I don’t claim to know all of the reasons why some relationships survive and others fail. But life has convinced me that most successful relationships have a few things in common with successful sailing. To begin with, they both require dedication and education; preparation and training are critical keys for success. They both require teamwork and without it lives and resources are lost. They both also require that some tough and/or clarifying questions are answered before they leave the proverbial shore. So what are the questions/factors? I am glad you asked.
The first question that a good sailor asks is - what’s my DESTINATION. The question may seem somewhat obvious but many times people don’t consider where they are going until after they are already in motion. Just think about – we move in with people before we really know if their goals and intentions are the same or at least complementary. We combine our checking accounts and saving accounts without discussing our individual financial philosophies. We marry people before we have enough time to determine if they are really compatible with our lives and lifestyles. The truth is that sometimes we jump into the relationship and marriage boat without knowing where we are going. And, then we wonder why so many of our relationships fail.
I believe that before you date or mate you need to ask yourself a few questions to determine your readiness for a relationship. Questions like - what is my goal, objective, mission or purpose in life? When my life journey ends, where do I want to be? What do I want to accomplish? What do I want my legacy to be? And after answering all of those reasons, the next question posed should be “Why”.
After you answer clarifying questions, your potential partner should be able to answer the same, or at least similar, questions too. Her answers should reveal if you two have similar destinations or goals. More importantly, her answers will help you determine and discern if she is willing and/or capable of sailing in life with you. I know it may sound somewhat elitist but some women are not spiritually, intellectually or emotionally ready to travel with you. And if she is not psychologically equipped, if your goals are not complementary with hers or if her goals compete with yours, you have a destination dilemma that must be addressed before you commit.
For example, if she wants to live in the South and you want to live in the North, that’s a destination dilemma. If your family destination is a family with two kids and her family destination does not include children, that’s a destination dilemma. If your destination is to empower your community and her destination is her own self-aggrandizement, that’s a destination dilemma. If your economic destination is to attain millionaire status and her economic destination is just to financially survive, that’s a destination dilemma.
We all have and will continue to have destination dilemmas because we all are unique. We have different perspectives, contexts and experiences that shape our realities and inform our views. Don’t get me wrong. Difference is OK; diversity should be celebrated. However, key differences in core areas may prevent, hinder, delay and discourage you from getting to your destination.
So, before you commit, reflect. Make sure you know what your goals are, and make sure your goals are compatible with her goals. Make sure you share a vision, a destination, of what you hope for and want from your relationship. Remember this - if you two do not share a vision, she can still be a person in the boat, but just not a partner in a ship, your ship.
Destination identifies your goal, but DIRECTION determines how you get there. And many times, the “how” is the hardest question to answer. Why? Because many times people fail to plan; they fail to map out their life journeys. Some people just let life happen and then wonder why their success is smaller than their goals.
Planning is critical and plans should always include contingencies. Because let’s face it – stuff happens. Even though none of us enjoy detours and delays, we all will experience them. But when you have a personal road map and have plotted your life journey, it is easier to adjust or reroute when circumstances or situations change. Having a well-thought-out plan makes it is easier to maneuver and navigate through life’s ups and downs without getting totally derailed. Like the proverb says - it is easier to get back on track when you have track.
Having direction is critical in all of our ships – relationships, friendships, partnerships, and fellowships. It is especially important in our partnerships because having/following different paths and routes affect your ability to live together. It impacts your ability to compromise, cooperate, collaborate and co-exist. Because without an agreed-upon and mutually beneficial path, tension erupts, competition ensues, bitterness grows and sabotage occurs. Believe it or not, your relationship with yourself and with your will partner will suffer if your life paths are too divergent. Like the adage says “how can two walk together unless they agree”.
So before you say “I do” and you then realize “you can’t”, determine your destination and clarify your direction. Even if your direction changes, and it will, make sure you still have a thorough back-up plan to guide and inform your decisions. And if you desire a partnership that adds joy and fulfillment to your life, make sure you understand her plans for her life too. Share, discuss and re-route if need be. Compromise, yes. Sacrifice, maybe. Surrender, never. If being with a lover requires you to abandon or detour too far from who you are and what you want to be, put her back in the boat. Remember everybody can not be a partner or friend in your ship. Partnerships and friendships are earned privileges not guaranteed positions.
The third factor is DISCIPLINE. A sailor once told me that sailing requires diligence and attention to detail. It requires that 3 things are always monitored: weather, waves and weight. She told me that failure to pay attention to any of those three could be dangerous and costly.
I believe that discipline and monitoring are not only important in sailing; they both play important roles in relationships too. But for some reason the word “discipline” invokes all types of emotions, and many of the emotions are negative. I believe that discipline is a positive thing and it is needed in all of our “ships”. We need discipline to practice empathy, extend mercy and accept forgiveness. We need discipline to speak honestly, respectfully and openly. We need discipline to challenge our assumptions and check our egos. We need discipline to press beyond our painful pasts and to heal our childhood wounds. We need discipline! Partnerships and friendships require discipline because without restraint, self-control, correction and order we fail to honor each other and we also fail to honor ourselves.
Partners need discipline, and they also need to monitor their relationships. Just as a sailor monitors weather, partners must monitor temperaments, feelings and moods. Just as sailors monitor weight so must partners balance the weight of their professions, families and their individual needs. Just as a sailor monitors waves so must partners monitor how the changing tides of unemployment, sickness, children and personal growth change their relationships. Sailors monitor the sea to stay afloat and partners monitor their relationships so that their unions stay alive. Even though it does not sound romantic, an honest, fulfilling and satisfying relationship requires both monitoring and discipline.
The capacity to love is as endless as the water in the sea. So sail happily. Make sure that the person you pick is not just a warm body in boat, but has the potential to be friend or partner in a ship. Friendships and partnerships are blessings and they both have the potential to enrich and enhance your life. So always keep the 3 keys in mind: a shared destination, a shared direction and a commitment to discipline. All 3 can make a difference in your life and in love.
Happy sailing and wish you well as you CREATE the love that you desire and deserve.