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Relationship Renewal

I pulled some eggs from the refrigerator the other day with plans to use one – and on a whim I checked the expiration date. Low and behold, they had expired. I never think about eggs expiring.

When I got to work, I was reminded by a mailer that my subscription to “Simple” – a favorite magazine of mine, had also expired. I called in to renew it and go figure!, my credit card had expired. So on my way home, I stopped by the store to buy more eggs and I pulled out my check book to write a check since my credit card had expired. After obtaining my driver’s license, the clerk looked at it long and hard before saying, “uh, Ma’am, your license has expired.” (To which I said, “Please dont‘ call me ma’m – I’m much too young for that!) And on the way home, I glanced up at the little sticky stuck in top left corner of my windshield and what-do-you-know? uh-huh, expired! Even my oil expired.

Does everything expire? Eggs do, credit cards do, driver’s licenses do, subscriptions do, even oil does.

Does love expire? I think we all fear that perhaps it does. How do we keep love alive in a world of expiration?

Renewal! That’s how. Who ever created the concept of expiration (even humans expire!) was on to something. You see, what expires, can also be renewed. In most cases, expiration invites renewal – and in some cases we even have a choice about whether or not to renew.

Contracts usually have a beginning and an end. Anyone who has ever mortgaged a house, car, boat, or property knows that eventually, on one glorious day your contract really will expire upon completion of the final payment. But what about the contract of marriage, or in same-sex relationships, the “non-legal” agreement of a life-time relationship? How come these are NOT set up to expire?

Imagine a society that requires all couples (regardless of sexual orientation) to create relationship agreements that are time-limited with the option to renew. Say for example that all relationshipcontracts are created on the premise of a “lifetime intent” broken into increments of time (that the couple decides for themselves) where each partner has to renew their commitment to the relationship.

For example, imagine if every fifth anniversary you celebrate, each of you is responsible for re-committing to your relationship. During this time, each partner spends time really contemplating what works and doesn’t work, and considers whether or not this relationship is serving as a vehicle to personal growth or a commitment that does not encourage your greatness. Imagine actually evaluating the costs and benefits of your relationship every five years and making a conscious decision about whether or not you want to continue it. If your relationship is like mine is to my drivers license, my oil in my car and my credit card then it is a no-brainer – you renew it! If however, your relationship is spoiled like my eggs, you may decide at that point that the relationship is over.

How do you think your behavior would change if your relationship was up for renewal every five years? Would you spend the entire term on your best behavior, looking for ways to improve yourself and your relationship so that your odds of renwal are greater? Or would you spend the five years looking at all of the ways you feel like your relationship doesn’t offer you what you want?

Though I don’t actually encourage the option to opt-out of a relationship every five years (that’s really too easy) I do see the merit in conscious renewal on a regular basis. Renewal means to me that we are consciously choosing what we already have and committing to it by choice. Some of the immediate benefits that come to mind are:

  • Both partners choose to be where they are and don’t succumb to a role of “victim” to, or in, the relationship
  • Each partner has increased pressure (the five year review!) to be as good of a partner as possible
  • Renewing requires us to take responsibility for who we are and what we want – we can’t hide behind a “commitment” and play victim to a relationship we’d rather not be in – because every five years we are actively choosing to be there!
  • Separation would be unnecessary and not seen as a failure, instead it would be a shared decision that results from the behaviors of both partners
  • We are less inclined to slack off with self care if we know we have to continue to be a good partner to keep our relationship

Again, my example of the five-year expiration plan is to highlight the value of conscious, intentional decision-making, not an easy-out. I think so often we get consumed by what our relationship does or does not offer us, when in fact, we need to spend as much time reflecting on what we do or do not offer our relationship!