Tools for Couples Happiness — 10 November 2003
Savor your ‘Relationtrip’

The life of a couple is a journey that may be likened to a traveling
adventure. I term it – “relationtrip”. When we parallel these experiences we may learn to apply the simple, valuable and helpful tools we practice in traveling for attaining a more successful relationship.

Undertaking a trip usually involves four stages: dreaming, planning, experiencing the trip and retelling it.

Before embarking on a trip people experience anticipatory excitement about the events to come. They use their imagination to create their expected pleasures. They also become aware of fears and concerns that arise about the difficulties that may occur. To reduce anxiety about negative eventualities, future travelers identify the predictable challenges such as the weather, money, language, safety, or lost luggage and decide how to handle them. They prepare themselves mentally and practically for their trip.

Similarly, in relationships, couples need to dream with excitement about embarking on a life together, and address their fears and concerns about some foreseen difficulties. They need to talk of their hopes, expectations, and projected successes as well as anticipated hurdles. They are well advised to set a course of action for dealing with the various aspects of their future life together.

The practical preparation for a trip requires gathering as much information as possible: reading, getting maps, talking to well -traveled people, and consulting with travel professionals. Wise life mates engage in a preparation period as well. They study the terrain of each other’s soul, they read and educate themselves about relationships, they learn as much as they can from those who traveled well together in life and from those who have struggled and have lessons to share. Wise couples consult relationship experts in preparation for their life journey together.

Once travelers begin their journey, they must concern themselves very intensely with each other. Traveling companions must be conscious of each other’s physical abilities, preferences, interests, likes and dislikes, and habits to pace their journey accordingly. Without being aware of each other’s daily and even moment by moment needs, the mutual enjoyment of both travelers may be seriously compromised. In order to maximize one’s pleasure, the concern for the other person’s satisfaction becomes imperative. These simple but crucial principles apply to successful relationships as well. Attending to your partner’s needs optimizes his or her life and produces a mutually rewarding and happy union.

In case of travel disappointments, changes, and unplanned happenings, the travel mates must keep their wits about them, keep their dialogue going and solve their problems together. Turning against each other jeopardizes both of them. The four “C’s”: Consideration, Communication, Cooperation and Compromise are essential to guarantee the safety and success of their adventure. Those very skills are essential for life mates. People who travel together know it – regrettably some couples lose sight of these tools and get derailed.

Travelers’ goals are to see, learn, savor every moment, and maximize the pleasure and enjoyment of their journey. In life, we often fail to stress the same goals. We get mired in day to day tasks and lose sight of the joyous aspects of life to be savored. We become enslaved to our routines and neglect to cherish the insights, beauty and charm of every ordinary undertaking.

After returning from a trip, travelers gather their photos, stories, and detailed recollections to share with their family and friends. They love to retell the details of each experience and emotion, which helps keep their pleasure ongoing.

In life, retelling of joyous events and feelings is less commonly practiced. Sadly, people are more likely to generate attention and empathy for woes than for joys. Some men love to reminisce about their military or war experiences, women share their labor and delivery tales. These stories of heroism, hardship, and survival are life – enriching memories.

Rarely do people find attentive audience for stories regarding their compromises, joys of parenting, or the thrills of their every day blissful moments. Couples, as travelers, need to take the time to sing their own praises for their happy moments that should not be forgotten. As it keeps the memory of the journey alive for travelers, it keeps the joy of connection and the excitement of the union alive for the couples.

Think of your relationship as a relationtrip:

  • Use enthusiasm and positive anticipation for every aspect of your life together.
  • Plan for the good and bad in life by devising ways to enhance the good and develop coping strategies for the bad.
  • Educate yourself by reading and talking to experts about relationships.
  •  Cherish every moment of ordinary life- only you can make it a divine experience.
  • Use Consideration, Communication, Cooperation and Compromise to facilitate your couple connection.
  • Emphasize the positive in your relationship by retelling each other about joy and appreciation you have for each other and your unique union.
  • Life is a trip. Traveling well together makes your life sweeter and your relationtrip a joy.

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About Author

Offra Gerstein, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist in clinical practice in Santa Cruz, California for over 25 years, and specializes in relationship issues for couples and individuals for improved quality of life. Her work includes: mate selection, marriage, long term relationships, gay and lesbian couples, work relationships, parenting issues, family interactions, friendships, and conflict resolutions. Offra has lectured extensively to various groups, conducted support groups for several organizations, and has been writing a weekly column "Relationship Matters" for the Santa Cruz Sentinel since 2001.

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