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.