When runners crumple from exhaustion midway through a marathon, do we blame luck or fitness?
When the heavily favored basketball team loses to the underdog, is it chance or effort?
So why is it any different in romance?
These questions put relationships into perspective for me—they are win or lose affairs. And whether we win depends on our fitness. Luck, fate … they’ve got nothing to do with the lasting happiness you were born to control.
Relationships are a lifetime adventure of continual growth through failure and achievement. And with the adventure comes a challenge to be your best in all ways while helping your partner do the same. In a world so gripped by toxic romance, this concept is almost unfathomable.
But without preparedness, it’s impossible. No amount of luck can take the place of fitness.
Are you fit for a relationship?
If marriage is an elite marathon, today we have a bunch of couch potatoes hoping for a pleasure jog.
And we’re dropping out like flies.
We sustain all sorts of mortal injuries as couples not from bad luck, but from a lack of fitness. If your conception of a relationship is fluffy, your relationships will be plagued by injuries from start to finish. You’ll lose*.
*Yes, there is such a thing as losing in relationships. In the world of gold stars for everyone, it seems offensive. But it’s the damned truth.
So now is the time to prepare your mind with some questions:
- What do I want out of a relationship?
- What do I have to give in a relationship?
- What do I want to create through my relationship?
- If I knew that relationships were the key to world peace, would I approach them differently?
- Do I seek comfort in relationships, or do I seek challenge?
- In what ways have I prepared myself for a relationship?
- Am I dependable enough for a relationship?
- Am I honest enough?
- Strong enough?
- Happy enough?
- Selfless enough?
- Vulnerable enough?
- Patient enough?
- Persistent enough?
- Do I have faith in love?
- If yes, what have I done to demonstrate this? Would my future husband or wife be secure in the life
- I’ve lived up to now?
- Do I seek to give before I receive?
- Have I practiced unconditional love on myself, my friends, and my family?
- Have I grown in character through my friendships? Do I help my friends to grow?
- Have I experienced true intimacy in a platonic friendship?
Why relationships are so hard
If relationships were meant for anything other than maximum character development, we wouldn’t see our flaws so clearly in them. But world peace is built on every individual relationship, so relationships have to make us strong.
Whatever we hold on to that doesn’t serve us, a relationship will bring to the surface. Because of this “mirroring” effect, many people are convinced that love is impossible. But romantic love is only impossible if you refuse to change, to adapt, and grow.
But growing is hard. It means discovering your faults and changing the way you’ve done things your whole life. It means having faith in a better version of you and never settling for less. It means letting go of the known and embracing uncertainty, which is hardest of all.
Doing all that alone is an insane challenge … but with another person? Come on.
Still, most people go into relationships with fantasies of sweatpants and Netflix. I’m not an ascetic and I don’t think comfort is bad*—we need rest and relaxation for balance. But to see relationships as anything less than the greatest challenge of a lifetime will leave you unprepared for the greatest challenge of a lifetime. That’s what relationships are.
* Never mind that I sleep on a bed of nails.
So here are some real questions that will prepare you for a real relationship:
- What five strengths will you bring into your lasting love?
- Is growing in faith, integrity, courage, and virtue a daily practice for you? Is it even on your radar?
- If a relationship requires complete honesty for success, are you able to be honest with yourself first?
- What five weaknesses threaten your relationship?
- Are you prepared to see those weaknesses exposed in a relationship?
- Do you accept yourself fully as you are?
- Are you willing to improve yourself before blaming your spouse?
- Do you think you deserve to be loved despite your flaws?
- Are you prepared to see your partner’s weaknesses, and to accept him or her unconditionally?
- Are you willing to be your lover’s best friend first so you have the capability to accept them unconditionally?
- If relationship fitness meant channeling your sexual desire into the growth of a friendship, would you be willing to delay pleasure?
- Do you have what it takes to last for a lifetime?
If I had asked myself these questions eight years ago, I’d have saved a ton of grief for me and my girlfriends. But I didn’t, and my lack of fitness resulted in catastrophic relationship injuries.
I got tired of crumpling before the finish line; I got tired of being so pathetically out of shape and knowing I could achieve more. So over the course of many years I asked myself the same questions you just read. And I realized I had a ton of hard work to do to get fit.
But in committing to the work I revolutionized my life. And when I meet my wife, I’ll be prepared for her in body, mind, and spirit.
How about you?