When Mark Manson, author of best-selling new self-help book The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck, was looking for relationship advice before his wedding day he turned to his thousands of website followers for help.
To start with, he asked few simple questions such as, “What lessons would you pass down to others if you could?”, “What is working for you and your partner?” and “If you are divorced, what are the other things that didn’t worked previously?”. These questions are published in his crowdsourced ULTIMATE RELATIONSHIP GUIDE TO END ALL RELATIONSHIP GUIDES™.
The responses were kind of shocking that it took almost two weeks to sift through the 1,500 replies. Mark says that the answers were stunning.
“These were all smart and well-spoken people from all walks of life, from all around the world, all with their own histories, tragedies, mistakes and triumphs. And yet they were all saying pretty much the same dozen things,” he writes on his website.
“Which means that those dozen or so things must be pretty damn important… and more importantly, they work.”
Here’s what they are.
1. Be together for the right reasons
When he sent out his request to readers for advice, Mark added a caveat that turned out to be illuminating. “I asked people who were on their second or third (or fourth) marriages what they did wrong. Where did they mess up? By far, the most common answer was “being with the person for the wrong reasons.”
Some of these common wrong reasons were:
- Peer and family pressure.
- That “loser feeling” because they were single and settles for the first person that came along.
- Branded as “looking good together” – being together for the ‘image’ not because the two people actually admired each other.
- Falling in love with the idea of love and thinking that love will solve everything.
These are just among the reasons but we know that love is never enough to sustain a relationship.
2. Have realistic expectations about relationships and romance
Many of us gets into a relationship as a way to compensate what we lack or hate within ourselves. And with that this is a sure-way ticket to ‘develop’ a toxic relationship.
Why? Because these unrealistic expectations makes your love conditional. Mark said, “You will love your partner as long as they help you feel better about yourself. You will give in to them as long as they give to you. You will make them happy as long as they make you happy.”
3. The most important factor is not communication, but respect
People who had been through divorces and/or had only been with their partners for 10 to 15 years almost always talked about communication. Most of us think that only with communication will make the relationship thrive. Yes, communication is an important factor but without respect, relationship will fall.
For those married couples who are together for 20, 30 or even 40 years talked about most was respect. These people, through sheer quantity of experience, have learned that communication, no matter how open, transparent and disciplined, will always break down at some point. Conflicts are ultimately unavoidable, and feelings will always be hurt. Thus, respect for one another will cushion both partners and makes the relationship even stronger.
Respect is the rock in your relationship. Without this, you will doubt each other’s intentions.
4. A healthy relationship means two healthy individuals
A healthy and happy relationship means two healthy individuals. The keyword in this statement here is: “individuals” and that means two people with their own ‘identities’. Nurturing our individuality has positive contribution in the relationship.
A relationship that focuses on control: controlling your partner or submitting control over yourself just to make each other ‘happy’ will ultimately backfire. This results to destroying each other eventually and the very identities that attracted each person and brought them together in the first place.
5. Give each other space
One of the most important factor in a relationship is balancing the togetherness and giving each other space. A healthy and happy relationship values freedom and independence of each partner. However, there are some who are ‘afraid’ to give it because of the lack of trust or insecurity. Because of this, you may start to notice that our defining characteristics starts to fall to the wayside.
If both partners are willing to make their relationship last long, making little compromises is not a bad thing. This ability to give each other space after all will nurture our partner to be who they are and grow what will they become. This is also a sign of respect and we value our partners growth.
6. You and your partner will grow and change in unexpected ways; embrace it
Eventually, as the relationship progresses, both partners will grow and change in unexpected ways. As what they say, change is the constant thing in the world and we have to embrace that inevitably, our partners will flourish in their fullest potential.
One reader commented that at her wedding, an elderly family member told her, “One day many years from now, you will wake up and your spouse will be a different person, make sure you fall in love with that person too.”
7. Get good at fighting
All couples argue and it is normal in a relationship. But, it’s the way they argue that determines how willing they will work it out and how the relationship will go the distance.
One of the secrets that couples must adapt to get good at fighting is the necessity for “good communication” all the time. A vague piece of advice that everyone says but few couples seem to actually clarify what it means. So, what does it mean to have a good communication with your partner? It’s about being willing to have uncomfortable talks. Be willing to face the fight fairly. Say ugly things not attacking each other’s character and get it all out in the open.
8. Get good at forgiving
Believe that forgiveness is the secret to a happy, healthy and stress-free relationship. Studies have shown that couples who practice forgiveness are more likely to cultivate an enjoyable and satisfying relationship.
“Your perfect partner is not someone who creates no problems in the relationship, rather your perfect partner is someone who creates problems in the relationship that you feel good about dealing with.
9. Sex matters… a LOT
Sex and being sexually compatible are one of the most important factor in a relationship. The nature of the sex itself varied quite a bit among couples — some couples take sexual experimentation seriously, others are staunch believers in frequency, others get way into fantasies — but the underlying principle was the same everywhere: both partners should be sexually satisfied as often as possible.
Sex not only keeps the relationship healthy, some says that it also heals the relationship. When things a bit frigid and situations are out of control, couples find time to schedule sexy time for themselves. They say it’s important and it’s worth it.
10. The little things add up to big things
Partners who pays attention to details are simply the kind of partner you want to spend the rest of your life with. They are the ones who you can trust to stand by your side and weather with you through the storm.
According to Mark Manson’s readers, they implored to maintain regular “date nights”, to plan weekend getaways, make time for sex, listening to each other and many more. Remember that small things count the most because these are the things that a partner can do for someone simply because they love them with no special celebration required.
11. Be practical, and create relationship rules
Everyone of us has a big picture of how relationship should work. Both partners share responsibilities. Because it takes two to tango to cultivate a happy and healthy relationship.
The common theme of the advice here was be pragmatic. It’s making things work out for you both. If the wife is working 8 hours at the office every week and the husband is an artist and can work from home most of the days, it makes more sense that the husband handles the most parenting duties. This applies vice versa.
On top of that, many couples suggested in setting rules in the relationship to make it more practical. Examples are sharing of finances, how much debt will be taken on or paid off, expenses to spend individually, purchasing of home items, etc, how do you decide which vacations to go on?
This is a lot of work but it is practical. It may not be sexy or cool to others but you’re sharing your life together. So, you need to plan and account for each person’s needs and resources.
12. Learn to ride the waves
Out of the hundreds of analogies Mark read, one stuck with him more than any other. “A nurse emailed saying that she used to work with a lot of geriatric patients. And one day she was talking to a man in his late-80s about marriage and why his had lasted so long. The man said something like, “relationships exist as waves, people need to learn how to ride them.” Upon asking him to explain, he said that, like the ocean, there are constant waves of emotion going on within a relationship, ups and downs — some waves last for hours, some last for months or even years. The key is understanding that few of those waves have anything to do with the quality of the relationship — people lose jobs, family members die, couples relocate, switch careers, make a lot of money, lose a lot of money. Your job as a committed partner is to simply ride the waves with the person you love, regardless of where they go. Because ultimately, none of these waves last. And you simply end up with each other.”