post written by: Marc Chernoff

9 Things Happy Couples Never Think


9 Things Happy Couples Never Think

“There cannot be a relationship unless there is commitment, unless there is loyalty, unless there is understanding, patience, and persistence.”
―Cornel West

It’s easy to make a relationship more difficult than it really is.  Angel and I work with coaching clients every day who do just that.  But we don’t try to change their relationships, instead we help them change the way they think about their relationships.  And that’s precisely what I want to touch on in today’s post.

If you feel like your relationship is sinking, it’s a perfect time to get rid of some thoughts that may be weighing it down.

Here are nine such thoughts to stop thinking, for your relationship’s sake:

1.  “My relationship with him/her will solve all MY problems.”

The most powerful relationship you will ever have is the relationship with yourself.  If you’re not comfortable enough with your own inner truth when entering a relationship, then you’re not ready for that relationship.  Because you are incapable of loving another unless you love yourself, just as you are incapable of teaching someone else something unless you yourself understand it.

Learn to love yourself first, instead of loving the idea of someone else loving you.

2.  “We should be the center of each other’s universe.”

A good relationship happens when two people accept each other’s past, support each other’s present, and encourage each other’s future, without trying to micromanage any of part it.  So don’t rush relationships, especially those that feel overbearing.  Find a partner, and friends for that matter, who encourage you to grow, who won’t cling to you, who will let you go out into the world, and trust that you will come back.  And always pay them the same courtesy.  This is what true love and real friendship is all about, and it’s always worth waiting for.

3.  “Good relationships are always easygoing.”

Wrong…  Good relationships require work.  Good relationships require sacrifice and compromise.  True love in both dating relationships and marriages are not about being there when it’s convenient, these relationships are about being there when it’s not.  Even if you can’t seem to walk that mile in your partner’s shoes, you are still capable of walking beside them to be a supporter until the day they learn to smile again.  (Read The Friendship Factor.)

4.  “I need to do whatever it takes to be loved.”

Sometimes we try to show the world that we are flawless in hopes that we will be loved and accepted more.  But we can’t please the people we love by being someone other than who we are, and we shouldn’t try.  Loving someone should not mean losing YOU.  True love empowers you, it doesn’t erase you.

The beauty of us lies in our vulnerability, our sincerity, our complex emotions, and our authentic imperfections.  When we embrace who we are and decide to be authentic, instead of perfect, we open ourselves up to real relationships, real happiness, and real success.  Thus, happy couples accept each other just the way they are.  There is no need to put on a mask.  There is no need to pretend to be someone you’re not.  You are more than enough just by being YOU.

5.  “Forgiveness isn’t necessary.”

Whoever said revenge is sweet never tasted the sweetness of forgiveness.

Love is living your own life, but sharing it.  And this requires constant forgiveness.  It’s making a million mistakes and turning them into learning experiences.  Love is patience, optimism, and sometimes it’s a simple hug when there is nothing left to say.

But remember, forgiveness isn’t just for your current happy relationships.  You have to forgive your past failed relationships too.  Yes, that’s right, you have to forgive them.  You don’t have to like them, you don’t have to be friends with them, you don’t have to spend time with them ever again, but you have to forgive – to let go, to let it rest, to let bygones be bygones.  By not forgiving you are forcing yourself to carry bricks from your past relationship failures forward with you into all your present and future relationship interactions.  And by doing this, you inevitably build the same flawed relationship structures that fell apart before.  (Angel and I discuss the process of forgiveness in more detail in the “Relationships” chapter of 1,000 Little Things Happy, Successful People Do Differently.)

6.  “I don’t have time for them today.”

If you neglect your relationship, your relationship will neglect you too.  So realize that today will never come again.  Be a blessing.  Be a friend.  Be there for the one who matters most.  Make a difference.  Take time to care.  Tell your significant other how special they are.  Do something that encourages a smile and a brighter day.  By doing so, you will not only help them, you will help yourself too.  Because when you seek to inspire happiness in someone close to you, you will not only find it, you will become it.

7.  “They should change for me.”

The biggest mistake is believing there is only one right way to listen, to talk, to have a conversation, or to have a relationship.

The deepest craving of human nature is the need to be appreciated as is.  Sometimes we try to be sculptors, constantly carving out of others the image of what we want them to be – what we think we need, love, or desire.  But these actions and perceptions are against reality, against their benefit and ours, and always end in disappointment – because it does not fit them.  The beginning of love is to let those we care about be perfectly themselves, and not to distort them to fit our own image.  Otherwise we love only the reflection of ourselves that we see in them.

8.  “It’s just easier if I keep my feelings to myself right now.”

There is no day but today.  Say what you need to say.  Share your love openly and honestly with your other half, right now.

Realize that, no matter what, you’re going to lose important people in your life.  No matter how much time you spend with someone, or how much you appreciate them, sometimes it will never seem like you had enough time together.  So don’t learn this lesson the hard way.  Express your love.  Tell the one you love what you need to tell them.  Don’t shy away from important conversations because you feel awkward or uncomfortable.  You never know when you might lose your opportunity for good.  (Read The Last Lecture.)

9.  “All relationships can and should be fixed and maintained.”

It may sound harsh, but not every couple was meant to be a couple.  And that’s OK.  It’s always better to be alone with dignity than in a relationship that constantly requires you to sacrifice your happiness and self-respect.

Although not all relationships are meant to be, there are no failed relationships, because every person in your life has a lesson to teach.  Sometimes you simply outgrow people.  Sometimes you just have to accept it and move on.  Do what you can, but don’t kill yourself trying to fix the unfixable.

When someone leaves your life, it’s important to emotionally release them.  Know in your heart that it’s not an ending – it’s a new beginning.  It just means that their part in your story is over.  Your story will go on…

Think about it.  How many people don’t get the one they want, but end up with the one they’re supposed to be with?

Afterthoughts

Good relationships don’t just happen – they take time, patience and two people who truly want to work to be a part of something bigger than themselves.  Relationships like this are not just about sharing laughs when times are easy; they’re about the commitment to fight through and overcome all the hard times together too.  In the end, happy couples think clearly, collaborate willingly, and don’t let expectations and negativity get in the way of the bond they share.

Your turn…

In your experience, what are some common misunderstandings, or thinking traps, that hurt intimate relationships?  Please leave a comment below and share your thoughts with the community.

Photo by: Y-a-n

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38 Comments

  • Dishonesty, right from the start. That’s what hurts more than anything else.

    Honesty is the key to any happy relationship, intimate or platonic. Honesty breeds trust. And trust breeds a desire to build on attention, loyalty, teamwork, acceptance, forgiveness, and empathy.

    I used to think I could look past the rampant dishonesty in my ex relationship, but your blog (and book), combined with a few other resources, set me straight. And I’m happy to say my current relationship with a great man is built on a solid foundation of honesty and trust.

  • Love this post. Everything you’ve noted here is true in my 55 years of experience on this planet. And I think your points apply equally to couples and close friends.

    I would add that I treasure close relationships built on good intentions — caring, mutual support. In my experience, there are a lot of “users” out there who, in the name of “friendship or love,” will use you for personal gain, taking advantage of your generosity. This isn’t easy to recognize at first — especially if you are a person who tends to trust and enjoy helping others. But I now make a point of limiting time with people who seem to have an agenda or want something from me. I seek out people who genuinely care and want a reciprocal relationship. And obviously this this especially important for anyone seeking out a new intimate relationship too.

  • Excellent article Marc. I would say expectations are the little traps in our minds that ruin so many of our relationships.

    Over the years I have learned that we must have “lower expectations” to have a successful, happy relationship in the long run. This doesn’t mean accepting abuse, it simply means not expecting bliss. You have to be “real” to be in a really good relationship.

  • I gave everything to my marriage and lost myself and my voice in the process. Now I’m slowly trying to stand up for myself. I was told no one could love me for who I am. I think about the way I always put everyone else first, and I realize I played right into their emotional traps. If I could leave, I would, but can’t right now.

    I love your website. There have been many days I smile because of you. Thank you.

  • For #5, on forgiveness…

    I would go a step further and even say to be thankful for them. Through those relationships, you learned more about yourself…you became a (hopefully) better person…and, if not for those relationships, you wouldn’t be where you are today. You may not have met the person you are with now. Don’t regret your past. Be thankful for it, because those relationships (for better or worse) taught you some valuable lessons and helped shape you into the person you are now.

  • In my experience it’s true. Relationships should be uplifting in the long run, making making both people the very best versions of themselves through the good times and bad. Standing beside each other , embracing all the moments with trust, love, forgiveness…

    As u said it requires patience, persistence, and a willingness to stay with each other, communicating , apologizing when mistakes occur… ignoring ego!!!

    Love is very precious to experience in life.
    Thank you Marc n Angel!

  • These nine points ring true to me.

    Of course, they must be slightly molded to fit each particular relationship situation. There is no one size fits all.

  • #1 - I feel like, if I have to wait until I fully love myself until I can love someone or they can love me….then I will never be loved.

  • Good stuff, but 8 is one to be careful of. Not that you shouldn’t let you feelings be known, but you need to take your time with this one. Blurting when you have an adverse reaction is just as BAD as keepin to all in. If you have a problem here, make sure it is a problem, and not just a reaction, and then consider how to broach the issue. If you don’t consider your partner’s feelings and reactions, why should they consider yours. Take your time, and be calm, but firm. This is respectful. A critical element. :)

  • I love this post. Although it is easier said than done, reminders go a long way…

  • I know this will be an unpopular comment, and I apologize for sharing a pessimistic thought, but I am legitimately concerned about this “everything is always for the best” philosophy. I fundamentally don’t agree with some of this, especially point number nine. If the failure of my recent relationship, someone I honestly and truly want to be with, should be seen with a “catch and release” approach, then this entire endeavor is without consequence or importance, and my romantic ambitions are pointless. I have been an adult in the dating world for two decades, and I was convinced I’d found the right person, someone who not only had all the attributes I found ideal, but also was wildly attracted to me. Previous relationships were bland and insubstantial by comparison. So now I’m left to try this all again, go back to square one, and deal with what almost assuredly will be an inferior match, just because the one I truly love is unstable or incapable of commitment? That is what I should celebrate as a “beginning”?

    I know that some people are sanguine about this kind of loss, and have an “easy come, easy go” attitude when it comes to finding a partner. I don’t want a mate who considers me a compromise, a lukewarm mate compared to someone they once loved but now can’t have, so I imagine anyone I date would be similar unwilling to be a stable consolation prize. Why compromise? And it is a semantic slight-of-hand to call this anything but a “failed relationship,” as it has objectively failed. If there is a lesson, it is that I cannot have faith in the person I love, as this has proven to be foolish and painful.

  • Lack of communication! Marc has said it before relationships/ friendships require constant communication, they require that we voice ourselves. We can’t expect someone to “just know” what we want, how/what we feel, when we do this there can be so many misunderstandings. The moral is to COMMUNICATE, nobody can read nor should they try to read your mind.

  • Asperger’s destroyed my relationship. All this time I felt unloved, unseen, uncherished, unimportant. But… I truly loved him. And I am sure he loved me as well, in his own Asperger way. Btw, I only found out he must have Asperger’s after the relationship. Everything clicked and it was crystal clear. Every time I read your articles, I know that I was right stepping out of it. Thank you for all the work!

  • I think we can expand on the notion of honesty. Being honest to others and to yourself is the hard part….it is being universally consistent even when you know that what you are about to say will hurt the other person’s feelings.

    Sometimes other people outgrow you. We become complacent, stuck, unable to change or grow, and the other person moves on.

    The biggest problem in relationship is not honesty, or truth, or commitment, or passion, or shared goals, or growth…its prespective as it relates to duration: time is the bottom line. If you meet someone interesting at the Mall, the chances are not good they will attend your funeral. If you spend 50 years talking 3 times a week, attending your funeral would be a given. When you have children, they are yours forever, even after your death. SO ask yourself, how long was this relationship supposed to last? Looking from this perspective, old relationships and your role in them will become more balanced.

  • Thinking trap - “I’d be happier with someone else. We don’t have anything in common. How can he be happy when I feel so disconnected. He doesn’t make an effort to make me feel special”… These swirl in my head all the time. It’s exhausting trying to redirect constantly. Hard to tell if it’s just fear or legitimate cause for separation.

  • Love reading your posts and learn something every time. It’s helping me to find answers and comfort.

    Trust is something I’m struggling with and never had to before. I’ve learned now that lack of trust depletes my self confidence and makes me weak. I trust myself and my intentions are honorable in my new relationship. Yet I’m challenged by situations that cause me to question my partner’s intent.

  • Some people tend to think that if their partner loves them, then they will always let them have their way, they will always sacrifice and be a door mat. Then the door mat decides to find someone that will treat them more fairly.

    Some people try to control others with their anger; their attitude and message is “do not ever make me angry, or you will pay a very high price that will hurt” The silent treatment is another form of this.

    Couples either struggle with those things, try to manipulate each other, or they learn how to talk about things that make them uncomfortable and feel vulnerable.

  • @Karla: Your point about dishonesty is spot on! And thank you for supporting our work. We appreciate you.

    @Gabe Niles: You got it! Expectations are indeed silent killers of both relationships and personal wellbeing.

    @Lost: Take it slow. It sounds like you are. The realization that a relationship is hurting you is the first step to being able to heal yourself (and perhaps the relationship too). In time, it may make sense to end the relationship entirely, but maybe not. Maybe there just needs to be better communication, understanding, etc. In the meantime, take care of yourself while you’re exploring the path forward. Make small changes to your daily habits that include both self-care and kindness to others, even if they are being hostile. When you own your attitude and mindset, things will start to improve in your life, one way or the other.

    @Michele: Excellent point!

    @Kay: You certainly don’t have to wait to love yourself entirely before you love others. But you do have to accept that the love you find in a relationship closely reflects the love you have inside yourself. Spend some time every day with yourself. Sit quietly and meditate over thoughts of why you are a good person – why you are worthy of love, second chances, etc.

    @Gary: True. There does have to be some balance here. Express your feelings, but do so mindfully. In other words, there is a time to speak and a time to listen. My point is simply: Don’t leave important words unspoken forever.

    @PC: I can understand your perspective. Many people feel the same way. Neither of our points of view are right or wrong – there’s plenty of room for both. Without dishing out advice, let me make a suggestion:

    Sit with yourself and think about these two lines you wrote:

    - “…I’m left to try this all again, go back to square one, and deal with what almost assuredly will be an inferior match (to my past lover).”

    - “If there is a lesson, it is that I cannot have faith in the person I love…”

    When you read these two lines, out of context, how to you feel? Do they empower you or stress you out? Are they really true, beyond any doubt (think about it)? And if you didn’t have these thoughts (or if you reversed them), how would you feel?

    Just some food for thought. Know that I do understand where you’re coming from (been there), and I wish you the very best.

    @David Rapp: As always, an excellent perspective. Thank you.

    @All: Thank you for keeping the conversation alive. Angel and I will check in again later to read and respond to more comments. Make it a great day!

  • Any tips for dealing with people who 100% believe all of these are true, especially the one about forgiveness?

  • Thank you for this post. I needed this today. It’s been tough in these past couples of months since my ex and I broke up. Still very hurt and painful, but I”m hanging in there and looking forward to new beginnings.

  • Great post. You can’t go into a relationship with the idea that you will make your partner the ideal mate. No one is ideal. We’re all human and sometimes I think people have expectations that go above and beyond anything that anyone could possibly live up to. Accepting your partner for who they are and being willing to experience life and grow together will help you have a happy relationship. That’s what my husband and I try to do.

  • I always grew up with the saying, “don’t go to bed angry.” It took me a long time to learn that for me going to bed angry is much better than staying up and fighting all night. Usually after a good night’s sleep, or at least a little sleep, I am much calmer and able to deal with things and a lot of the stuff that seemed so major the night before, is really inconsequential.

    Hope this helps someone else. I had to read it was OK to go to bed angry before I would try it. Yes, I can be stubborn!

  • @Kay,
    I don’t think you have to be totally accepting and love everything about yourself before someone else can love you. That by far has not been my experience. I think it just means we shouldn’t rely on or expect our partner to cure EVERYTHING in our lives.

  • I love this site and the words of inspiration it brings.

  • Good reading, but as with most things, we can label and say what needs to change…. maybe some of us want a human at center to our universe, and we want to be the center of someone else’s… different priorities. Not right or wrong, but who we are, as people are different. Call it co-dependent then, but when I share my life with someone, all of it needs to be shared, and hopefully some day someone will come along and get that. I miss my ex, but she had her own issues and guess our issues were incompatible… no blame, maybe I will never fall in love again. I don’t see it as a new beginning, it hurts, but it’s who I am, and I ain’t changing and I never expect anyone else to.

  • Disillusionment and resentment, especially after having children. The inability to grow to a different level in your relationship and thinking things will stay the same.

  • There are times when we give all of ourselves to someone who wants to take more than they should. Honesty should never be questioned and one should never be made to feel that their past is ‘bad’ and it should definitely never be used against someone you profess to love. Loving yourself is key and finding peace within your own self will help you make it through any situation. Bottom line: Be true to yourself.

  • As always, such great imput from your readers, and from your points of view. I have commented before on your posts.

    I am a little late here, just had surgery.

    I truly did have a happy marriage for 36 years. One that started with me as a freshman in high school, and he a sophmore. We dated a year, broke up, got back together for a year, broke up again, and then met again - which led us both to a lifelong committment. We both believed it was divine intervention that kept bringing us together. Any type of relationship is a give and take on everything. You learn to pick your battles.

    He became very sick and I became his caretaker. No intimacy at all. I loved this man so much that I put my wants and needs aside. Never strayed. We were going to grow old together. That never happened. He passed in 2011 at 58. Life is a work in progress even as I write this. I am still alone, lonely, and miss my best friend, lover, soulmate, husband. But we were a very happy couple. Thank you.

  • @Macenna: I agree with you about going to bed angry. I just can’t help it sometimes. And thanks for replying to Kay, I was going to say something similar, but you said it far more eloquently.

  • It’s simple, though not always easy. My husband is the king of my world, and I am the queen of his world. We renew and reinforce our love and commitment to each other each and every day, without fail. We rarely argue, we don’t always agree on everything, and yes, we even get angry at the other from time to time, but we NEVER let that come between us. We can agree to disagree. We have been together since 1999.

  • As I have been in adult dating mode for a few years since my divorce, this list is a great reminder of some ‘truisms’, things I find are mostly true most of the time.

    Another step I add is to consciously reflect on myself and how I am reacting while in getting-to-know-them stages: Am I reacting positively (or negatively) to a situation or event because of me, or them, or because of an outside factor (such as a bad experience at work)?

    What this allows me to do, is to BE. To be in the moment, and not in my head. For me, that takes constant work.

  • I think that no relationship is perfect, there would always be something that a couple will fight about and it’s okay because that is part of being in a relationship. These differences are what test and strengthen the relationship. Being in a relationship doesn’t mean always being in a honeymoon phase, It’s about discovering the other person’s flaws and still loving him/her regardless, Compromise is one key. When you feel that you are happy to be with that person no matter how good or bad the situation gets then that’s the time you can say that you’ve found the right one.

    - Tavia Cruz

  • “Good relationships don’t just happen…” I totally agree with you. It takes a lot of effort to make it work, but it should come from both of you. You cant make it happen alone, it is a joint effort. Thanks for sharing such a great post.

  • Thank you again for another great read. I find your articles so inspiring and full of practical wisdom. I always come away with a piece or two or three of golden magic that l can implement in my life straight away and feel the benefits. Thanks again. May the joy and happiness you help others realise return to you many folds. Much Love, Kathryn :-)

  • @Mitch K: Ask yourself if this relationship helps you find the best in yourself. Are you both doing the best you can with your particular level of awareness and understanding? Try to discuss these thoughts openly and honestly.

    @eL: Nothing is more beautiful and powerful than a smile that has struggled through the tears. Don’t regret your time, even the moments that were filled with hurt. Smile because you learned from it and gained the strength to rise above it.

    @Betsy: Thank you for sharing your touching story. True love comes when you care more about who the other person really is than about who you think they should become, when you dare to reveal yourself honestly, and when you dare to be open and vulnerable. It takes two to create a sincere environment where this is possible.

    @Travia Cruz: Very well said, I couldn’t agree more. It’s important to understand that love is not just about finding the right person, it’s about working with each other every day to create the right relationship.

    @All: Remember, the most important trip you will ever take in a relationship is meeting each other half way. You will achieve far more by working together, rather than working alone or against each other. Finding and creating the right relationship(s) is a continued work in progress. Thank you, as always, for the insightful input.

  • I just want to say I love this site ! So happy I came across it , very motivating and inspiring.

    I have loved and lost and learned many valuable lessons in the process, I did not know who I truly was for so long. As my life began , slowly, to make sense, and I entered into another relationship I realized it was ok to have walked away and taken the loss gone through the pain.

    I will always love this other person , it is undeniable , yet they hold a different type of love or place within me. Perhaps words can not explain.

  • There’s lots on here that makes good sense. I guess I was looking for inspiration because I currently have a situation where my husband has let me down (Again) and I really have questioned myself that maybe it’s time to call it a day despite what upset is caused.

    But then in reading your article and some of the comments I’m wondering that maybe with the right support he can be who he says he wants to be.

    He’s a businessman and a workaholic who isn’t good at showing his emotions. In many ways he retreats into himself.

    I realise in reading this article and comments that maybe I should also remind myself of what he does well, his positive attributes rather than alone focussing on when he has hurt me.

    I’m starting to realise that relationships aren’t easy and for some the burden they carry themselves sometimes means that they need more work and support to get them to where they want to go. I’ve found all of this insightful.

    Thank you everyone who has contributed.

  • Absolutely wonderful post. Thank you!

    Not communicating our needs with one another. When a partner has hurt us time and time again, it can be challenging to find and gain that trust again. Forgiveness can be difficult too.

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