My significant other and I celebrated 34 years together on February 1. Jimmy and I began as childhood sweethearts, raised four kids and are now on our way into the dessert stage of this complex relationship—the union that many people call marriage, but we call life partnership.
Whenever we hear the Dire Straits song, “Why Worry,” we both choke up because this tune has played as the main soundtrack behind our many courses together. On one hand, time is what has managed to sift out much of the distasteful elements of our matrimony and, on the other hand, time has also managed to fortify us. It seems as though time itself is a staple, a component behind our longevity—which might seem redundant—the longer you stay together, the longer you stay together. Maybe that’s true. But how to actually do that is the tricky part. When I take a step back and respond to those familiar questions, “How do you do it? What’s the secret?” the answer tends to come through the filter of Creativity. (Shocker!)
At first glance, it would be easy to discount the Creativity that goes into a thriving relationship. Most of us are conditioned to acknowledge and recognize the Creative efforts behind sculptures, photography and screenplays. But when you boil it down, long-term relationships require just as much Creativity as The Marriage of Figaro or the Harry Potter series. But could the Creativity necessary for human interaction be a different type than the Creativity required for the Sistine Chapel?
I think not.
As a matter of fact, when architects sat down to plan out the infamous gothic stained-glass windows and vaulted ceilings to be covered in Michelangelo’s elaborate mural, they employed the same force necessary to manage a serious relationship. The fundamental elements of Creativity are innovation, transformation, and connection. Only the building skills needed to execute such an iconic architectural masterpiece are different than the communication skills required for a healthy, functional and more-often-than-not happy partnership.
When something new or novel is introduced into culture, especially if it is useful, it is endorsed as Creative. We see this with new medicines, new technology or an original series on HBO. How does this apply to a marriage or a relationship?
In order for relationships to thrive, we must invent new ways of dealing with old issues, even when starting over with a new partner seems a viable option—something that 60 percent of us do (which can be considered novel, too!). However, long-held patterns that are hard to break warrant new ways of thinking and new ways of being together. Building the Sistine Chapel actually sounds easier than revamping reactionary habits and re-negotiating emotional triggers but, nevertheless, can be done. This Creative juice is nothing new; it’s part of our humanity and always has been. Newness keeps a marriage from going stale and becoming useless.
Creative acts also transform culture, like Benjamin Franklin’s contribution of electricity changed society forever; or like Banksy’s graffiti art transforms mindsets that promote capitalism. In relationships, our Creative efforts transform not only our interpersonal communication but our feelings for one another. When one partner redirects his/her frustration and begins to brainstorm solutions instead of hurling accusations, it transforms the relationship by making a safe place to build trust and then cultivates warm feelings of affection (rather than promoting defensiveness). The transformation isn’t a one-time experience, but an ongoing cycle, like the seasons. Creativity is not stagnant in nature, nor in healthy partnerships. With all this transformation and change in a relationship, it can always be something new!
Finally, the crux of Creativity is connection. The function of all Creative acts is to connect us as a species. Music brings us together; beautiful structures are where we congregate; storytelling through literature and film helps us to relate to one another. Creative acts in relationships are no different. When we write the recipe for a fulfilling relationship, Creativity must be the main ingredient. How to execute that Creativity may differ with each couple, as in expectation, communication style, etc., but the end goal is an intimate companionship so robust that the disconnect in our personal lives doesn’t spill out into society. When we are more deeply connected to our life-partners, we have more to contribute to the collective because we spend less time and money mopping up and dividing up. Our healthy connections are what enable us to impact the world around us in a beneficial way. That’s how we can savor the song “Why Worry,” even if it’s been played and replayed since 1985.
Baby, I see this world has made you sad
Some people can be bad
The things they do, the things they say
But baby, I’ll wipe away those bitter tears
I’ll chase away those restless fears
And turn your blue skies into gray
Why worry now
Baby, when I get down I turn to you
And you make sense of what I do
And though it isn’t hard to say
There should be laughter after pain
There should be sunshine after rain
These things have always been the same
So why worry now