Even if you should own a gold mine, you still have to dig” Linda: My friend Michael told me that his Bubbie (grandmother) shared this bit of wisdom with him about fifty years ago, and he has never forgotten it. His digging efforts have paid off in ways that he never could have imagined and Michael and his family have reaped the benefits. Michael knows that having the right answers isn’t always enough. No matter how smart you may be, you still have to roll up your sleeves, get to work, and sometimes get sweaty and dirty in the process.

Over the many years of doing marriage counseling and teaching workshops, I’ve seen a lot of couples quit on their relationships when the going got tough. Many of them were sitting on a goldmine, but they didn’t realize it. They gave up their claim. They didn’t know that if they had done some more digging, they would have hit pay dirt. Others were willing to put the sweat work in but didn’t know exactly what to do, and they hadn’t received good instruction. Digging for the gold in a relationship has to do with using what the relationship brings up as a means of becoming more understanding of ourselves. It’s this self -acceptance that allows us to love others more fully. The more intense the feelings and reactions that we experience towards each other, the greater possibility to discover more about who we are and what we really need.

Of course, not every relationship can or should be saved. There are some genuine mismatches, but not nearly as many as people think. In most cases, it’s less a matter of being with the wrong person; than it is about not knowing how to deal with the differences that inevitably exist in all relationships. It’s largely a mater of mastering the required skills, and in the process, developing the qualities and strengths that great relationships require. Another friend of mine, Rachel, is an administrator in a local university. She tells me that a lot of the entering freshmen have a very tough time when they leave home and move onto campus. In many instances, they have become accustomed to being the main focus of their parents’ lives and the loss of this attention can come as a shock to them. These intelligent young people sometimes have been over- indulged and may lack the strength and resourcefulness necessary to manage their lives without the ongoing guidance and direction of a hovering parent. When things become difficult they are often tempted to move back home. If they haven’t internalized the motivation and self-discipline to direct themselves, they may drop out when no parent is there to oversee and help them with their homework. The requirements of independent living, demanding academic requirements, and adjustments to new social and dating situations can feel overwhelming to someone who hasn’t had much experience meeting and mastering life challenges. Many of these young people haven’t yet developed the muscle to keep digging and bail when the heat gets too high.

But this need not be the case. Our career, our academic program, our chosen spiritual practice, and our relationships can all be magnificent gold mines. But it’s up to each of us to keep digging, which isn’t always easy. I’ve found, however, that over time, with practice, it gets a lot easier. After years of digging, the mines are producing abundantly. In times of stress, the returns on our past investments become all the more important. Digging deep into ourselves to cultivate our strengths, talents, and gifts, and bringing them out into the world is surely a piece of work. But the payoffs for our efforts can exceed our wildest dreams!