Relationship Advice

Source: Mark Manson blog, Dec 2016

BE TOGETHER FOR THE RIGHT REASONS

The only reason you should ever be with the person you’re with is because you simply love being around them. It really is that simple.” … everything that makes a relationship “work” (and by work, I mean that it is happy and sustainable for both people involved) requires a genuine, deep-level admiration for each other. Without that mutual admiration, everything else will unravel.

HAVE REALISTIC EXPECTATIONS ABOUT RELATIONSHIPS AND ROMANCE

a love that’s alive is also constantly evolving. It expands and contracts and mellows and deepens. It’s not going to be the way it used to be, or the way it will be, and it shouldn’t be. I think if more couples understood that, they’d be less inclined to panic and rush to break up or divorce.”

Romantic love is a trap designed to get two people to overlook each other’s faults long enough to get some babymaking done. It generally only lasts for a few years at most. .. So, once it’s gone, you need to know that you’ve buckled yourself down with a human being you genuinely respect and enjoy being with, otherwise things are going to get rocky.

True love — that is, deep, abiding love that is impervious to emotional whims or fancy — is a choice. It’s a constant commitment to a person regardless of the present circumstances. It’s a commitment to a person who you understand isn’t going to always make you happy — nor should they! — and a person who will need to rely on you at times, just as you will rely on them.  … But this form of love is also far more satisfying and meaningful. And, at the end of the day, it brings true happiness, not just another series of highs.

THE MOST IMPORTANT FACTOR IN A RELATIONSHIP IS NOT COMMUNICATION, BUT RESPECT

“What I can tell you is the #1 thing, most important above all else is respect. It’s not sexual attraction, looks, shared goals, religion or lack of, nor is it love. There are times when you won’t feel love for your partner. That is the truth. But you never want to lose respect for your partner. Once you lose respect you will never get it back.”

the only thing that can save you and your partner, that can cushion you both to the hard landing of human fallibility, is an unerring respect for one another, the fact that you hold each other in high esteem, believe in one another — often more than you each believe in yourselves — and trust that your partner is doing his/her best with what they’ve got.

what this mutual respect means is that we feel safe sharing our deepest, most intimate selves with each other.”

You must also respect yourself. Just as your partner must also respect his/herself. Because without that self-respect, you will not feel worthy of the respect afforded by your partner. You will be unwilling to accept it and you will find ways to undermine it. You will constantly feel the need to compensate and prove yourself worthy of love, which will just backfire.

Respect for your partner and respect for yourself are intertwined. As a reader named Olov put it, “Respect yourself and your wife. Never talk badly to or about her. If you don’t respect your wife, you don’t respect yourself. You chose her – live up to that choice.”

 Respect goes hand-in-hand with trust. And trust is the lifeblood of any relationship (romantic or otherwise). Without trust, there can be no sense of intimacy or comfort. Without trust, your partner will become a liability in your mind, something to be avoided and analyzed, not a protective homebase for your heart and your mind.

TALK OPENLY ABOUT EVERYTHING, ESPECIALLY THE STUFF THAT HURTS

If something bothers you in the relationship, you must be willing to say it. Saying it builds trust and trust builds intimacy. It may hurt, but you still need to do it. No one else can fix your relationship for you. Nor should anyone else. Just as causing pain to your muscles allows them to grow back stronger, often introducing some pain into your relationship through vulnerability is the only way to make the relationship stronger.

Behind respect, trust was the most commonly mentioned trait for a healthy relationship. Most people mentioned it in the context of jealousy and fidelity — trust your partner to go off on their own, don’t get insecure or angry if you see them talking with someone else, etc.

But the deeper the commitment, the more intertwined your lives become, and the more you will have to trust your partner to act in your interest in your absence.

The key to fostering and maintaining trust in the relationship is for both partners to be completely transparent and vulnerable:

A HEALTHY RELATIONSHIP MEANS TWO HEALTHY INDIVIDUALS

“Figure out as individuals what makes you happy as an individual, be happy yourself, then you each bring that to the relationship.”

A healthy and happy relationship requires two healthy and happy individuals. Keyword here: “individuals.” That means two people with their own identities, their own interests and perspectives, and things they do by themselves, on their own time.

GIVE EACH OTHER SPACE

“Be sure you have a life of your own, otherwise it is harder to have a life together. What do I mean? Have your own interests, your own friends, your own support network, and your own hobbies. Overlap where you can, but not being identical should give you something to talk about and expose one another to. It helps to expand your horizons as a couple, but isn’t so boring as both living the exact same life.”

importance of creating space and separation from one another.

YOU AND YOUR PARTNER WILL GROW AND CHANGE IN UNEXPECTED WAYS; EMBRACE IT

It logically follows that if there is a bedrock of respect for each individual’s interest and values underpinning the relationship, and each individual is encouraged to foster their own growth and development, that each person will, as time goes on, evolve in different and unexpected ways. It’s then up to the couple to communicate and make sure that they are consistently a) aware of the changes going on in their partner, and b) continually accepting and respecting those changes as they occur.

“When you commit to someone, you don’t actually know who you’re committing to. You know who they are today, but you have no idea who this person is going to be in five years, ten years, and so on. You have to be prepared for the unexpected, and truly ask yourself if you admire this person regardless of the superficial (or not-so-superficial) details, because I promise almost all of them at some point are going to either change or go away.”

GET GOOD AT FIGHTING

Successful couples, like unsuccessful couples, he found, fight consistently. And some of them fight furiously.

He has been able to narrow down four characteristics of a couple that tend to lead to divorces (or breakups).

  1. Criticizing your partner’s character (“You’re so stupid” vs “That thing you did was stupid.”)
  2. Defensiveness (or basically, blame shifting, “I wouldn’t have done that if you weren’t late all the time.”)
  3. Contempt (putting down your partner and making them feel inferior.)
  4. Stonewalling (withdrawing from an argument and ignoring your partner.)

GET GOOD AT FORGIVING

“When you end up being right about something – shut up. You can be right and be quiet at the same time. Your partner will already know you’re right and will feel loved knowing that you didn’t wield it like a bastard sword.”

the most interesting nugget from Gottman’s research is the fact that most successful couples don’t actually resolve all of their problems.

The key here is not changing the other person — as the desire to change your partner is inherently disrespectful (to both them and yourself) — but rather it’s to simply abide by the difference, love them despite it, and when things get a little rough around the edges, to forgive them for it.

the key to happiness is not achieving your lofty dreams, or experiencing some dizzying high, but rather finding the struggles and challenges that you enjoy enduring.

A similar concept seems to be true in relationships: your perfect partner is not someone who creates no problems in the relationship, rather your perfect partner is someone who creates problems in the relationship that you feel good about dealing with.

do you get good at forgiving? What does that actually mean? Again, some advice from the readers:

  • When an argument is over, it’s over. Some couples went as far as to make this the golden rule in their relationship. When you’re done fighting, it doesn’t matter who was right and who was wrong, it doesn’t matter if someone was mean and someone was nice. It’s over. It’s in the past. And you both agree to leave it there, not bring it up every month for the next three years.
  • There’s no scoreboard. No one is trying to “win” here. There’s no, “You owe me this because you screwed up the laundry last week.” There’s no, “I’m always right about financial stuff, so you should listen to me.” There’s no, “I bought her three gifts and she only did me one favor.” Everything in the relationship is given and done unconditionally — that is: without expectation or manipulation.
  • When your partner screws up, you separate the intentions from the behavior. You recognize the things you love and admire in your partner and understand that he/she was simply doing the best that they could, yet messed up out of ignorance. Not because they’re a bad person. Not because they secretly hate you and want to divorce you. Not because there’s somebody else in the background pulling them away from you. They are a good person. That’s why you are with them. If you ever lose your faith in that, then you will begin to erode your faith in yourself.

And finally, pick your battles wisely. You and your partner only have so many fucks to give, make sure you both are saving them for the real things that matter.

THE LITTLE THINGS ADD UP TO BIG THINGS

Don’t ever stop doing the little things. They add up.

SEX MATTERS… A LOT.

a truth about relationships: sex is the State of the Union. If the relationship is good, the sex will be good. You both will be wanting it and enjoying it. When the relationship is bad — when there are unresolved problems and unaddressed negative emotions — then the sex will often be the first thing to go out the window.

BE PRACTICAL, AND CREATE RELATIONSHIP RULES

relationships are imperfect, messy affairs. And it’s for the simple reason that they’re comprised of imperfect, messy people — people who want different things at different times in different ways and oh, they forgot to tell you? 

The common theme of the advice here was be pragmatic.

LEARN TO RIDE THE WAVES

I think the most important thing that I have learned in those years is that the love you feel for each other is constantly changing. Sometimes you feel a deep love and satisfaction, other times you want nothing to do with your spouse; sometimes you laugh together, sometimes you’re screaming at each other. It’s like a roller-coaster ride, ups and downs all the time, but as you stay together long enough the downs become less severe and the ups are more loving and contented. So even if you feel like you could never love your partner any more, that can change, if you give it a chance. I think people give up too soon. You need to be the kind of person that you want your spouse to be. When you do that it makes a world of difference.”

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