We all long for authentic relationships, but, even in our overly connected lives, these relationships are hard to find.
We meet people and socialize online, but these connections tend to lack a necessary dose of human intimacy. We work beside people in crowed office buildings, but our communication is work-oriented and not relationship-oriented. We may be lucky enough to have friends and family in our lives, but when we are distracted by social media and busy with work, those relationships take a hit.
So what does it take to create and nurture an authentic relationship? That’s a question Angel and I help our students answer on daily basis. After a decade of coaching individuals and couples, and researching how people build authentic relationships, we’ve learned a lot about what it takes, and we’ve also learned a lot about the mistakes people make in the process. It’s a subset of the latter – the mistakes – that I want to touch on today.
One of the biggest mistakes we make in our relationships is denying the truth. We deny the truth about how condescending we are. We deny the truth about how unavailable we are. We deny the truth about how little effort we put into our most important relationships. And so it goes.
But the good news is, we can change. All of us can.
Right here, right now, we can start by admitting that…
- Our relationships are filled with unnecessary judgments. – When we judge, we learn nothing. Realize this. Open your mind and heart. Don’t judge people just because they sin differently than you. The world is changed by your example, not by your judgments. Be kind. Ask about people’s stories. Listen. Be humble. Be teachable. Be a good neighbor.
- We look down on people when we disagree with them. – When someone upsets you, this is often because they aren’t behaving according to your fantasy of how they “should” behave. Take a deep breath. It’s OK to disagree with the opinions of others, but that doesn’t give you the right to deny any sense they might make. Nor does it give you a right to accuse them of poorly expressing their beliefs just because you don’t agree with them. Learn to appreciate different perspectives, lifestyles, and opinions, even if it means overcoming your pride and opening your mind beyond what’s initially comfortable.
- We have a tendency to dwell on people’s weaknesses. – Be present. Be kind. Compliment people. Magnify their strengths, not their weaknesses. This is how to make a real and lasting difference in your relationships.
- There’s a whole lot we don’t know about the people in our lives. – It’s impossible to know exactly how another person is feeling or what kind of emotional battles they’re presently fighting. Every smile or sign of strength hides an inner struggle every bit as complex and extraordinary as your own.
- We carelessly gossip about our relationships. – Don’t give in to the unnecessary negativity, drama and gossip around you. Be positive. Give people a piece of your heart rather than a piece of your mind. And listen carefully to how a person speaks about other people to you – this is precisely how they will speak about you to other people.
- Our “busy” lives often get in the way of our most important relationships. – The people you take for granted today may be the only ones you need tomorrow. Never be too busy to make time for the folks who matter most. Truly, the best gift you can give someone today is the purity of your undivided attention. Just be present with them, and pay attention to the little things. (Read Hands Free Life.)
- We try to hide our flaws, even from those closest to us. – As imperfect as you might be, as small as you sometimes feel, and as out of place as you imagine you are, you don’t have to hide the flawed pieces of yourself. Remember, you attract other people to you by the qualities you show them, but you keep them around based on the qualities you truly possess. Personal flaws are a part of everyone’s life. If you try to hide them, you don’t give the people who care about you a chance to truly know and love the real you.
- Our relationships aren’t as easy as we want them to be. – Good relationships require work. Good relationships require sacrifice and compromise. They are amazing, but rarely easy. Resisting the hard times and seeing them as immediate evidence that something is wrong or that you’re in the wrong relationship only aggravates the difficulties. By contrast, finding the willingness to view the challenges as opportunities to learn will give you the mindset you need to nurture your relationship to new heights.
- We try to “fix” the people we care about. – The act of sincerely caring for another person is rooted in love and respect. This means listening to them wholeheartedly and letting them know by your complete presence that they are seen, heard, and valued. It’s not a space where you try to fix them – it’s about being a witness to the totality of who they truly are.
- We resist change within our relationships. – Healthy, authentic relationships move in the direction of personal growth: for the relationship and for each person in it. Growth and change are a part of life and you must embrace it. Even when you are concerned that a relationship may dissolve if things change, you must embrace the fact that your paths may diverge for all the right reasons. (Angel and I discuss this further in the “Relationships” chapter of 1,000 Little Things Happy, Successful People Do Differently.)
- Our failed relationships are far more important than we realize. – Everyone has something important to teach you. Every relationship builds upon the lessons of those before it. Life doesn’t always give you the people you want – it gives you the people you need… to learn, to grow, and then, eventually, to fall in love.
- We take too many things too personally. – There is a life-changing amount of inner freedom that comes to you when you detach yourself from other people’s negative gestures and behaviors. The way others treat you is their issue, how you respond is yours. You know this. You simply can’t take things too personally, even when it seems personal. Rarely do other people do things because of you – they do things because of them.
- We like to get even with those who have wronged us. – No matter how much someone seems to deserve it, nothing good ever comes from an act of revenge. Getting even doesn’t help you get ahead. If you’re feeling pain, don’t take action that creates even more pain. Don’t try to cover darkness with darkness. Find your light. Act out of love. Do something that will enable you to create a more fulfilling reality. Forgive. Let go of the resentment, learn from the incident, and move forward with your life (and hopefully you can move forward with your relationship too).
- We are (unknowingly) in deep emotional relationships with anyone we hate. – To hate someone is to hold on to them tightly – to notch out a lifelong space for them in your heart and mind. So let today be the day you stop letting the ghosts of yesterday haunt you. Let today be the day you stop poisoning yourself with hatred. Forget about getting even with those who have hurt you, and instead get even with those who have helped.
- We are rarely as kind to others as we could be. – All the hardest, coldest people you meet were once as soft as a baby. And that’s the tragedy of living. So when people are rude, be your best – be kinder than necessary. What goes around comes around. No one has ever made themselves strong by showing how small someone else is. Remember this, and communicate accordingly. (Angel and I build mindful communication rituals with our students in the “Love and Relationships” module of Getting Back to Happy.)
- We place too much blame on our relationships. – You have to stop telling yourself that other people are your excuse for being unhappy, unsuccessful, etc. It’s not anyone else’s job to fill in your empty inner space. That’s your job and yours alone, and until you accept responsibility for your own emptiness and pain, your biggest problems will persist.
I want to close this post by reminding you that you need to create enough space and time to nurture the relationship you have with yourself too.
Your relationships with others are important, but you also need time alone with yourself, because when you’re in solitude you’re free from external obligations and pressures. You’re free to be YOU without being fancy and putting on a show. You’re able to hear your own thoughts and act on them, effectively.
So go ahead and find a quiet space. Cherish your personal time. Take long walks and drives by yourself. Watch sunsets and sunrises silently in peace. Teach yourself something new. Read books. Write stories. Sing along to your favorite songs. Check your instincts and follow them on your own time, without other people’s influence. Decide if fitting in 24/7 is more important than discovering who you truly are and what you’re here to do. Once you’ve got a handle on this, I guarantee that your relationships with others will get a lot healthier.
Which of the points mentioned above do you sometimes struggle with? How have you coped? What other relationship truths have you learned and accepted that have helped your relationships thrive?
Leave a reply below and share your thoughts and insights.
Also, our next annual Think Better, Live Better conference is taking place February 18-19, 2017. Sign-up here to be notified when tickets go on sale, and you will also be automatically qualified for a discounted VIP ticket while they last. Note: you can watch short clips from our 2016 event here and here.
Amy Martin says
Love this! I truly appreciate the emails and blog posts that I receive weekly from you guys.
Number 9 in this post jumped out at me, because I used to try to “fix” the people I love and it created a lot of unneeded tension. I actually attended your Think Better conference where you and Angel mentioned the importance of positive communication rituals and focusing on a person’s strengths. I gradually made changes based on your advice and I can honestly say that the relationships I have with my immediate family are much better off now.
Chandra Somanah says
I must say it’s a great moral support from the reading, if only one will apply to their life and understand,nit many does,but once you read and practice on it then if course it is a life changing topic, this dramatic has got real power to change any one who wish to receive quality of living life to make peace on earth.
14 makes my day I am able to forgive
Marc Chernoff says
Amy, it’s inspiring to hear about the progress you made with your family relationships. I’m glad were were able to give you the relationship tools you needed to thrive.
Also note: We will be releasing tickets to “Think Better, Live Better 2017” soon. Be sure to sign-up for the early bird discount list – we would love to see you again: http://thinklivebetter.com
I’ll echo what Amy said in the comment above. Kindness is my biggest takeaway. I know judging people unfairly isn’t right… I know gossiping gets me nowhere good… and I know I can use kindness to repair these negative social tendencies… but I forget when I in the heat of the moment. Truthfully, one of the biggest reasons your course, coaching and writing has been so invaluable to me over the years is that whenever I revisit a lesson/article/etc. it helps me stay on track in my life and relationships. Thank you for being there.
Marc Chernoff says
You are welcome, Austin. And I completely agree – regular positive reminders and rituals are what keep all of us on track in the long run. Personal growth is a journey. Keep going, and we will continue to walk beside you. 😉
Great post! Many points resonated, but #2 smacked me upside my head. Thanks for that. 🙂
The reminders about being as kind as we can be were helpful too. Kindness is simple and makes a world of difference to those around us.
PS: I’m also excited to attend your 2017 conference. I signed up on the conference webpage with my email. Will you provide any kind of early registration discount when tickets go on sale?
Marc Chernoff says
Yes Janice! We are excited for “Think Better, Live Better 2017” too. And early bird discounts will be available for anyone who signs up with their email address here (which it sounds like you already did): http://thinklivebetter.com
This was wonderful. Just what I needed. Thank you both!!!
Hanan Daqqa says
I am assured that relationships are Hard Work! I feel like I am the only one who needed to work hard on their relationship. ..now I know there is no other way …
Hi. Number 9 came through loud and clear here. My former partner was an alcoholic. I watched him drink like a fish too many times. There were many of those times I would tell him how it was harming his health and our relationship. He didn’t “hear”. Kept at it. After telling myself many times, it was his issue and/or still trying to tell him again and again, I gave up. Finally stopped beating my head against the wall. It’s his problem, not mine.
I read your emails when I receive them. They have shown me I can be happier. Though I do have my down times, I am happier than I’ve been in a long time. Thanks!
Lovely post – lovely philosophies.
It takes me back to the pages of the holy books,more specifically the virtues or the virtuous gestures like kindness, sans negative life etc.
Seriously, everything mentioned above is so very true and correct.The articles would just build up the individuals reading them,in a hugely positive manner. I would any day look forward to reading more of these and of course getting associated with people who are in line with these. And as you have rightly mentioned,we need to work on it.. It may sound simple but, how successful we are in implementing them in our daily lives,would determine how far it would take us to be better and noble individuals.
This article came to me, right after a heated discussion with my husband. I see both of our mirrors in this article. I am going to share it with him. (Yes, I know that I try to fix him, I’m enlightened now).
Thank you so much for sharing this information. You are creating great Karma.
This is so real. Your Happiness is your responsibility. Lovely post !?
Vonda Tackett says
Thank you Marc and Angel!
As always, I feel a sense of relief after reading your posts and articles, and always identify in one way or another. I am truly grateful to the two of you, for reminding me on a daily basis, to step back, take a breath and reevaluate the situations and the stinkin thinkin, (as I like to call it), that are creating stress and barriers in my life…
Barbara Egan says
I take things personally. My heart is huge, I am overly sensitive and very process oriented. I have a difficult time letting things go. Otherwise I really try to be a good person. I am a social worker and an advocate. I have to take on battles and so I try to choose them carefully.
Thank you. Barbara
I always feel better and get insight after reading your posts. For a long time I have not taken time for myself and my relationship with myself. I used to all the time. Thanks for the reminder of the importance! I am unfortunately where I am today because I stopped taking the time for myself. A lot of things will get better once I do this on a daily basis. Thank you for writing and being the people who you are and helping us to be better for ourselves.
M&A, great post! Very true to the T. Thanks for sharing such kind and helpful wisdom. Best wishes. Peace&blessings
I think there could be an added item here, which is also trickled throughout each of your listed components:
A MATURE LOVING RELATIONSHIP WITH YOURSELF
Often we find we seek out others to ‘complete’ us. We look for attachment, or completeness so that we have our needs fulfilled whether they be physical, emotional or spiritual.
It is essential to take the time in our lives at various stages of growth and maturity to become the person we admire, to become strong in our self worth ,& self esteem. By valuing our being, our purpose, our soul, and the sacredness of our bodies we will best create a self who is able to be in a relational partnership that has a foundation of mutual respect, and allow that relationship to facilitate each individual’s journey to be their best self. It’s not only about what we are then able to receive, but also about what we are able to contribute to another.
The nominally Christian upbringing I received was strong on self sacrifice, self denial, service to others, to the extent that youasaperson count for nothing, forget yourself, you are less than a worm.. You should have no self, never mind having any respect for it.. But Jesus reduces the ten commandments to TWO. Love God, and, love your neighbour AS YOURSELF. (capitals mine.) how can we love others as we love ourselves unless we really do love ourselves first? Have alway had a hard time with this. Still learning in my 60s.. Depressed off and on since I was 12. Give up and fall flat every other day, but keep getting up again. Learning self respect is not easy. Still trying. Thanks for the helpful words, they do get through. Not giving up.
Very well said!
Thank you for sharing this. I will start working on these areas of my relationships.
#3 Jumped out at me. As I navigate through many first dates seeking a relationship, I’ve found myself looking for the “Why Nots” of each woman, instead of spending more time and energy on the “Whys.”
By relaxing into myself more and keeping my judgement level down, I will open myself up to what may be right in front of me.
Thanks for this lovely dose. You are really angels for sensitive souls like me.
I am not one to post comments or even truly take to heart these random blogs or articles but…wow. Every single topic mentioned hit me hard. My life has been tough but the past three years have been almost unbearable – medical issues where I almost died a couple of times; botched surgeries and procedures which ended with having a complete hysterectomy, losing a kidney, appendix & other not so important organs and such, continued bladder and kidney issues (the one I have left); doctors telling me I was crazy only to finally find a couple who confirmed I wasn’t; the stories are endless it seems. And just a couple of weeks healing from yet another surgery (the 18th surgery), I am more emotional and fearful than ever. I have become the person I despise. I want to reach out to the ones I love but feel weak when I try as only tears flow when my words are spoken. I feel broken beyond repair. And the worst thing is I know this will get better but I don’t believe myself. Thus, I am shutting out the few people who truly care. I am negative, angry, sad, and unreliable-I judge with negative thoughts-I jump to the worst conclusions. Finding myself going back to the worst situations in my life and using those bad results as my judgments for who are in my life now. I want to talk to the few family members I am close to but am finding reasons to not want to talk to them. I want to get myself better before reaching out (don’t want to be more of a “Debbie Downer” than I already am) but I’m finding ways in my mind to justify not doing so by using their past mistakes against them. Sorry for such a long ramble – I suppose the main reason for this is to say THANK YOU for writing such truth and love. This will be printed and set in a place for me to read and reread. I do not believe in coincidences so please take to heart when I tell you that you were meant to write and post this. You helped get me through another day as well as providing me (and many others) the wisdom to move on and keep going with true love and positivity – which is who I used to be. God bless.
Di Hinds Williamson says
Thank you. My family (extended and complex) is truly special to me, yet at the moment I feel really deeply troubled by a major issue to have developed between my two adult sons, both now with families of their own. It’s really hard to own that they’ll have to sort it out between themselves, and yet I’m so tempted to send them this …. it’s always such a useful reminder. thank you again.
Your posts are insightful and come to me at the most opportune moments in my life. I just ended a pseudo-relationship(one where the guy will refuse to label the relationship until it’s at his convenience) The opposite person held the opinion that relationships require no adjustments, no work and compromising was a sin! I tried getting him to understand that not all compromises are bad ones but he seems to have set it in stone that they are. So it’s time for me to move and rediscover me again, your concluding paragraph was highly impactful to me. Thank you, you guys, Stay blessed!
I just really needed to read this today! This will help me so much as I am struggling with some of the things mentioned.
I love reading your posts and hopefully soon I can purchase one of the books, as I desperately need them but I’m trying to get my life back on course and it’s not financially possible, but Never Say Never! I will get there!
Much thanks for your words,
It’s what you can give to your partner, rather than what you can get out of them that is important.
Gary Chapman wrote a brilliant book called “The Five Love Languages”. I highly recommend it if you are having problems in your relationships.
I think your timing is perfect. I see so many of friends mistreating each other over political differences of opinion. If I had to summarize what I took away from this message in one word, it would be acceptance.
I am one of those people that loves the man she is with until there is nothing left to prove. I’m having issues with how possibly can he love me. having been together nearly 12 years I am for sure ready to take the next step but now he says he isn’t. I don’t think he ever will be I need to know weather or not to just let go I cannot see myself without him but the turmoil is killing me.
Brenda J. says
I totally enjoyed this post! It hit home in so many ways…makes me want to consider facing the good, the bad & the ugly parts of life relationships.
Great job!!! I’m inspired…
Brian Blackmon says
I’ll be working hard on all. This was a very good read. My wife and I are going through thought times right now and we have to learn to communicate together. Not aver speak or try to win but work together. Set pride to the side for your family. Don’t worry what others think. Go strong. I love you Renee.
This is an exceptionally good post. It’s a guide to how to live your life well: with humility, with gratitude and with kindness, towards yourself and others. I’ve been following you for a number of years now and being honest, I truly think that this is one of the best, if not THE best post you have ever written. Thank you for just being there, for all of us.
I really connect with point 10. Just because a relationship doesn’t last forever doesn’t mean it isn’t exactly what you need right now. I cope by being grateful and doing my best to accept what’s flowing into my life now. Thank for this post. Exactly what I needed to hear this week!
The part where you wrote don’t get even with the haters but the with the ones who have been kind to you, left me speechless. I focus so much on those “who have done me wrong”, that I forget about those who truly love me. Thamks so much for a truly life changing article. Had never heard of uou but was on Flipboard and this article popped up! Lucky me?
Point #14 is really thought provoking. I read it over and over again and assimilated its truthfulness. Thanks a million!
Emmanuel Worthwhile says
Thank you so much. This advice is so appropriate for me today it is exactly what I needed to improve my attitude and reactions in an important relationship. I’m so grateful!
Magdy Doze says
I learned that I can’t change her, but I can change myself…
r dutton says
I find your wisdom to be insightful and easy to read, you give great positivity in your messages