12 Most Favorable Traits of a Solid Relationship
Over the past 30+ years, my lovely wife has taught me a lot about what a lasting, meaningful relationship looks like. Here are 12 of the most powerful principles we’ve found that make for a more enjoyable and mutually beneficial relationship. While these are concepts that we have built our marriage around, they certainly hold true for friendships and business relationships of all kinds as well.
The golden rule says treat others the way you want to be treated. I sure hope that some of my colleagues will treat me way better than the way they want to be treated. With all due respect, in some cases, that is a really low standard. What if we thought about what would make others feel honored and cherished in a relationship instead? Better yet, what if we asked them what makes them feel respected? Just the act of asking them is a way of showing them your respect!
When Karen and I were married, I was 18 and she was just 17. We had to go before a judge and get an age waiver from the state. The judge we met with shared this nugget of wisdom: People say marriage is a 50/50 proposition. They are wrong. It’s 150/150. Unless both sides give 150%, it’s not going to work. In good relationships you give a lot more than take. You cut the other person a lot of slack.
To understand commitment, one wise old man told me, take a look at a bacon and egg breakfast. The chicken is involved, but the pig is committed. Sure, they both give up something, but the pig has a skin in the game. Relationships get hard as we work out boundaries, as we bump into each other’s fragile egos. Those who stick it out grow past the petty differences, get great and understanding each other and build incredibly strong bonds.
A little surrender goes a long way. Give up your right to be right all the time and it buys a lot of good will and loyalty. Don’t wait for him/her to “smarten up.” You can’t fix them, you can only fix you. Take the initiative, be the adult and let go now and then. Sure there are some who will take advantage, but if they do, then you need to set boundaries, but it’s surprising how much someone can change when you give of yourself to them. It can change everything.
Assumptions are trouble. We all have different levels of tolerance toward stress, anxiety and life in general. When someone takes an action you don’t agree with, talk it out. “Seek first to understand” as Covey says. Lots of times if we understand the motives and drivers behind a behavior, we will be much more equipped to either share the load or help someone move beyond it. Until we really understand what’s happening, we should not act.
Lies catch up to you. Trust is extremely hard to get back once you lose it. Truth can be a painful thing so be careful how you share it. Always speak the truth, but take care to time it well, frame it well and think about the desired outcomes of what you have to say before you do.
7. Appreciate the differences
For some reason, we seem to feel more comfortable around those who think just like we do. The irony is that if you spend all your time around those who think just like you and like all the same things, you will not grow! Expand your horizons; seek out people who think way outside of your box. Don’t immediately compare to yourself all the time, but really listen to what they feel is important, let it quell a while and then incorporate their perspective. It will validate them and make you a better person.
Surprises are nice now and then, but kept promises and predictable behavior are critical to good relationships. Everyone appreciates a trustworthy, dependable friend or associate who does what they say they will do. If you cannot do it, don’t say you will!
9. Common interests
Finding things to do together can be difficult, but it helps build such strong bonds. Think of the relationships that war buddies have. Even if it’s something you are not crazy about, stretch yourself and see what’s interesting to others. It’s a big amazing world out there.
“The best laid plans of mice and men so often go awry.” ~ Robert Burns.
It’s funny but nearly anyone I talk to who has ever had children seems to agree that flexibility is a lifestyle imperative if you expect to survive marriage and/or parenting. Have a plan “A”, but be prepared to settle for plan “B” or even “Z.” Life goes so much easier when you relax and accept that very little in life goes according to plan.
The world has a way of wearing on you after a while. My wife is a great encourager. It really helps me stay focused when I know she appreciates how hard I work and she’s got my back no matter what. It’s very empowering.
Anything worth having is worth the effort it takes to obtain it. None of this is easy but there are few things in life that are as rewarding as a strong relationship can be.
The Bottom Line
There’s a common thread running through all of these. Talk it out. Listen to each other. In this life there are no guarantees, but talk about these together, pay attention to these areas and your chances of having a great relationship will dramatically increase.
You can’t control everything. You can’t control how someone else feels, or what they do. What you can control is how you think and how you act. Try to be more like my amazing wife and you will tip the scales in your favor. It worked for her; I’d do anything for her!
Featured image courtesy of Pink Sherbet Photography via Creative Commons.