I have been thinking a great deal about longevity this week for several reasons:
- I am still in utter shock that Mike Portnoy left Dream Theater after 25 years with the band.
- I saw Rush for the third time this tour and the band shows no sign of stopping–after more than 35 years.
- A few weeks ago, I dropped out of my fantasy football league after a dispute–after seven years of near-constant smack talk.
- As I write this, I’m also on my annual geek-basketball trip with my friends from Carnegie Mellon. I’ve been friends with these guys for 20 years.
So, why do some relationships last for so long? Why are some ephemeral? Why are some doomed from the start? Why do some fracture after a long time?
It’s just a fascinating series of questions, at least to me. I’m not going to pretend to have all of the answers. In no particular order, I’ll throw out five reasons that explain longevity:
- Enjoyment and Common Objectives
- Fighting Well
Whether it’s a matter of personal or professional relationships, there’s just something to be said for clicking. Everything isn’t a struggle; there isn’t the constant pushing and pulling so prevalent in so many dysfunctional relationships. The parties just plain get each other. Perhaps this is the most important reason for people getting together. Thanks to technology, in all walks of life, there are just so many alternatives out there right now–and it’s so easy to find them. When chemistry issues emerge, it’s often not terribly hard for people to find other, ostensibly greener pastures.
At some point, the parties recognize that they need each other and the good outweighs the bad. How many of you know people who constantly complain about their jobs but fail to quit because of a personal situation, bad economy, or some other reason? Discontents or malcontents like to blow off steam but really don’t want to do anything about their lots in life.
At a minimum, the good has to outweigh the bad.
Enjoyment and Common Objectives
Whether it’s being a part of a fantasy football league, traditional job, or band, you just have to like what you’re doing and where you’re going. You have to like and accept your role in the group. The good just has to outweigh the bad.
I find it interesting when long-term relationships begin to fray, as we saw with Portnoy leaving Dream Theater. No longer did everyone in the band want the same things. Sometimes people just need space, even if they love the others in the group.
Fights happen in all relationships. Signals break down, communication suffers, and expectations begin to diverge. I’ve noticed that the best groups are composed of people who generally fight pretty well–and aren’t afraid of fighting. Pretending that disagreements will never take place is just plain silly. How you manage conflict is essential in minimizing short- and long-term damage. I’d even argue that it’s healthy to fight, as long as its done well.
Timing is everything, as they say. I’ve noticed that relationships come to an end when what works for one person in a group just stops working. Life happens. Priorities change. Perhaps that’s why so few groups stay together for so long. Bands like Rush and U2 are the exceptions that prove the rule.
What say you? What are the most important factors in explaining longevity?