Dr Perpetua Neo

How to make a relationship last through life's seasons

One of the most illuminating things anyone ever told me is “People expect to always be in honeymoon. There’ll be ups and downs. Sometimes, one person is up and the other is down. But if you work together, different types of honeymoons will come about”. I scribbled it down after our meeting and etched it in my soul.

Journeying through the seasons

When 2 people have been together for long enough, they experience different seasons of life together. Sometimes everything is stable and there’s lots of joy. Then there are times when A suffers, and B’s great. I remember reading a story when a woman declared “I don’t deserve this. How dare he drag me down”. We use terms like ‘party pooper’ and ‘joy sucker’. And wonder if that person’s useful anymore, or if we love that person. “You’ve changed. You’re not the person I chose to be with”, we exclaim. We expect them to be stronger when really, their suffering scares us. Somehow, we believe we wouldn’t succumb that way if the same thing happened to us. But, take off that imaginary cloak of invincibility and walk in their shoes. If you were suffering, how would you want to be treated?

“If you’re patient and you practice taking care of yourself and the other person, you may have a chance to discover that the elements of goodness and beauty in the person you love are still there. Taking care of yourself, you can support your loved one and re-establish the joy in your relationship” -- Thich Nhat Hanh, How to Love

Then seasons change. B has overcome suffering, and it’s A’s turn. If you’re B, don’t forget how A stood by you. You know what it feels like. No one means to drag another down. And there are times when A falls into an abyss, and B uses this as a wake-up call to rise out of his. Sometimes we’ll both affect each other. Just like joy can be contagious, so can suffering.

The invisible teacher

Dark times can teach us about ourselves, in hindsight. We learn lessons as to why things are the way they are- bad habits consuming us, excessiveness, no self-awareness. Some seasons of stability and joy actually had shaky foundations. When 2 people come together, the reality of creating a life out of different ideas, personalities and habits can be jarring. But together, we can learn to make parts of our life more stable. And when we meet each other in our pain, tasting our rawness and vulnerability, something changes. An understanding happens. The kind that renders all your previous claims of knowing each other invalid. And like what that wise person said, the different kinds of honeymoon will appear.