Sustainable Relations

There is one sustainability issue that seems to trump all others, so much so, that we don’t usually think of it as such. The issue is: How sustainable is your relationship?

The quality of our relationships is a key component in our sense of well-being. And ‘quality’ cuts across all levels: physical, emotional, mental and spiritual.

When single people are seeking a mate, they want a relationship that can be sustained through whatever comes. Married individuals are in crisis when their spouse is crashing – due to alcohol, emotional withdrawal, anger, illness, etc. Their fear rises like a chorus, "Is my marriage ending?"

The sustainability of relationships even trumps health. Statistically, married people are healthier, but we don’t marry to be healthier. Many a person, however, has dealt with their alcoholism or drug addiction to save their marriage.

The Key Ingredient to Sustainability

The key to sustaining a green environment is commitment on both community and individual levels. Without commitment, green space keeps disappearing. But with commitment, the requirements of sustainability get built into the political, social and financial structure of the community.

Likewise, commitment is the key ingredient to a sustainable relationship, but sometimes there is confusion about what that means. I’ll give a couple of examples.

A man and woman have been living together exclusively for two years. Then she has an affair. He is hurt and outraged that she would do such a thing in a ‘committed relationship.’ She says, "No, we weren’t committed." Is exclusivity the same as commitment?

A man and a woman in a ten year relationship get into an argument about whether or not he is committed. He says he is committed because he goes to work and earns money to support the family. She says he’s not committed because he’s angry all the time, is emotionally unavailable and has no interest in her life. What do you think?

Perhaps a look at commitment in another context will shed some light on the issue. Suppose you went to the weekly service at one church exclusively for three years. Would it mean that you were committed to that spiritual community and its principles? Of course not! Likewise, any couple could live together exclusively for a time without being committed.

To join the spiritual community you would have to study its principles and show that you understand them. You would then have to declare publicly what you are committing to in a formal ceremony. Both you and the spiritual community would be clear about what you were agreeing to and both would be making a commitment to the long haul.

Commitment in a relationship is no different. Time is spent in working out the ground rules – physical, emotional, mental and spiritual – so there is no ambiguity about what is offered and what is expected. Promises are made and promises are kept.

Whether entering into a legal marriage or not, some kind of formal, public declaration of the mutual commitment comes in. That way, their agreement becomes unambiguous to the public, which in this case is their family and friends. Their public is their support group in their goal of sustainability.

I have mentioned the spiritual component several times, because in a committed relationship there is something more than the physical, emotional and mental. There is a deep energetic bonding, a spiritual connection, a soul connection, and more. And if this spiritual component is nourished, the love within the relationship will deepen over the years.