Courtship: take two

Some advice on how to handle the first big relationship hurdle.

Rather than chocolate and roses on Valentine's day, ask for meatloaf, peas, and mashed potatoes. Just a little gravy.

The moment couples realize that courtship and marriage prosper on a four-square diet light on passionate fluff is probably the moment they'll weather their first serious "this relationship is over" fight. And eventually, a fight or major misunderstanding comes with any relationship.

Don't fear the first lasting disagreement and the aftershocks that may follow. It's critical to any couple that the relationship move forward because of, not in spite of, a fight. A long-term relationship, with marriage as the possible destination, will always be a work in progress. You must believe that it is worth whatever it takes to keep it going.

If there's a disagreement, hurt feelings, inconsideration, a shouting match - whatever - remember, the two of you had it and the two of you have to work it out. Don't let it fester, or think it will just go away.

Call it a "misunderstanding." It's a wimp word, but it's easier to get over a misunderstanding than a fight.

If an argument looms, never yell. Either listen - really listen - and appreciate how serious the other person is taking it, or walk away for a while and be quiet. Then come back and listen.

Blowups can happen quietly, inside, with the other person unaware. But if you've been talking through misunderstandings, both will handle it better the next time because both made it through the first serious misunderstanding.

Remember, we're talking about keeping a serious relationship going, not seeing if one is possible. You've moved beyond infatuation, you've moved beyond lust. Cherish is where the relationship is at, and where you want it to continue.

What gives Valentine's Day its emotional pull, like the moon's unseen influence on the tides, is how it flirts with one of the most unique things we do as human beings - make a commitment.

Staying in love with the same person is a life's work. Overcoming fights is part of the deal.

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