“Long-term relationships, the ones that matter, are
all about weathering the peaks and the valleys.”
Today, Marc came home with roses for me. “What are these for?” I asked. He said several men at a local entrepreneurship meet-up he attended this afternoon were complaining about their wives and family life. “I just kept thinking about how lucky I am… how lucky WE are,” he continued. “After more than a decade of living and working together, and marriage, and all the ups and downs, I honestly still had nothing to complain about. I just sat there in silence and smiled.”
Of course, this made me smile too, so I gave Marc a huge hug.
This evening when I sat down to brainstorm some ideas for a new post, Marc’s story about the other men’s complaints kept echoing through my mind. And this got me thinking about all the failed relationships and marriages I’ve witnessed over the years, and what they had in common. So I started jotting down notes, and before I knew it I had the perfect outline for this post – six things every couple should stop doing.
If your relationship with your partner doesn’t feel as healthy and happy as it once did, there’s a good chance you both need to STOP…
1. Being too busy to be present with each other.
The best gift you can give someone you love is the purity of your full presence. Presence is complete awareness, or paying full attention to “the now.” If you do not find at least some amount of presence in the moments you share with your partner, it is impossible to listen, speak, compromise, or otherwise connect with them on a meaningful level.
To cultivate your presence, all you need to do is sit quietly for as long as you desire and put your full attention on your breath – thinking only of what each inhale and exhale feels like. Don’t judge or resist your inner-workings. Simply accept and breathe. Practice this a few times a day, and it will start to feel more natural. This way, when you are in the thick of a deep conversation with your partner, you can access that presence and listen without judgment or impatience, speak with clarity, and learn to fully connect and compromise.
Bottom line: Be Present. Give your partner your full attention. Let them see their own beauty in your eyes. Let them find their own voice through your listening ears. Help them discover their own greatness in your presence. (Read The Power of Now.)
2. Feeling too comfortable to compliment each other.
The secret to a healthy, lasting relationship is not about how many days, months, or years you’ve been together, it’s about how much you truly love each other every day. You must directly express this love through your words and actions. It seems like such a small thing, but in our busy lives we often forget that a kind word, a helping hand, or just a smile and a quick “thank you” can create a bright spot in your partner’s life.
Relationships last a lifetime only when two people make a choice to keep it and work for it. Tell your partner you love them every night, and prove it every day. These acts of love don’t need to be extravagant; they just need to be true.
Also, acknowledging and appreciating each other’s daily victories is one of the most loving things two people can do for each other. So before going to bed every night, take a moment to openly discuss and appreciate three things you each accomplished during the day, no matter how small. Compliment each other and celebrate together. What we focus on expands. What we appreciate, appreciates in value.
3. Resisting compromise.
Good relationships don’t just happen, and they aren’t built solely on a foundation of convenience. They take time, patience, effort, and two people who want to be together and are willing to meet in the middle. When there’s a disagreement, they work out a solution that works for both parties – a compromise, rather than a need for the other person to change or completely give in.
Ultimately, love is when another person’s happiness is equally as important as your own. It’s not only about romance, candle-lit diners and walking hand in hand; it’s about a lifetime of commitment and cooperation. Two people don’t stay in love because they sleep in the same bed, but because they share the same foundation of honesty, trust, and respect. (Marc and I discuss this in more detail in the “Relationships” chapter of 1,000 Little Things Happy, Successful People Do Differently.)
4. Wanting to be right.
When it comes to closest relationships, you don’t always have to be right, you just have to not be too worried about being wrong. Ask yourself, “Does it really matter?” Oftentimes it’s far better to be kind than to be right.
Express your opinions freely and politely with your partner, remembering that if your purpose is to ridicule or prove them wrong, it will only bring bitterness into your relationship. Respecting their opinion, without judging or jumping to conclusions, always carries more weight than simply being right.
Bottom line: Life is so much better when you focus on being happy together, rather than worrying about who is more right as an individual.
5. Hiding personal flaws and problems from each other.
You attract a person by the qualities you show them, you keep them around based on the qualities you truly possess. Problems and flaws are a part of everyone’s life. If you try to hide them, you don’t give the person who loves you a chance to truly know you and love you fully.
As flawed as you might be, as out of place as you sometimes feel, and as lacking as you believe you are, you don’t have to hide the imperfect pieces of yourself from your partner. They see your flaws as features that make you interesting, and they see your problems simply as a sign that you’re human too.
By hiding things from your partner, you allow small problems to escalate and dominate both your life and your relationship. If you make a mistake, it might be irritating, but don’t bury it inside you. Be open about it, address it, and move on. Our problems are really our blessings if we use them to grow stronger, both as individuals and as couples. (Read Daring Greatly.)
6. Trying to get even, as a replacement to forgiveness.
Getting even doesn’t help a relationship heal. If you’re feeling pain, don’t take action that creates even more pain. Don’t try to cover darkness with darkness. Find the light. Act out of love. Do something that will enable you to move forward towards a more fulfilling reality.
If your partner makes a mistake that hurts you, and you want your relationship grow beyond it, you have to start with forgiveness. Without it, the potential for long-term happiness in a relationship is impossible.
You don’t forgive your partner because you’re weak; you forgive them because you’re strong enough to know that human beings make mistakes. Forgiveness is giving up your craving to hurt them for hurting you. It doesn’t mean you’re erasing the past, or forgetting what happened. It means you’re letting go of the resentment and pain, and instead choosing to learn from the incident and move forward with your life… and hopefully move forward with your relationship too.
The greatest relationships take a great deal of work. They don’t just happen, or maintain themselves. They thrive only when two people make an effort and take the risk of sharing what it is that’s going on in their heads and hearts.
Keep in mind that every couple has ups and downs, every couple argues, and that’s the way it should be – you’re a partnership, and partnerships can’t function without regular communication and compromise. When you don’t talk it out, there’s a lot of important stuff that ends up not getting said.
And, above all, remember that it’s not all about you. There is greatness in doing something you dislike for the sake of someone you love.
What relationship mistakes would you add to this post? What should every couple stop doing to each other? Leave a comment below and share your thoughts with us.
Photo by: Nattu