I feel lucky to count myself among the few people who is relatively young, with a long and steady relationship. And I feel honored when people ask me for our secret. The cliché is true: I feel communication and hard work are the key to a good relationship. But there’s one piece of advice a wise old man once gave me, which I always try to pass on when someone asks for it. Because after almost two decades of loving union, it turned out to be the best relationship advice I have ever received. And I would like to take this opportunity to share it with you as well!
I was 14 when I met the man of my life. 15 when we started “going steady”. Nobody will deny your teens are a wonderful time to rapidly fall in and out of love, be rash in your actions and find yourself heedless about the future. But we (if I may be so bold as to speak for the Mister as well) soon found that we were madly devoted to one another. We rushed head-first into the good times, survived the bad, and as we speak we can look back at almost 18 years of romantic allegiance – with our newborn daughter as our crowning glory.
I received the best relationship advice I ever received at the start of our relation, when I was 15. With little to no budget for a birthday present (and no clue about what a 16 year old boy would want for his birthday) I decided to make a booklet for him. Filled with little drawings, written snippets and well-wishes. I started a month in advance and managed to round up everyone who would be crazy enough to write something down – no matter whether they knew my boyfriend or not. Of the latter there were lots of “I don’t know you, but hey man, happy birthday!” messages and I appreciated them all the same: The empty notebook I got him had tons of pages and I was determined to deliver it to him completely filled.
So during a simmering day in august ’00, I took my birthday-notebook to a block party down the street. As soon as I whipped it out people rushed to contribute. With spirits up and a glass of wine in hand everyone was inclined to jab something down, and I was happy to see my book becoming of more and more value with all those lovely written messages in it.
I was surprised when one of my local vicars said he wanted to give a shot at writing something too. As a fifteen year old girl I didn’t know him very well, and although he was very approachable, due my deep-found respect for him I didn’t have the nerve to ask him myself.
Because despite being short in height he was impressive in appearance, carrying himself with a calm sense of pride. He was a black man from South-Africa (later I learned, a survivor of the Apartheid) with blue eyes, which together with his profession gave him an air of otherworldly mysticism. Yet I never knew his raspy baritone of a voice to be anything than golly. Thinking back he wasn’t that much unlike the Santa Claus I knew from the movies; you knew he was on your side, but his aging appearance and the mystery around him demanded a different kind of respect*.
* It didn’t take many years after that before I found myself in his company at the same block parties, dancing together and roaring with laughter, all (in hindsight, maybe somewhat childish) inhibitions forgotten.
What I remember was that he took some very deliberate effort to write down his message – in a dressy script, just like you’d expect from a vicar. He took the time to be meticulous about what he wrote, and even though it made me a little impatient that it took him so long (I was 15, mind you), I soon realized that whatever he was trying to convey, it had to be of value. And it was. Because although his story was somewhat longer, he wrote one single sentence separately and boldly underlined it.
“In love, never take each other for granted.”
He took his time to explain to me what it meant in my native language. His effort made me forget about my preliminary impatience: Needless to say I was pleasantly surprised to see someone take my relationship so serious, and I took his words in like a sponge.
And I still live by them to this day, years after he has passed away and left his beautiful mark on this world.
Few loves are unconditional, and especially in a romantic relationship, we should never assume it is. Always appreciate that your partner chose to fall in love with you, rather than with someone else. Always try your best to make your partner feel wanted and appreciated, and give reminders that you value his or her presence in your life. And remind yourself to give your partner love and attention, and respect your partner by making the necessary time and effort it takes to make a relationship run smoothly.
What is the best relationship advice you’ve ever received? Make sure to share it in the comments!