Click here to read an original op-ed from the TED speaker who inspired this post and watch the TEDTalk below.
In the blog "This Gay Relationship," where I write about two of the most important relationships in my life -- the one with myself and the one with my partner -- I've been asked by readers, what accounts for the success of the twenty-one-year, monogamous relationship I've shared with Chris, the love of my life and my soul mate? How have we been able to stay together for so long, and what is our secret?
In February 2011, I published a post titled "Thirteen Reasons Why 'This Gay Relationship' Works", identifying all the good things that have undoubtedly figured in keeping Chris and me together in a happy and loving relationship. And while such things as commitment, trust, respect, patience, love, and humor have played undeniable roles, upon giving these questions consideration again, I discovered I perhaps missed the most important reason of all, the bedrock to the rest.
How easy it is to complain about everything you don't have: I don't have a job that pays me what I know I'm worth. I don't have the nicest apartment. I don't have the best car. Even, I don't have a partner who meets all of my needs, both in and out of the bedroom.
Conversely, it's not always so easy to be grateful for what you do have, to make gratitude one's orientation, to want what you have and not what you don't. But it's crucial to the success of any long-lasting relationship.
The simple truth is, my partner doesn't have to share his finite time on earth with me. There are plenty of people out there who might make him as happy as, or even happier than, I do. Yet, despite that possibility, he chooses to be with me.
And not only does he choose to be with me, but, even considering all the things I bring to our relationship that I'm sure he wishes I didn't, he chooses to love me unconditionally, to share with me the experience of love -- an experience all of us crave, derive meaning and validation from, but, regrettably, are not all fortunate enough to have. That's no small thing. I'm a lucky man, and I know it.
Gratitude is a conscious choice. It demands we live in the now, put the past behind us, and keep the future free from expectation. -- Rick Modien
Here's the thing about gratitude: It removes us from that insecure place of focusing on what's lacking in our lives, and sets us down on the firm ground of seeing what's already there, what's available to us every single day -- if we just open our eyes and our hearts, and allow ourselves to receive it. It's also about cutting our partners slack, recognizing they're human beings just like we are, and forgiving them, in the same way we hope they forgive us.
Gratitude is a conscious choice. It demands we live in the now, put the past behind us, and keep the future free from expectation. It's appreciation, respect, and helps to define the meaning of love.
Every so often, I say to Chris, "Thank you for being my partner." As hokey as it may sound, I couldn't mean it more sincerely, both in what I say and in what I do.
And I know, from when he returns the gesture, how good it makes him feel about himself. How it helps to convey the value I place on his decision to spend his life with me. And how it helps motivate him to be the very best partner I could ask for.
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