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Here’s What Happens When You’re With Someone for 50 Years

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Recently my wife and I celebrated 50 years of marriage and close to 60 years of hanging out together. Pretty rare, right?

Let’s face it, maintaining long term relationships and finishing what you started are formidable feats and challenging to say the least particularly in today’s world of uncertainty and unpredictability that cause immense stress and strain on people.

I have learned that there is a great deal of commonality between maintaining a healthy “productive” relationship for over a half century and achieving success whether it be in a career or business. What works to develop person-to-person sustainability tends to be an accurate predictor of what will work in any environment where building strong relationships is critical.

These are my top 5 takeaways.

Success requires an all-in attitude

If you’re not in it mentally for the duration you’re not likely going to be able to endure the struggles of the journey. If you don’t start out with the sole purpose of giving it everything you’ve got to make the relationship work despite the odds, then it probably won’t.

My observation is that many partnership casualties result from giving up when the going gets tough; when the energy required to make it work is more than what people are prepared to invest — they don’t see that the return is worth it. To be successful in anything dictates that you can’t be sorta in. If you’re not 100% committed nothing remarkable happens and your goal alludes you.

You either take on the challenge with the sole purpose of achieving what you stepped up to or you don’t.  A journey with a half baked or casual commitment never gets completed; being in for 50% doesn’t cut it. It’s too easy to walk away. And it leaves casualties behind.

The most workable way forward is never a binary choice

Nothing is black or white. There isn’t a formula that says if you do this you will have a successful relationship and if you do something else you won’t (one of the reasons I never listened to the relationship “experts”). What works for one relationship does not mean it will necessarily work for another. And what works for one person will not necessarily work for another.

Success is rather characterized by shades of grey that blends the needs of a broader audience and a broader purpose. Meaningful progress requires a compromise of minds to yield a variety of perspectives and opinions. Failure to compromise and appreciate the needs of more than oneself normally results in dysfunctional relationships, minimal progress and eventual failure.

Imperfection must be embraced

As I have witnessed in my own life, there is no such thing as a perfect partnership (and I must confess I don’t understand who ultimately is the author of perfection); it is often laced with the extremes of euphoria and sorrow. And it certainly doesn’t follow any textbook theory on what it “should” look like. Partnerships work because of what the partners say, not on what the textbooks say.

Success in anything is based on trying what you think might work and learning whether it does by trying to execute it on the run. It’s not determined by what you THINK will work but rather on whether it DOES when it stands raw naked in the face of real world forces.

It’s a function of the number of imperfect tries you make; the more tries you make the greater the likelihood a winning way forward will be discovered. In addition, success requires keeping expectations of others real; not expecting them to always precisely live up to a predefined set of expectations. Amazing results happen when people are allowed to express their “imperfect” individuality and creativity.

Related: What Happens When Leaders Are Approachable

Heads up and be alert with tingly spider senses for the unexpected

Positive momentum is achieved. Things are stable. Life is good. Then WHAM! Just when you think things are running smoothly, the unexpected hits with vengeance out of left field to set your world on its heals. A setback on the job, medical issues or family school grades performance descend upon you and threaten you and yours.

We live in a chaotic world where we have little control over much that affects us. So to move forward we must be able to accommodate the occasional body blow that disrupts our original plan and continue to move ahead.

We must be alert to the tipping points that await to lure us to the “dark side” from the shadows to push us off course.

And we must stay nimble and resilient to take a punch and still move forward with our end game in mind.

Stay with your mission

Be focused, true and resilient. It’s easy to get distracted and think another goal or purpose is better than the one you are currently pursuing.  Another person looks like an attractive alternative. Another career has a mouth watering pull. Your current business strategy doesn’t seem to be working so look elsewhere for a more attractive option.

You might discover a different route to your goal; that’s perfectly ok. But to be enticed off track and throw the baby out with the bath water results in rigour mortise setting in; no decisions are made and no actions are taken.  Be loyal and committed to your destination; find any means to reach it.

A relationship is an amazing teacher for what it takes to be successful in a career, business or any facet of life.

Pay attention to the ones you have.

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