With the announcement of Detroit’s bankruptcy has come a host of other observations about this once, great city. An example of this fascination with the effects of a metropolitan city in collapse is a series of pictures taken of several buildings that are in decay entitled Modern Ruins of Abandoned Detroit.
Symbolizing the dramatic decline of Motor City, many buildings and structures in the former manufacturing mecca of Detroit, Mich. lay in crumbling and weather-beaten ruins. In his bestselling book, “The World Without Us,” Alan Weisman (who has reported from abandoned cities such as Chernobyl, Ukraine and Varosha, Cyprus) wrote that structures crumble as weather does unrepaired damage and other life forms create new habitats. A common structure would begin to fall apart as water eventually leaks into the roof, erodes the wood and rusts the nail, he wrote. Without intervention, many of Detroit’s abandoned structures would eventually succumb to nature’s elements.
This simple observation of deterioration of buildings that are neglected over time is a principle that applies to many things, including relationships. More specifically, in a marriage and family context, relationships require maintenance to avoid deterioration from the wear and tear of life’s events.
For example, preventive maintenance is very important for helping the building serve the purpose for which it was designed. When filters are not changed, heating and cooling systems are ignored, machinery is not oiled, software updates are not downloaded, things eventually begin to require repair that could have been avoided or postponed by regular maintenance schedules.
Pressing the metaphor, sometimes it requires proactive initiatives to accommodate growth, enhance the surroundings, anticipate security needs or adjust to changing demands. Seeing change ahead, to ignore the warning signs may lead to overcrowding, outdated decor, or real damage to the structure.
Finally, there are those times when emergency repairs are necessary due to weather damage, a shifting foundation, vandalism and defacement of property. At these times, the imperative is to make the repairs to avoid further damage or to keep up the value of the property.
Ignore the need for preventive maintenance, proactive opportunities and emergency repairs and the building becomes a shell of what it once was; an inhabitable structure that deteriorates and, eventually, collapses upon itself.
In terms of human relations the dynamic is much the same. Prevention often comes in the form of cultivating relationships with positive exchanges that enhance and enrich, encouraging a feedback loop of positive behaviors and fond memories that give strength and resilience.
Over the life of a family that strength and resilience will be tested with adversity. When those challenges are anticipated during the family life cycle steps can be taken to adjust the moral compass for children, creation of new habits and discontinuing problematic ones. It’s the surprises that demand emergency attention from sudden tragedies brought on by bad choices, inappropriate behaviors, or damaging trauma that will forever alter the course of one’s life or one’s relationships that can break the bonds of trust and security.
All relationships worth preserving require preventive maintenance, proactive initiatives and emergency repairs. Denial of the need to adapt and change while ignoring opportunities for growth can lead to devastating consequences and collapse. Being alert to those needs and applying the correct measures in a timely way can lead to flourishing resilience in those times of opportunity and challenge.