I’ve never waxed a rental car.
I don’t purposely abuse them, and I’m careful not to get them scratched or dented.
But since it’s not my car, and I only have it for one day (and I’m paying a lot of money for it), I don’t treat it quite the same as my own car.
Sometimes I’ll drive it a little harder than normal or take it over rough roads I might otherwise avoid. In my own car, hitting a pothole concerns me because I might have messed up the alignment, creating excessive tire wear and other problems down the line.
In a rental car, I don’t give it a second thought since I won’t have the car after one day. Deep inside I’m thinking, “It’s not my problem” and “I’m paying them to worry about this.”
(OK, maybe I was having a bad day . . . )
I know that someone else will be driving that car tomorrow, and they have their own driving habits and issues. If the car is rented every day, it has up to 365 drivers each year who aren’t committed to the car’s long-term care. They treat the car differently, because they’re not committed for the long haul. They don’t care if it’s washed, waxed or maintained. They just want it to work for them all day long, and then they turn it in when they don’t need it anymore.
I think relationships are like that.
Making a commitment shows ownership in a relationship. If we operate from a filter that says we’re committed 24/7, 365 days a year, we don’t treat the relationship as a rental. We wash it, wax it, and take the steps to maintain it.
When Diane and I stood at the altar, we made some promises to each other. Basically, we promised to be committed to each other “for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and health.” We didn’t say, “For better . . . for richer . . . in health.” We promised to stick around and work on the relationship.
Here’s the benefits of long-term commitment:
We take better care of things when we plan on keeping them. When I have a long-haul mindset in a relationship, I’ll spend the time to keep it healthy.
Relationships need to be regularly cleaned. No matter how clean my car is, it gets dirty when it sits outside for a few days. It never gets cleaner by itself; it gets dirtier. Keeping my best relationships “clean” takes intentional effort and regular attention to survive all the “stuff” that comes at it from the outside.
Relationships need to be regularly protected. Pollution, bird droppings and tree sap take much longer to destroy a car’s paint if it’s protected by a good coat of wax. Without it, they begin to eat into the paint and ruin it. Strengthening and protecting a relationship needs to happen regularly, before the bird droppings hit. When it happens, we need to deal with it immediately.
It’s easier to do routine maintenance on our relationships than repairs. A wife tells her husband, “You never tell me you love me anymore.” The husband replies, “I told you that when I married you. If it changes, I’ll let you know.” Maintenance takes time and investment, but repairs can be a huge expense — one that’s often preventable if regular maintenance takes place.
Without intentional effort, relationships deteriorate. The second law of thermodynamics says that left on their own, things tend to run down — not up. When we take our key relationships for granted because there’s no big problem, decay begins to attack quietly. We only notice when the relationship turns painful.
Yes, I understand that there are things that happen that divide relationships. I don’t want to minimize the pain anyone is going through where a relationship just isn’t working. Sometimes it might be appropriate to separate ourselves from crazy people, such as when our lives or the lives of those we care about are in danger.
But when withdrawing is our default solution, we never get to experience the positive things that come from working on a relationship over a long period of time.
In other words, I don’t want to treat my most important relationships like rental relationships.