of a background but I was always so used to having one argument and the relationship to be over. It took a lot of sit down talks to come to terms with the fact that we were just communicating. Without communication, I don’t know what I would do.

  13. I am totally late to this party, but here’s my tuppence worth anyway…

    Gavin and I took traditional wedding vows, but ammended them to include the vow “I will always remain open and honest”. This is a biggie for us. Trust, honesty and respect. I feel that when all these three things are in place, your relationship is instantly more relaxed and enjoyable.

    Another vein of this is the fact that when we see other’s relationships fail or falter, we know that we’ll never let it get to that stage if we truly remain open with each other. Even though the truth can be hurtful sometimes.

    The love nothing more on this earth than to see my husband happy. So I go out of my way to make this happen, and he does exactly the same for me. I think this is hugely important. Surprising each other also helps keep things fresh and appreciated.

    And last but not least… we have a motto “Keep it light”. It helps us lighten up and relax when the daily stresses build. And it usually followed by some kind of ice breaking burst of laughter from my husband. I can’t help but laugh when he does.

    1. You’re not late at all! I think everything you said is so spot on — and I love the emphasis on keeping it light. That can be really easy to forget in stressful situations but laughter and play helps so much, doesn’t it? It’s wonderful you and your husband have such a strong relationship.

  14. my husband and i have just celebrated our 6 year anniversary, but we’ve been together over 10 years. the first couple of years of our relationship we long distance – one year transatlantic! at the time it was the hardest thing in the world, but looking back it laid exactly those foundations your article talked about: we learned to trust each other, to communicate, and that to make a relationship work takes effort and commitment. now, things are great. we still remember those things we learned in the early days, but perhaps more importantly we took the advice my dad gave us in his father of the bride speech on our wedding day: a marriage is teamwork. when life is hard and it’s tempting to take things out on the person who’s there, remember that they’re the one on your side, that they’re the one who will help you and laugh with you and cry with you, and that when it’s your turn you’ll do the same. i’m not always the best team mate, but then that’s the last bit of advice i’d give: marriage is hard work. you’ll make mistakes, you’ll screw up, you’ll get hurt and (worst of all) you’ll hurt the one you love. but stick with it and trust me, it’s AWESOME.

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