As part of ongoing series of articles on the topic of interpersonal relationships, I want to answer an important leading question. The answers will vary between individuals and although there are no clearly right or wrong answers, there is a clear preference for some over others.

Every situation arises as a result of some other action, and every action or attempt we make to change the circumstances stems from the desire to adjust our environment or circumstances to better suit ourselves. Just as eating a burger to satisfy hunger first requires getting hungry and making (or ordering) the burger prior it’s consumption.

Observed from this perspective you might notice that the proverbial “burger” manifests twice: first in the desire for a burger which arises to satisfy hunger, followed by the meal itself – which is ultimately consumed.

Extending this idea to relationships, it means that in order to end up in a healthy and successful (by your own definition) relationship it is imperative to become consciously aware of why you want to be in a relationship. Or, in other words:

What is the purpose of your relationship?

The answer seems ridiculously simple: to satisfy your desire for companionship, physical closeness and intimacy. We naturally gravitate towards people who have things in common and whose company we enjoy. Add some physical attraction to the mix and that’s a recipe for a perfect and everlasting relationship.

This, as you might know from observing your friends and from your own experience, doesn’t work very well for any significant length of time. Interests change, work demands interfere, and feelings of excitement are slowly replaced by boredom, flirting is replaced by conversations about domestic logistics. It is no surprise that individuals who entered a new relationship full of optimism find themselves in a bind. There is, however, a commonality that all relationships which fare much better will share. You might even recognize this trait in friends who, no matter the short-term situation, always remain happy and cheerful in their relationships.

All lasting relationships which remain happy and healthy always have some larger purpose which transcends the relationship, with the relationship becoming a process to fulfill that purpose.

If you observe any relationship that remained productive and healthy, you will find that there is always some foundation which makes a relationship into a path and not the end goal. It could often be nuclear family or raising children, a material or legal arrangement, or numerous other reasons why individuals would enter any sort of relationship.  It can be as simple as physical intimacy but almost always encompasses other areas of life.

A more critical but less obvious component which determines if the relationship will continue to thrive is that this overarching purpose must never be complete. This is directly opposite of anything productivity gurus will teach, and yet in this case this is critical if your relationship is to remain healthy for many years. This simple requirement stems from the fact that:

Once a task is completed, people will transfer their attention to some other task – regardless of any detriment, real or perceived.

Makes sense? Take your focus away from your relationship for any significant length of time, and your relationship will suffer as a result.

Armed with this information, I urge you to consider what purpose does the relationship you are in right now fulfill that integrates well with your own ambitions and needs. It could even be something complex which ties in with improving lives of others, enriching your partner’s life, transcending your personal perceived limitations or as an opportunity to develop as an individual from new challenges and experiences that your relationship will undoubtedly present. You might even discover that your current relationship is not aligned with your goals – in which case you might begin seeing it as a situation which will allow you to transcend your challenges in this arena.

I hope the above perspective will encourage you to explore the motivation for the relationships you find yourself in, and allows you more self-awareness around your own needs and desires that you hope to fulfill through your partner.

I encourage you to share with other readers in the comments below why you are in your current relationship, or if you are in-between relationships, your reasons why not.