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The First Ninety Days

By: Skye Thomas

A friend of mine recently commented on the amazing number of romance novels written and the huge amount of money being made in that industry. He then shared his observation that these romance novels don’t usually tell their stories beyond the first ninety days or so. He said people just want to read about the romance of falling in love, not of the day-to-day life of being in long-term relationships.

I told him that it’s not necessarily ninety days, but that’s a fair enough number to use for discussion purposes. I went on to tell him that those first ninety days of a relationship set the tone for the rest of the time you’re with someone. Typically, if a relationship goes sour in the first ninety days, it’s not going to survive much longer. If on the other hand, it’s a beautiful first ninety days, then the relationship has a foundation to grow on. In the first ninety days, the atmosphere of a relationship is set. When rough patches occur in the relationship, the couple often looks back to that honeymoon stage for inspiration to work through the problems. If the first ninety days doesn’t create something worth fighting for, then where’s the motivation to keep the love alive?

I thought back on some of my own relationships. I have had three major relationships as an adult. One never had a ‘first ninety days.’ I had decided to marry someone who was just a friend in order to give my two young children a chance at having a dad. The only thing that motivated me to work through the problems was my children’s desire to keep their new dad around. When they quit wanting him around, I was no longer motivated to bother with him. Another one’s ‘first ninety days’ only lasted about a month. By the time the first ninety days was over, I had gotten pregnant despite using two forms of birth control. Again, for the sake of our child, I would try to make it work.

However, during that first ninety days, he had cheated on me and done many other horrible destructive things to our relationship. Finding the motivation to stick with him was very difficult. Another one had an amazing and wonderful ‘first ninety days’ that lasted for a year. As a result, I fought tooth and nail to make that relationship work when things weren’t going well. All three relationships had good days and bad, but it was so much easier to believe that we could have a beautiful future together if we’d had a beautiful past together.

The first ninety days is very important. It sets the foundation of ‘happily ever after.’ No relationship can be all perfect all of the time, but with a strong foundation created right from the start, couples have something to hold onto, something to call sacred and holy. That foundation should include elements of romance, trust, magic, attraction, and a likeminded long-term vision of how their life together will unfold. The first ninety days gives you something solid to believe in.

Romance novels typically end with the couple happily married and delighting in the beauty of their children. It’s a safe place to end the story because they’ve already established a rock solid foundation to build their lives upon. Look at the ending of Gone With The Wind. Scarlett and Rhett did not set up a strong foundation at the beginning of their relationship. We were left wondering if he would ever accept her back into his heart. In the sequel, she finally creates ‘the first ninety days’ with him. She had to create an atmosphere of romance, trust, magic, attraction, and a likeminded long-term vision of how their life together will unfold. She had to be the one to do it, because she was the one who refused his attempts to create that foundation in the first movie. He then had to wrestle with his conflicting memories of the first time they had been together as a couple and the second time they were together. He eventually gets in touch with that part of himself that had loved her all along. They finally can end the story with ‘happily ever after’ because the foundation was finally built and accepted as real. It’s not very often that people get a second chance to create the first ninety days.

I love to ask couples who have been happily married for a long time how they met. I also ask them how they knew this was the right person for them. Their stories of the first ninety days are always beautiful and often last longer than ninety days. So many of them are love at first sight stories. So many of them have one basic element that flows throughout the entire story of their relationship. Just like in the first ninety days, every time they really take a long hard look at their partner, they fall in love all over again. There’s something enchanting about that other person that no matter what happens, they keep falling in love with them, over and over and over again. They relive that first ninety days regardless of life’s ups and downs. They seldom tell stories of losing faith in the relationship or of ever really wanting to walk away. .

Romance novels sell so well because we love the stories of romance. Movies are no different than books. Look at some of the all time greatest movies that center around love stories. We love to hear of others setting up such amazing and powerful foundations that can never be torn down. It’s hidden in the depths of the human soul, that need to believe that happily ever after really happens. We especially like to see the couple overcome adversity only to have it bring them even closer together. It gives us hope. It gives us something to aspire to. We love those first ninety days.

Copyright 2003, Skye Thomas, Tomorrow’s Edge

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