“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 to 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
All of these points are excellent. I would like to add one more point: trust your partner, rather than wonder if everything s/he says or does has a hidden agenda. When someone hurts another in a relationship, trust issues tend to form. It’s important to be honest and open, as well as forgiving.
Katie Demory says
Excellent! I wish I could remember all of these points when dealing with everyone I care about, including my husband. Its so easy to criticize, judge, jump in with advice rather then just listening and being present.
Part of the problem, of course, is how our own insecurities affect our relationships. When we learn to be happy with our self, only then we can stop our negative attitudes towards others. And this is precisely what your blog and book are helping me with.
Angel (and Marc), this is precisely what I needed to read – to be reminded some traits I am guilty of in my relationship with the woman I love. Even though I know I am a good husband (and friend), I still have work to do. You presented these points in such a non-critical way for me that it’s actually easier to see and accept my mistakes. You don’t see many self-help posts on relationships that focus on our lesser traits but still possess a super positive angle, but this is sure one.
I have consistently failed on all accounts.. wanting to be right and hiding personal flaws especially. Also many more.
But I think I was also rushed into it more out of a social pressure to not be single forever, than actually caring for someone.
Hopefully I can find someone to not make these mistakes with in the future.
Nila Sweeney says
Excellent advice, thank you!
I’d also add: stop taking each other for granted. Like you said, when we get comfortable with each other we tend to take the other person for granted and assume it’s OK not to tell them we love them and how much they mean to us.
Sometimes we get too comfortable in the relationship that we disregard our partner’s feelings, aspirations and fears. Worse still, we don’t bother to find out what they are.
Like you Angel, I feel so lucky to have a loving husband who’s stood by me for better or for worse.
When I think about the things that has kept us happily married for nearly 25 years, it’s really the small things that we do to each other on a regular basis like sending a quick text message telling each other “I love you” and showing how much we appreciate each other in our own small ways.
Christy King says
Wonderful post, as usual. I would add, stop trying to make your partner like you. It’s okay to have different opinions, likes and dislikes.
Anders Hasselstrøm says
Thumps up for Marc. Too many men forget how precious their loved one is.
I love your first point and I have a story, which I’d love to share.
I’m having a long distance relationship. We found each other in Australia and are now having this relationship across two countries in Europe. What I find is that when we prioritize to see each other every 3 week both of us are 100% present and it feel amazing. We are looking forward to seeing each other every time and it feels magical 🙂
Just wanted to share,
You know what, this actually applies to ANY kind of relationship, not just with your significant other.
Also, I find it greatly important to be present. To truly and fully communicate with another being is one of the most powerful things in the world. Slacking on that is just such a shame. Thanks for the great post, Angel!
Thanks for sharing this relationship advice with us. I am trying to digest your words here and will put them into practice when once again I meet a partner for a second chance at love and marriage.
I’ve never been in a relationship, but I would add that one or both of the spouses should not engage in infidelity, or cheating on one another. It shows that the relationship doesn’t have any boundaries and no one cares if someone’s feelings are hurt.
kathy h says
Ultimately, love is when another person’s happiness is equally as important as your own. This is KEY to your relationship. Going on 35 years of marriage with yes, ups and downs. It is a learning process too! Great post once again :)! I feel as blessed as you and your husband do too!
Adding a seventh point to be Absolutely True to your partner is key. It seems to me that there are too many people in this world that just are not true to their partner, nor themselves. There will always be prettier, more handsome, richer, smarter…others out there. Appreciate what you have and who you are with.
You’re right we all have flaws. We need to recognize our flaws and become comfortable in our own skin.
You always ask for our comments, but you both say these things so well, that there are not many more things to say.
True, marriage is both a give and take situation, just like real life. One usually gets what one puts in. Good and bad.
I was blessed to have met my high school sweetheart, and had been married to him 36 years when he passed in 2011. And yes, we loved each other more each day. He was my true soul mate. Is it possible to find another? I will never replace him, but with so many lonely people out there, I would like to find happiness again. Thank you.
Cultivate a well-rounded social life and develop new interests. When you expect your partner to meet nearly 100% of your needs, it is a recipe for failure. Establish a pattern and affinity for time spent alone, with friends, and with family. Try new things together – push the envelope a bit and grow together!
Carol C says
I am a LMFT, and I am always reminding the couples I work with to LEAD WITH LOVE. If your words and actions come from a place of resentment, anger, jealousy, fear, etc…you are not leading with love. Anything you say or do will not be helpful to the relationship. If you feel any of those feelings, but take a few minutes to be sure what you say or do is coming from a place of love, you will be nurturing your relationship, your partner (or friend, coworker, child, etc), and yourself.
In the past I have found that the most important thing in a relationship is communication and honesty. If there is a problem it is best to address is right away verse letting it fester in your mind/body/heart/soul. When you do not address little problems they turn into even bigger problems and before you know it you do not see the good in the other person. If these problems are not addressed in time you will look for flaws that fray verses the flaws and imperfections that make someone beautiful and unique. It is about finding someone with whom you have compatible flaws as nobody is perfect. Don not ever let the little things snowball. But also be able to recogonize your worth and what you are willing to accept, not to be confused with “settle for”. Never settle for anyone or anything that does not give you 100% of their all!
I have also found in the past two relationships I have been in that the men have always had someone on the side accessible to them or seems to pop back into their lives once they found out that they were taken. It did not seem to matter how “happy” we were or all the great times we shared which were genuine and true. They could not let these other women go. Now obviously they are not the right person for me but I want to say this as a word of advice to any couple. When you are in a happy/healthy relationship and an old flame pops back into your life. Don’t you owe it to yourself and to your current partner to give them your all? I often find myself thinking gosh if he would have just cut ties and told her how happy he was and given US a chance; how amazing it could and probably would have been…..
Lovely post…as always! Thank you!:-)
I would like to add that it’s important to STOP trying to read your partner’s mind or expecting them to be able to read yours…because no two people are alike. Your partner’s thoughts/reactions are bound to be different from yours. Let them know what’s on your mind. It’s better to say it out loud than keeping them guessing!
Thank you once again Marc and Angel! Your relationship is an inspiration too, just like your blog! God Bless.
Any suggestions for moving beyond dishonesty? My partner has lied to me about a few minor things since we’ve been married. Nothing recent and nothing scandalous (like cheating or owing 20k on credit cards). We discussed this issue, he agreed to be fully honest, and I promised to try to get past it. I find myself obsessing with figuring out if there are more, and trying to ‘catch’ him. I know this isn’t healthy, I just can’t figure out how to move on without indeed moving on.
Mary Jane Allen says
Really good points, Angel, thank you. I’ve been married for 18 years and I think for us it has been about appreciation for each other, for being kind instead of having to be “right” and wanting the best for the other person as much as you want the best for yourself. I think that’s a big one. I guess ultimately for us it’s about the fact I’m married to my best friend. And best friends are good to each other and supportive of each other.
Thank you for what you do!
Mary Jane 🙂
David Rapp says
I can only add it is a lot more about HOW you deliver the message, than just the message. I have been screaming just to be heard with my loved ones, and I am furious over a recent home we wanted to purchase. SO basically I am raving mad person right now. And I cannot calm down. My yelling is only making everything worse, because both my wife and son are so distracted by volume and anger in my voice that my message is completely lost.
Kate A. says
Thank you Angel (and Marc) for this heartfelt discussion. From the length of posts it is easy to see that it struck a chord with sooo many of us, and isn’t’ it heartening to see how many of us seek to be better every day!
Mary’s post really resonated with me, as I can relate to her hurt and suspicion. Mary, you don’t say how long ago these “little lies” ( if there IS such a thing) took place. Perhaps far enough in the past that your partner has grown intrust of you and has lost the fear that usually prompts such behavior. While it isn’t always possible to forgive AND forget, I know you can find peace in simply focusing on forgiveness. Often, I have found that allowing myself to move forward in baby steps towards letting go of obsessive behavior opens me to more trust and love. Hope it helps you today!
I loved this column. Only we can make our 20 year marriage one that resembles what you and Marc have. I have work to do. One of my friends told me of a saying she keeps on her fridge “You can be right or you can be happy”. I read number 4 and immediately recognized it. Also number 6 is difficult. So often I want to show my spouse just how much he has hurt me with his words or actions by doing the reverse back to him. WRONG! Thanks for this especially relevant column.
Perhaps this falls under not needing to be right but I have learned that any couple can go the distance (and happily too) if both partners have humility. Love is not about dominance – it’s about kindness.
It’s quite liberating to realize that one formula to a happy relationship is merely honesty, trust, and humility. Really, if you have that attitude, and so does your partner – a couple can overcome any obstacle. Absolutely anything!
Cody Wheeler says
Thank you guys for this one. Having been married about 6 months now, I find myself wondering what I can do to make sure my relationship with my wife stays solid. I would say #1 is tops on my list to focus on.
Appreciate the tips, and take care!
We should also stop expecting perfect partners or trying too hard to change them.
My best advice: Don’t keep score.
Some people do.
f. sweeney says
I am going through a bad time at present and everything that I have read on your site so far has really helped; it feels like that you are speaking to me personally.
I will purchase your book, if it’s only to show my appreciation.
Feeling too uncomfortable to address (or create) conflict. Life is about conflict resolution. Do you want to walk on eggshells? Hide from the truth? Deny your truth? Or hash it out? Get it out in the open, discuss it, cry, laugh, whatever it takes and then be done with it.
I am in the final stages of a divorce myself. Being forced into learning such an expensive lesson, I wanted to be sure to actually learn and not just chase a novel situation and hope that would change things. I distilled my lessons into 3 parts. Some are above and some are not.
1. Find a partner who knows that happiness is a choice. My 2 long term relationships have been with men that have looked to me to make them happy. Flattering, but doomed to failure. Look for someone who wants to augment their happiness with a loving relationship instead.
2. Relationships require care and feeding. I have thought of them in the past like houses. Lay a good foundation and watch carefully for problems and fix them when they arise. WRONG. Relationships are living things and need constant care, feeding and attention. You may be satisfied with a relationship, but you are selling yourself and your partner short if you both do not constantly and daily grow your connection.
3. Pride and fear destroy relationships. They are cold bedfellows and you will discover that is all you have if you let them rule. Be the first to reach out after a disagreement. Take a chance again even after you have been hurt. Let your partner know when you are taking initiative and encourage them to do the same. This takes practice, but gets easier the more you do it.
There was one more for my soon to be ex. Thankfully, this is not an issue I wrestle with.
4. Work on a problem until it is solved or figure out how to let it go. Really let it go, like it never existed. Even the smallest problems will become mountainous if you think about it, but never work to change it.
Linda Sand says
When our daughter was little I asked my husband why he wasn’t doing more parenting. He said he couldn’t do it my way. I had to learn that his way was as good as mine. So, I would add: stop expecting your partner to do things your way.
Larry Hochman says
Beautiful stuff! And sometimes hard to remember unless you add one thing to the mix…Remember: your spouse/partner can also be your friend. In many or most cases your best friend. If you stop for a moment and think of them that way, it eases the bitterness that can creep into any relationship. It also makes it easier to forgive, laugh and share. 🙂
Forgiveness and acceptance…my husband and I have been together since we were 13… we are now 46. We have a lot of history. The good, the bad, and ugly.. we work through everything…together with God…it has always made us stronger.
Understanding what my partner’s dream is and helping him fulfill it has taken our relationship to another level. He has always been passionate about wildlife and when he wanted to quit his corporate career to follow his passion, I understood his passion and encouraged him to do that. Yes, some luxuries had to be let go, but what better gift to our relationship than a happy husband? Nowadays, he comes home happy and excited. He has been an equal partner with household chores, but he is all the more energetic and enthusiastic to help me in every way he can.
Just because I have supported him to be a happier individual, he is giving me back all the happiness I could ever have, all the happiness money could never buy.
Laugh, cherish, be thankful and have faith. Married 23…Remember falling hurts usually when you land… so falling in love is not the same as being in love. Stay in love by loving. Loving yourself and your best friend… your partner. Enjoy the rocky moments for it makes the calmer peaceful ones fuller and ever so rewarding. The down times will give you laughs and tears to share. Don’t be afraid to stay in a relationship this particular “ship” is worth taking your voyage on. Smile at each other like it was the first time…
This is great advice. It is great to see a couple who are happy together and are celebrating it. Unfortunately, we are bombarded with real-life and celebrity divorces and all I tend to hear is complaining about spouses from my family and friends. The lesson for me is to stop listening to the complaining and tell these people that they really need to talk to their spouses about their issues and to steer the conversation in a positive direction. I wanted to add to Marc that I don’t believe that you are “lucky” that you are in a great relationship – you and Angel have worked hard at making your relationship something that reflects the positive side of both of you. In doing so, you are able to share this wisdom with others.
For everyone else out there, don’t give up…I was so cynical of relationships that I waited until I was 40 to finally make a commitment…it was the best decision I have ever made. There is no other freedom like the feeling of letting down your suit of armor to let another person in. Remember that sharing your feelings when you are hurt or angry will allow the other person to react- they are not mind readers…it will get you through the bad times.
I needed these words right now. Thanks.
Linda Johnson says
This is such a wonderful post! My husband and I got together really fast. We dated for 3 months and by the 6th month we decided we wanted to have a family. We got married after a year. And everything you just mentioned are things we do in order to keep each other happy. One thing that I could also recommend is to not expect too much from your partner, the more expectations you have, the more disappointments you will get. Keep your relationship interesting. And also, have fun and laugh together. Looking forward for more great posts.
Not only Marc and Angel, but all the commentators on this site are incredible. Everybody who has left a comment on on marc&angel thanks to you for helping me better understand the concepts discussed. Love from Nigeria.
renee segal says
Also people should expect that they will disagree and argue on occassion and it is normal!
Thank u sooo much for this terrific post. In my opinion #6 is the most important feature that helps a relationship grow. Forgiveness shows your own strength and the great love you have for your partner. If you truly love, you will forgive.
I’ll tell u my case briefly. I discovered that my fiancee betrays me. It is not an innocent relation but of that kind between a husband and a wife. Moreover, he tries to hide that thing from me, convincing me all the time that I am the one. Till one day, that girl wanted to get me out of his life, she achieved that by telling him about deeds I never made and calling me very bad names. In addition, she wants to spoil my reputation with him as I am the one who has bad things with him.
After all, he cut his relation with her as a result of what she did for about 2 months. Now, I knew that he is back with her, and of course without letting me know or feel anything. I really tried to hate him and abandon him for the rest of my life but I couldn’t. It is the first love for me and I see each man in life in him. He is the light of my life. I can’t simply hate and go just like that.
Do you think I am doing the right thing???
Thank u & sorry for being too long…
Angel Chernoff says
@Betsy: Thank you again for sharing a small piece of your story with us. I know you will find happiness again. When we lose someone special to us, the best thing we can do is to cherish the memories and then focus on the beauty of the present moment. It’s not easy, but it’s worth practicing.
@Debbie: Excellent advice! I couldn’t agree more. Thank you.
@Ellen: That is beautiful. When we nurture our loved ones, we nurture our self. Sometimes we forget this fact of life.
@Susan: I’m sure others will chime in, but from my perspective, you need to make sure you aren’t hurting yourself in the process of loving this man. Love doesn’t close the door against all that is good. It opens it wide to let more goodness in. Love creates freedom and abundance. Whatever you do, be sure you look out for yourself too.
@All: And to everyone who added to the conversation, THANK YOU. As Marc recently said, you all inspire us with your comments and fuel ideas for future posts. We truly appreciate you sharing with the community here.
Alexis Taylor says
No. 6 was really helpful to me, as was Alissa’s comment above. It’s amazing how tempting it is to try to be right, as opposed to being humble and forgiving. Sometimes doing the right thing for the relationship can seem counter-intuitive, but it’s the most rewarding in the end.
Valentine Smith says
Making negative comments. My husband and I get along a lot better since I learned to keep my mouth closed. It has eliminated a lot of negative natter that pulled us apart for no good reason.
And Susan, you don’t have to hate your fiancé but you can be disappointed and sad that he is not the man you thought he was. If he cannot be true to you when your relationship is fresh and exciting will he improve when it isn’t?
I love this list, especially # 2 and 5. I would also add “Not hiding hurt feelings from each other, even if you know the hurt was not intentional”. This one can cause a lot of bitterness to grow over time if it is not addressed when it happens.
Great post, by the way.
I would add, most especially since this very situation inspired the post, don’t gossip or vent to others. If you have problems with your partner talk to your partner. The only way you fix things that bother you is by communicating.
Amykay’s comment above is completely on point. Involving others in the problems of the relationship simply leads to confusion and will stop you from following your intuition. Keep it between the both of you since that’s where the relationship exists. Family or friends, even though they love you dearly, may not know what it best for you.
Pellicer @Tao says
Thank you for sharing this post! I enjoyed reading it.
I agree with everything you wrote. To my mind, doing these things are (as you wrote) a way to maintain long-term relationships which, in turn, it is what (I think) everyone wants to have.. But as with everything in life, to have a successful relationship has its own rules and methods…
Congrats on your blog!
All good points and I’m sure there are plenty more. Couples need to realize that marriage is something you both have to work at and not just give up and take the easy way out. I’ve been blessed with a husband of 35 years this year and I would not change anything.
Love the afterthought of being able to argue in a healthy relationship. Throughout our 23 years of marriage my wife often bragged that we never argued. Why? Because I was always compromising in the relationship. After having our first agrument over her lack of proper upbringing of our teenage daughters she decided to end the marriage. Marriage is about love and mutual respect for each other. One personality should not dominate the other. Marriage consist of mutual respect for one another. Being the best person on your partner’s life that can never be replaced by another.
I ran across your blog while searching for ways to make my relationship better, and, I must say that your topic is right on point! I’m excited I found you and look forward to learning more on how I can better myself.
Oh, and by the way, tell Marc that his actions were truly inspiring. Bravo Marc!