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.
I am sitting here thinking why my relationship with my husband(friend for 10 years, married 7) is so great and anything I think of is covered in one of your 4 points! The only thing I can think of is that for a relationship to stay perfect we have to work on it, ALWAYS.
I wish you and your wife the best, for now and forever!
Peter James says
I think one more minor addition would be to try and drop all fantastical expectations of your partner. For instance, my wife thought I would love to go shopping and take long walks to pick berries off of bushes. She was in for a rude awakening when we moved in together, especially when the Jets played. It took her awhile to get used to the guy thing (she has only sisters), However, our love has persevered.
Too many times people count on glorified expectations their partners never live up to. If you love someone, nothing else should matter. They are who they are.
Eric Hamm says
“1. Accept your partner as they are.”
Hard to do sometimes, but essential to a close, loving and trusting relationship.
Thanks for laying these points out as you did. It’s always good to be reminded of the core necessities. Eric.
Homemaker Barbi (Danelle Ice) says
I love the point about personal importance. This recognition can take us far not only in our romantic relationships, but in business / professional relationships and in interactions with complete strangers. Keeping in mind that a rude cashier at the store probably isn’t rude because she doesn’t like you, but because she’s feeling crummy about something, can be a very freeing point of view. It is empowering to realize that everything is not always about us!
Homemaker Barbi (Danelle Ice)
Evelyn Lim says
My question is: is that you and your wife in the picture? I thought they look familiar…but then again, I could be wrong!
apricot tea. says
I just have to say that Peter James’ comment cracked me up; just imagining you, Jonathan, picking berries off of bushes made me giggle.
But I completely agree with him, because while you, Honey, are a compassionate, sensitive & intuitive person, I have been brutally reminded that you are, indeed, still a man (a human, more precisely) who belches, leaves the toilet seat up & snores like a bear. Imperfect, in other words… & by no means incorporated with the stereotypical “happy ending” Prince Charming stature — although, you have your moments. ;]
I couldn’t agree more with all of your 4 points Jonathan. The largest obstacle in my last relationship was assuming too much. Assuming led to built up resentment which grew so much it ended the relationship. I thought we had great communication skills until I realized we could talk about everything but our relationship. Emotions and defensiveness took over our relationship talks. Unless each person is really listening and willing to work on things it will just be a back and worth power struggle like you discussed in #2. It all comes down to treating the other person like you really care for them without letting your ego get involved. thanks for sharing!
Mike King says
Great article Jonathan. I can’t quick agree with the dog comment however because not everyone does just accept a dog to be a dog and that’s it. I wish my wife’s dog was quieter, smelled better and would quit smelling visitor’s crouches. When he does those things I don’t just accept it, I put him in his kennel and train him to stop doing it. If treated my wife the same way by controller her, I’d be in for a BIG surprise in our relationship.
All kidding aside, great tips, I would definitely agree those areas make my relation as great as it is also with my wife.
Hi Jonathan. The title of this post says it all. No relationship or person is “perfect” and understanding that helps big time! I like the comparison you made about treating your partner as you would your dog. Good metaphor.
Glen Allsopp says
Great post Jonathan, and I love the Apricot-tea blog of your wife as well.
Just a note that the headings in this post look a little strange in Google Reader, you might want to check that out.
this is true. these are from mastery of love right?that book has helped me a lot and i learned a lot from it.
Jamie Simmerman says
That’s a sweet comment about your wife. I hope she gets to read it.
Awesome post. I loved the ‘dog’ part. It is totally true.
Maria | Never the Same River Twice says
“2. Be more concerned with being kind, than with being right.”
For me, this one is key. I’ve had to learn (the hard way!) that there is no “winner” in an argument. It’s a lot better to make your point with love and humor and let it go than to try to force someone to believe in you viewpoint.
apricot tea. says
Someone asked if the picture he used is of him & I; although I wish the cuteness of romping around in the grass could be us, it is not. :]
Angel Cuala says
I am a happily married man for more than 12 years, with the same woman and I totally agree with number 4.
My wife and I do not fail to do this even for simple matters, what do you want for dinner? Why were you late? What’s your problem?
Although the last 2 questions may sound offensive but we do it with so much care.
By the way, I was browsing Zen Habits but I cannot remember if I really found you there.
So I decided to subscribe so I will not lose your future post.
Keep it up!
Seamus Anthony says
Jonathan – I have a bone to pick with you and your so called advice.
After reading this I went and made tea and told my girlfriend that as far as I am concerned she is just like the dog, as I gave her a biscuit.
So she started growling, which made sense, but then she told me to go for a walk, and at that point I cocked my head to the side in confusion.
Now I don’t know who the damn dog is because she won’t stop bitching, I’m sleeping in the doghouse and the dog’s on my side of the bed.
I’m howling mad at you, dude. Woof.
Ok, I think I have been treated like a dog a bunch! I keep fetching stuff. he he he.
The best thing I did for my relationship was to be an individual in the midst of being a couple. Have my own mind, my own desires, my own likes and dislikes. AND allow my spouse to have his as well.
Your point #1 reminded me of something I read in one of my favorite books, The Game of God. In the book, they define love as “total acceptance of what is.”
That blew my mind. Love isn’t an emotion or a mushy feeling. Love isn’t lust or like or fondness. Love is total acceptance of what is.
I’m glad i stumbled onto this article. My fiance and i are going through a rough patch. We are both busy people and i feel like communicaton is failing between us..
All 4 points above seem to be about us doing the wrong things in our relationship.
Thanks for the insight…Time to work on us…
Nobody is perfect. Imperfection in itself is perfection. Certain imperfections in our partners are what make them unique and different. Learning to like these imperfections is the key to a strong and successful relationships.
Thank you for this great article.
Such good advice, so hard to swallow.
what if your love doesn’t treat you like a dog? What if your partner doesn’t accept you as you are, but is constantly trying to change you to fit their visual criteria, slowly helping you to dislike yourself? What if you love them but are tired and confused? What if they’re a great person, but they make you dislike yourself and resent them? What if your gut says you maybe should leave but your heart is up in the air? What if you love them?
i split with my girlfriend of 3 years the other day but we are back together now i seriously thought that we were over for good and i couldn’t understand why. we talked it over and we are ok now and its all because things built up in our relationship and didn’t talk things out and when i think about it its all because point 4 (Don’t make assumptions, don’t take things personally) got me…… i took things to personally and i also expected my partner to know how i was feeling even though i never told her and thought she knew things important that i didn’t which is stupid……. this article has given me a better angle on our relationship iv never not been the best i could for my partner but if you are missing important points in a relationship then you have to sort them or it wont work, you both have to work at the relationship equally because its give and take.
i just have to accept what is and love that.
None of these are essential to a relationship, because it is only depicting one type of relationship. Mainly, an equal relationship. In a relationship such as the one I am in, one partner dominates the other, and we like it that way. In addition, we both ask each other to change in various ways that make ourselves perfect for the other. Relationships are work, you people who are trying to say that loving each other is all that should matter are a bit off, you need to work at a relationship to make it better. Struggles are a part of every relationship, and a romantic one is no different. You accept your partner, but asking him/her to change and changing yourself to perfectly suit each other’s NEEDS is not unrealistic or even bad. Being right IS important in some cases. First of all, there are different types of personalities, some people like being right more than others. In fact, no relationship almost ever works where it’s too argumentative people or two passive people, it’s always passive and argumentative. So in a sense you’re right, the passive one should just let the aggressive one be right, even if he/she is not. I like 3, that’s pretty much dead on, but in reality it’s more about listening and communication. Stop trying to be what you THINK she wants you to be, and stop resenting behind his back. TALK, let him know what you want, let her know how you feel, and then you can start changing to be perfect for each other. 4 is pretty good too, I have a lot of trouble not assuming. BUT, I think it’s important to note that it might be about them, but it’s still affecting you sometimes. For example, if I’m hurt because she’s doing everything her friends want her to do even if it’s something I pleaded with her not to, it technically is about her being pressured. It’s still about her, but it’s affecting me.
And Pace, that is one definition of love. A more scientific and realistic definition of love is the trinity of love, which contains three elements essential to love, including physical love, emotional love, and commitment.
Alexander Yaremchuk says
that’s my so favorite post for the years!
Travis Meals says
With all the doggone snow we have gotten recently I am stuck indoors, fortunately there is the internet, thanks for giving me something to do. :)
What if the partner lie to you (just a small lie) such as he said “I didn’t go out”, but actually he is. Sometimes this little things makes me unhappy. I don’t know I should trust him totally or not.
yah it is really true. I’ve made an article, found it here https://balitaupdates.blogspot.com/2011/08/how-to-have-perfect-relationship.html.. I realized there are a lot of things to consider & must be learned when you go into a relationship… Wheew, all of us has its own experiences, mistakes & lessons that were learned.. Your tip #2 also took my attention & made me realized that yah I always prefer to be right than being kind… thanks! Another lesson learned & must be applied…
Just trsut him. tell him that you trust him. Apply #2 & #4. Be open with each other, tell him what’s the problem & both of you must talk about it & solve it.
God bless u!
These rules are easier said than done. It amazes me how many people (myself included) can lack the ability/interest to implement these 4 secrets. A change needs to happen before it’s too late. Thank you for posting this.
One thing that I don’t understand is if I do something wrong with my partner, not too long after he does the same thing to me and asks me “how does that feel? You do it to me” And I don’t know how to handle that… Help?
Hannah Welsh says
Well my mum has benn single for 10 years and she finally has a boyfriend and he has moved and the first couple of days they have been cuddling on the sofa together and now hey sit sepretly on the SAME sofa though and today when she went out oll she said was i shant be long and she didnt say bye to he boyfriend nothing and they didnt even kiss but when she got in today they hugged and thats about it and this morning he said to me “Did your mum say anything about me” what do i do to make things better are they gonna split up. But my mum dont want them to split up she even said so her self can i help with anything
Learn to love says
My wife and I have been married for 14 years, why do we have a perfect relationship.
1) Understanding the word intimacy…(Into me you see) the ability to look into the heart of your partner feel and understand and embrace any feeling they have even if they are frustrated with you don’t defend yourself thank them for sharing there heart. and be willing to make any adjustments that are realistic.(smile)
2) Be grateful, smile, laugh, believe in yourself and your partner and God. He is love.
3) Get your ass off the couch, tell your honey why you love them. focus in what you love about your partner. Be a fountain not a drain. Love gives.(laugh, smile)
4) Practice make permanent. Smile when you make love and look into your honey eyes.
5) Never go to bed mad. Kiss five times a day, neck hand arm fingers ALWAYS look for a new place to kiss your partner, only say thing that build faith and love.(smile)
6) Serve you honey love every day.(smile)
Robert P says
This is exactly the kind of article I’ve been looking for since I provided destination weddings service to hundreds of couples a year. I always like to imagine that the couples I marry will remain as happy long term as they were on the day of their beach wedding. Unfortunately we all know that is not the case for many of them.
Working on the relationship is key…don’t take it for granted…that is the kiss of death!
Thanks so much for your share!
Daniel Harrington says
You can’t change your partner, BUT with time YOU CAN help your partner IMPROVE WHO THEY already ARE.
AND THAT’s NOT SELFISH, -so long as YOU will be GIVE your PARTNER IMPROVEMENTS of yourself TOO.
If that means work-out, because you both need to lose weight… do it!
Guys, stop playing SKYRIM for five minutes -and wash your face for heavens sake!
Girls, wear lingerie to bed if that’s what entices your guy.
GET SOME TATTOOS BECAUSE YOU’RE BADASS AND SEXY.
AND LOVE EACH OTHER BY GIVING. NOT BY TAKING.
amol joshi says
There are two ways to get out of a problem first is accept what’s happening and see the positive and choose a peaceful state of mind and second fight against it be miserable and struugle against the universe.
Taking things personally creates more/a deeper meaning. Making assumptions is part of the human condition. It isn’t right but learning how to be right is a process. Assuming helps you get closer to knowing like dreaming does (guess and check). It can often help point our own way to asking more questions and then getting answers.