Grandma Knows Best: Successful Relationship Advice From Nana
Last weekend my family and I went to a cookout with whom it would be a disservice to just call church family. You know, where you see people you genuinely love but only see once a year and whenever there is a lull in conversation someone says “I remember when you were this big” and holds their hand up to their waist. Good times, good food, and lots of being told “God Chad, you look just like your uncle!”
Towards the end of the night my sister and I were sitting and talking. Mrs. Payne came by saying that she and her husband were heading home. Growing up, Mrs. Payne taught my sister how to sew and Mr. Payne was my basketball coach. As clever as I think I am, I can’t quite put into words their dynamic. They were always in sync. It seemed like except for basketball on Saturdays and sewing class on Wednesdays one is never too far away from the other. Always happy and always smiling.
Out of nowhere my sister asked Mrs. Payne: “How do you and Mr. Payne make it work after all of these years? Like, what’s the best advice you could give me at this point?” I was about to walk off and get another drink, but I stopped and paused wondering what would her answer be. I thought to myself “work.” Mrs. Payne didn’t even think about her answer. She replied “You have to remember why you’re in it.”
Mrs. Payne had effortlessly described even the most intricate of relationships. She has been married for 54 years and I could imagine that most of them have come along with trials and moments of adversity. However, as younger people we often put too much stock into the hard times. For example, I would often say that the key to a healthy and lasting relationship was hard work. In theory, I was right, but the language that I was using gave a negative connotation. My wife and I had been through it. We were also in our early-to-mid twenties. While it seemed like we lived a lifetime during those five years we often fought about the littlest things and contemplated calling it quits once a month. Yes, a strong and lasting relationship may be hard work, but a change of language can change one’s outlook.
Without taking a breath the next thing Mrs. Payne said was: “I tell my granddaughters all [of] the time you want someone who will love you like your grandfather, provide for you like your father, and make you laugh like your uncle.” As a man I think that is exactly it. At this point in my life, I don’t have the time or energy to date unless there’s potential for a future. If she makes it past two or three dates I’m looking to see if she’s a good fit for me to serve in the manner Mrs. Payne talked about. Truth be told, most men are.
We often make finding, appreciating, giving, and receiving love much more complicated than it really is. I think what my sister and I were told is a microcosm for how to successfully view a relationship. While it may be deep, just keep it simple. In two sentences someone who has been happily married since Kennedy was president basically said your partner is going to try you, piss you off, disappoint, and even break your heart. While they may do those and many more, focus more on the fact you will do the same to them, so there will always be room to keep trying. If they can/will continuously try to meet your needs and make you smile through it, what else is there?
The best relationship advice I can give is actually from the book “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People”: begin with the end in mind. I told Mrs. Payne I was taking her words and sharing them. She told me “Please do.”