Marrying my wife was the best decision I ever made. We have an amazingly close relationship, and we’ve also had our share of ups and downs like anyone else.
Despite the luck I had marrying my wife, our relationship still takes a lot of work and patience. I’ve made plenty of mistakes. I’ve also seen the ugliness that is failed relationships (I’ll spare you the details).
I’ve avoided writing about this subject for a while for a couple of reasons. Firstly, I don’t want to seem like a know-it-all or that I have relationships figured out any more than anyone else. They’re a very personal thing and your relationship will inevitably be different than mine. Secondly, just like anyone, I’m still learning myself.
So here it is anyway. These are the secrets I’ve learned to having a successful relationship. If you can start applying these in your relationship, I guarantee that it will start transforming immediately.
1. Accept your partner as they are.
The best time to decide what kind of partner you want is before you commit to being in a relationship. If you’re always trying to change your partner, the only thing you’ll accomplish is the other person resenting you. It doesn’t get much more insulting than that. But being accepting doesn’t mean you act like a door mat, either.
The best thing you can do is treat your partner like you would a dog. (Before any protests start, just bear with me for a second.) Just think about it. How do you treat your dog? You don’t expect him to be anything that he’s not, because he is completely authentic. You just expect him to be a dog. He drools, barks, and wags his little tail. He’s perfect that way. You can’t help but accept him.
2. Be more concerned with being kind, than with being right.
Everyone has a desire to be right. And there are many occasions where being right will take you far; like choosing the best place to raise a family. But most of the time, insisting on being right will drive you and your partner apart.
There’s been many times in past relationships where I’ve insisted on the other person seeing things my way. You can only take this so far before you end up losing sight of what you were arguing about in the first place. It’s no longer about a point, or anything else important. It’s just about being right. In the end, this just drives a wedge between you and your partner.
So which would you rather be: kind or right?
3. Be the best partner you can be.
This sounds so obvious that you’re probably thinking, “Wow Jonathan, how long did it take you to come up with that one?” I know. I knew you would say that. But since I’m the one that wrote it, I guess I better have a good reason for it. And I do.
If you’re not in a relationship, you’re probably looking for the perfect partner. Maybe the reason you’re not with anyone right now has something to do with not being able to find the perfect person. Perhaps you were with someone, but the reason you’re not is because you felt they were less than perfect. Or, let’s be honest, maybe he was just crazy.
If you are in a relationship, you probably have lots of expectations for your partner. You probably expect them to think like you do, and make the same type of decisions you would make. Chances are you hold it against them when they think otherwise.
We spend a lot of time searching for the perfect partner and then expecting our partner to be perfect. But how much time do we spend trying to be the perfect partner for our partner? We have all these expectations for the other person, yet we don’t hold ourselves up to this as well. Doesn’t that seem like a double standard? I think so.
When something isn’t going well in my relationship with my wife, I try to think of how I can be a better partner. Instead of reacting and thinking “Why can’t she just be like this?” I try to think “What can I do to be a better partner?” I’m not always perfect, but every time I do this, I feel like my relationship goes a little more consciously in the directly I want it to.
4. Don’t make assumptions, don’t take things personally.
Just following this one bit of wisdom has saved me a lot of heartache and trouble; not just in my marriage, but in every aspect of my life.
We have a tendency to think that everything is about us. We have this thing called personal importance. The truth is, everything is not about us. Everything anyone else does is really about them, that’s including your partner. I know, hard to believe, but true. If we take things personally when our partner acts not so wonderfully, we’re likely to feel unloved. We think it’s about us, when it’s really something they’re personally dealing with. That doesn’t mean we don’t call them out when they’re acting a fool. We just don’t make it about us.
It’s also important to not make assumptions. How many times have you felt hurt because you thought your partner should have known something? Most of the time I am upset at my wife (for some reason or another) it’s because I assumed that she automatically knew something. I assumed that she knew I didn’t want to go somewhere with her because I had a headache. But she didn’t know and thought I was upset at her for some reason (she took it personally). Then I’m upset at her because I thought she should trust me enough to know that I love her enough to go somewhere with her when I am feeling up to it. Then she’s upset at me because she thinks that there’s no reason I should be upset at her, when I’m the one that did something wrong in the first place.
See the pointless cycle this creates?
All of this confusion can be avoided if we simply don’t make assumptions and don’t take things personally.
Instead of making assumptions we can ask for what we want. It seems so simple, right? If you don’t ask for what you want, how do you expect to get it? As blindingly obvious as this is, it took me quite a while to get this.
We have a tendency to want to be understanding of the other person. We think it will make them feel inadequate if we ask for what we want. We think we’ll make them feel bad for not meeting our needs, so we stay quiet, hoping that some day soon our partner will develop telepathy and figure things out.
That day hasn’t come for me yet. But you can go on waiting if you want.
Following these four things has helped me transform my relationship with my wife. Not just that, it’s transformed the relationship with myself.
My wife inspires me to be a better partner. And what I’ve really learned is that being a better partner makes you a better person. It’s through looking at the way we interact with others that we learn more about ourselves.