June has arrived, and for all practical purposes, so has summer. I looked back to see what I wrote a few years ago at this same time of year, and recognized that we are experiencing many of the same pleasures and challenges we did then. Ah, summer in the South, with its heat, humidity, allergy attacks, and mosquitoes. Not to mention the battle on our lawns to see which can grow quicker; the grass or the weeds or increased gas prices just in time for vacation trips and children looking for entertainment to fill their days. Okay, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to depress anyone. Summer does bring some pleasures as well. That list would include more daylight hours, outdoor concerts, barbecues, vacations, visits from family and friends, relaxation in our attire and our activities, and weddings—oh, so many weddings. Each spring and summer season, the community sections of our newspapers overflow with photographs of couples proclaiming their love for each other, as they become husband and wife. Family and friends gather to celebrate as the bride and groom commit to love, honor, respect, support and care for each other. They look ahead to all the future has in store for them. Their friends and family offer support and encouragement as the couple pledges to be life partners. The music plays, the vows are spoken, the rings are exchanged, God’s blessing is sought, the partnership is declared, and the journey begins. While the idea of sharing and working together is strong at the beginning, relationships can easily drift as each partner focuses on building, achieving, acquiring, meeting needs and managing what comes along their path. If not careful, the sense of partnership can fade from the shining promise of togetherness to a dark cloud of aloneness, as each goes in search of independent dreams and desires. But look again at the newspaper. You’ll also see the glowing faces of couples that have protected and nurtured their partnership, now celebrating many years of marriage together. Gather with them in times of celebration. Hear their stories of weathering life storms, sharing each other’s burdens, and enjoying each other’s successes. They have learned how to weave together their personal life experiences and perspectives in a way that honors both their individuality and their union. Sit at their feet and allow them to teach you about joy, strength, sacrifice, compromise, unselfishness, support, compassion and commitment. Listen as their hearts proclaim the privilege of having and being helpmates—partners. This month, my husband and I will celebrate 36 years of life together as husband and wife. Each year, we try to take time to slip away from the demands of our busy lives to share some relaxation time together and reflect on our relationship. We celebrate what is working well for us, and to set goals to strengthen our relationship as we step into a new year together. We take time for marriage check-ups of sorts. Nothing complicated, just an opportunity to renew our commitment to God and to each other, and to hold ourselves (and each other) accountable for contributing our best to strengthen our connection. It’s a precious gift we give to each other, to the relationship we’re building, and to our family. As we nurture our marriage, we share with our children and granddaughter out of the overflow of our love, and we encourage them to make their own relationships a priority in their lives. Successful business partnerships know the importance of periodic reviews to assess what is working and make adjustments as needed to strengthen the business and foster success. Our personal relationships need the same careful time and attention to assess, adjust and recommit. If we want them to be all God-designed, we need to give them some “TLC.” Opportunities for partnership extend beyond marriage to our neighborhoods, businesses, ministries, and community relationships, and the same care should be given to them. As we create these bonds, let’s be careful not to become so focused on acquiring and achieving, or becoming so independent that we miss the beauty found in joining together to share both the challenges and blessings of life. May we acknowledge God’s presence and seek His guidance as we take purposeful steps to honor, nurture, and protect the partnerships in our lives. Nancy Williams, LPC is a licensed counselor, life coach, speaker and writer. Send comments or questions to her at www.nancywilliams.net.

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