I get asked a lot to write about relationships, probably because I used to be involved in pickup and it seems strange to some that I'm now married (though from my perspective getting married is an obvious outcome of getting good at pickup/dating).
I'm always a bit hesitant to write about it, because relationships are so complex and individual. While there's a lot of blanket advice that be given on how to walk up to someone and start a conversation, there's a lot less that's universally applicable in a relationship. But I'll give it a shot anyway.
And all of this comes with a major caveat that I'm going to be generalizing for the sake of making this applicable to the widest number of people, which is to say for a traditional male and female relationship with stereotypical gender roles. Some of it may apply to people in other kinds of relationships, and other parts may not.
One big piece of advice which I assume applies to every type of relationship, is that an absolute necessity for any good relationship is an environment of open non-judgemental communication. Relationships are complex enough without having severed communication lines.
From the very beginning of the relationship, you should be communicating what you like, don't like, and expect. To do anything else is disrespectful. I travel for most of the year, so any time I would date someone, I would make it really clear that that was my lifestyle. If I say, "No, I'm thinking about not traveling as much", I'm setting the relationship up for failure.
It is always much better to get these things out early. Be honest and be open to rejection. This also includes things that come up within the relationship. If you don't like how your girlfriend acts when she's around her friends, then you should bring it up. It doesn't mean that she has to change or that you need to accept it, but there's a discussion that needs to be had. People very often are afraid to offend their partner, so they let things fester instead. Trust that your partner is mature enough to hear your perspective without freaking out.
This, of course, goes two ways. If your partner brings up a concern, you must address it calmly every single time. Never engage in confrontation. You can be upset, but you must communicate with compassion. If you don't, you won't have the opportunity to solve the next problem.
You must also understand your partner's perspective as clearly as possible, even if you don't relate to it. It's one thing to disagree and understand, and another to disagree and think they're an idiot. Ask questions without assigning blame by saying things like, "Interesting... I would never think about it that way. What makes you see it that way?"
If your partner is not open to these sorts of conversations, they're probably not ready for a real relationship.
At the same time, don't bring every tiny thing to your partner. If all of your conversations are based around misunderstandings and resolving tiny things, you don't have a very robust social life. It's sort of like medicine— you don't want to be popping pills constantly, but if you're really sick you want to be able to take medicine.
Make sure to keep an active life outside of your relationship. You can't be your partner's entire world and you don't want them to be yours. If you are both having fresh experiences, that's fresh oxygen being drawn into the relationship. You will (or at least should) appreciate your partner even more when you're around other people.
Never take your partner for granted. When you do, you forget what's so great about them and begin to hallucinate that you could easily replace them with someone exactly the same except with one fewer problem. For the same reason, never let them take you for granted. Make them feel secure, but challenge them. That's a fine line that requires you to let them know you are there for them no matter what, but also encourages them to grow and be even better.
I love the book "Five Love Languages". It teaches you to give your partner what they want, not what you want. I did that all wrong for years. In the same way that you want to make sure your effort in your work life will move your business forward, you want to make sure that what you put into the relationship is moving it forward. Don't do elaborate acts of service if all she wants is quality time. Don't focus on quality time but starve her from affirmations if those are what's important to her.
I'm lucky to be in a great marriage with someone who puts in just as much work as I do, and is also an excellent communicator and does all of the things on this list. I wish the same good fortune for you, and you can maximize your chances of receiving it if you embody these principles.
Photo is another awesome view from E'mei mountain. I have a bunch of travel coming up so hopefully I can amass some more blog photos to replace the ones I lost.
Awesome actionable advice I appreciate that!
Ask questions without assigning blame by saying things like, "Interesting... I would never think about it that way. What makes you see it thatway?"
I don’t know how everyone feels about the word interesting, I would omit it from conversation. I think the statement and question on their own are more than enough. I know that’s petty, it irks me in conversation. I want to ask what does the word mean to you every time someone says it to me.
I read a lot. It’s rare I come across a piece, succinct, and dense with actionable advice. Thank you again. This is also the first time I’ve ever wrote a reply to anything that I’ve read.
Thanks for this post, you make great points about healthy intimacy. I've had to learn a lot about healthy relationships and my experience with learning pick up is it did not help me learn skills to be in a healthy relationship, rather it gave me a way to block healthy intimacy.
Ironically I got some big epiphanies from Neil's last book The Truth and started going to some 12 step meetings that have helped and I'm continuing to get more healthy and I believe I'm at a point where I'd be good for a relationship. I had to learn a lot about family stuff that in a very subtle way sabotaged my attempts at relationships. I finally did have a relationship that started about this time last year and we broke up this past January, that is my longest relationship.
I really loved Nonviolent Communication and the one book I have to recommend is The Intimacy Factor by Pia Mellody. I think it is best of her 3 books to start with and I like it because it goes in depth on her teachings on boundaries. Her other two books are tougher to read because they get into things that are painful to think about but I needed to examine those areas of abuse and addiction and they are excellent books as well. Thanks for the great post.
Great post I think a lot of guys are moving beyond pickup but nobody really talks about it. Well done.
One way to break down a lifetime would be to think of it as two portions-- the part where the person became better, and the part where he coasted.
In a normal person's life, the getting better part would include everything from his first breath of air, as he learned how to see and feel and breathe, through school as he learned different things, and probably through the beginning part of his job as he developed a baseline proficiency in his trade. The coasting part would be most of his career, as he put his educational investment to work, and, of course, retirement.
There are a lot of ways to get better. You can learn new things. You can travel and see the world, thus gaining new perspective. You can build your personality. You can create a body of meaningful work. You can become more healthy and more fit. You can actively cultivate relationships with people.
Teetering at the edge of a major life-altering shift is invigorating. It's terrifying but in an impossibly hopeful way. The abyss below is a void of uncertainty and fear and a boundless unknown. But at the same time it's a never ending force of hope that laps at your feet, beckoning you onwards. I am currently at one of these pivotal moments on my life. I'm ready to reflect and reinvent. Unfortunately I feel tethered. I feel as though I can't truly bask in my hopes for the future. The most heart wrenching part is that I can't because of something that once made me so happy.
Three years ago I met a boy. The first boy that had ever noticed me. I was rather a late bloomer as far as relationships go but so was he. We were both awkward, gangly teenager and so of course the first few months were pure sunshine. Blinding sunshine that blocked out the imperfections, the irritations. I can't say what I did for him, but during that time he helped me grow confidence and grow into myself. Now I'm comfortable with who I am and what I want, but I'm not so sure he is what I want anymore. And that's the problem.
I was so eager to be in a relationship that I didn't care who it was with. I just knew I didn't want to be alone. Now I feel confident and self-aware enough that I feel as though I am strong enough to be alone. And in a way I truly want to be alone. The next few years hold unlimited possibility for me and I don't want to squander them by being held back. I want to spend this time focused on me, not my relationship.
The question is should I end it or try to loosen the relationship to where I have more time to myself?He has done nothing wrong, but I don't feel as sure about us. I've changed drastically in the last few years and I think I deserve more. What we have is safe. I crave the new and the unknown and the daring. It sounds ungrateful, but I just have an overwhelming feeling that there's something greater waiting for me. Maybe there isn't but I need to explore other avenues to assure myself that the first love I ever encountered just happened to be the most enduring.
I don't want to continue this tediously careful and safe path. I want to live and be gloriously reckless.