When we made our wedding vows, one of the places my wife and I took inspiration from was Carl Rogers book Becoming Partners. In it he looks at different relationships and tries to distill out the properties that couples have that help them endure. I think these are worth ruminating on and make a good road map in good times and challenging ones as well. These are taken from different sections of the second part of the book and collected here:
We each commit ourselves to working together on the changing process of our present relationship, because that relationship is currently enriching our love and our life and we wish it to grow.
I will risk myself by endeavoring to communicate any persisting feeling, positive or negative, to my partner — to the full depth that I understand it in myself — as a living, present part of me. Then I will risk further by trying to understand, with all the empathy I can bring to bear, his or her response, whether it is accusatory and critical or sharing and self revealing.
III. THE DISSOLUTION OF ROLES
We will live by our own choices, the deepest organismic sensings of which we are capable, but we will not be shaped by their wishes, the rules, the roles which others are all too eager to thrust upon us.
IV. BECOMING A SEPARATE SELF
Perhaps I can discover and come closer to more of what I really am deep inside — feeling sometimes angry or terrified, sometimes loving and caring, occasionally beautiful and strong or wild an awful — without hiding these feelings from myself. Perhaps I can come to price myself as the richly varied person I am. Perhaps I can openly be more of this person. If so, I can live by my own experience values, even though I am aware of all of society’s codes. Then I can let myself be all this complexity of feelings and meanings and values with my partner — be free enough to give of love and anger and tenderness as they exist in me. Possibly then I can be a real member of a partnership, because I am on the road to being a real person. And I am hopeful that I can encourage my partner to follow his or her own road to a unique personhood, which I would love to share.