A good relationship is not something we find. It is not something that happens to us or something we luckily discover.
If we want a good relationship, it is something that we will have to Build.
Let’s take a best-case scenario. Let’s say that we believe in soulmates.
We believe that, once we find the perfect person, our lives, personalities, and habits will be able to fit together perfectly and seamlessly, to form a unified whole. Just like two pieces of Lego.
Cool. So let’s consider two perfectly matched pieces of Lego. Two pieces whose whole function, purpose and design is to fit together into a single whole.
Let’s take these two perfectly matched pieces and throw them at each other. Like two soulmates floating through life and then luckily bumping into each somewhere (Such a romantic picture, right?).
So, what happens to the two Lego pieces when they romantically bump into each other in mid-air? They bounce apart.😞
Hmm, okay. What if we slide them towards each other across a table? Or perhaps if we throw them more forcefully into each other?
Ouch, that isn’t romantic at all. 😥
Well, perhaps soulmate bumping doesn’t work. What if we spend a lot of time around our soulmate. Perhaps we are working with them, or even go on a few dates with them. What happens then?
Okay, so this time, let’s put the two pieces of Lego into a bag. A bag where they can really spend time close together.
Let’s even help things along a bit, we can shake that bag really thoroughly to get them to mix well.
We can spin it round and round, like a centrifuge. We can leave them together in the bag for a really long time.
Alright, now let’s open the bag.
What do we find? Oh shucks, they are still apart.
Wow. So how do we get these two perfectly matched Lego pieces together?
Well, first we need to take time to study the two pieces and understand their structure.
Then we need to intentionally align them towards each other, in such a way that they can fit.
Then we have to apply the needed effort, to push them together and help them reach that perfect fit.
Imagine how complicated that could have been if we didn’t believe in soul mates!
On the other hand though,
It is only, if we want a Good relationship that it is something that we will have to build.
We might not have such unrealistically high expectations. We might just want a normal relationship. That’s okay right?
We might just be normal people, who want a normal partner. With just the normal standards and lifestyle.
No need for any special knowledge or special effort. After all, people do this every day.
Totally true. That is a normal goal and those are normal requests and desires.
What else is normal?
Well, over 40% of marriages in the Uk are expected to end in divorce (many other countries are similar). That doesn’t include all the long term relationships that end before the couple reaches the stage of getting married (or those that may have decided to stay in unhappy marriages).
So, a normal (or average) long term relationship, is one that usually ends badly. Sometimes, so badly that they need to get a court to tell them leave each other alone.
That’s just normal.
We may not want something normal though.
Well, if we want a good relationship, it is something We will have to build.
By wanting a good relationship, we already want something abnormal. So that becomes our personal responsibility.
Our partner is probably a normal person (or perhaps they are the most special person in the world).
Either way, it would be unreasonable of us to expect them to instantly understand our abnormal desire.
It is up to us to ask, to explain, to help them understand how they can work with us to support our freakish dreams of happiness. And it is up to us to create an environment conducive to that good relationship that we have unreasonably chosen to build with them.
There is also a cool trick we can use.
We can try to figure out what our partner’s unreasonable dreams of a good relationship are (asking them is a good place to start). Then, while we are asking and explaining ours, we help them build theirs!
It sounds like this should double the work (building their good relationship then building our own). But this works using the principle of the “Way of the Farmer”. We plant a seed, carefully tend to it, and we receive a hundredfold harvest.
While doing this though, we must remember that we are the ones choosing to do this…, for our own unreasonable goals. We need to be careful not to fall into the trap of blaming them for not being abnormal like us.
Yeah, this whole thing does sound like a lot of effort.
The hyper-efficient among us may already be thinking of shortcuts and ways to save effort.
For instance, we could just give this whole post to our partner.
That way after they read it, if THEY want a good relationship, then it will be something that THEY have to build.
We’ll just be along for the ride!
I like the way you think (yeah, I’m lazy too). Sadly, it won’t work though.
Why not? Well, at this point you probably know my favorite answer.
Because it’s magic.
And, in order for the magic to work for us, it needs to flow through us.
Hmm, how can I give an idea of what I mean in non-magic terms.
Let’s take a super-simplistic example.
Let’s imagine that, for them, a good relationship is about spooning together every night. While for us, a good relationship is about eating dinner together each evening.
If the magic flows through them, then they may end up getting a lot more spooning, while we may end up not getting as many dinners together.
But even this example is not a good one. It sets up a one-for-us/one-for-them frame of reference, which can be extremely counterproductive.
The best way I know to say it is;
If We want a good relationship, then it is something we will have to build.
Although this post is based on romantic relationships, the principles discussed here actually apply to all types relationships.
Family, friendship, work mates, etc.
There is a related topic (often confused with this one) of how to find a partner to build a good relationship with.
It is important to clarify that finding a partner requires a very different set of skills to building a good relationship once we have found one.
There is a much smaller overlap than we would expect between these two.
It is a topic which I might write about in future (but I’m not yet sure) .
For Further study:
Men Are from Mars Women Are from Venus – John Grey
This is a much praised and much complained about book.
I think it is the perfect place to start. Especially for someone who still has time to practice before making a big commitment.
It provides a wealth of knowledge that we have usually seen or heard but not really understood. It also suggests an ideal way to approach relationships with the opposite sex.
Like most ideals it is unlikely we will reach the goals it presents. However, by practicing for those goals, we will become infinitely better at building good relationships with people of the opposite sex. Both romantic and non-romantic ones.
Seven principles for making a marriage work – John M. Gottman Ph.d. and Nan Silver
This book is much more focused at people already in (or close to being in) committed relationships.
The main author is a scientist who has perfected the skill of knowing which couples will still be together years from now and which will be divorced.
In this book he talks about clear, practical methods that a couple in the “will soon be divorced” category can use to move to the “will still be together” category.
This is a great study for anyone hoping to be in a committed relationship. Even though it is specifically designed to be used as a workbook by both people in a relationship, working to improve it together.
That lovely old couple you know, who have been together more than ten years – (Not the title of a book) – (Not the name of an author)
A lot of cultures where divorce rates are low often have the benefit of large extended families. These provide an amazing wealth of knowledge and experience that a newly wed couple can tap into. This experience, from multiple people who have been through and have successfully overcome, the type of challenges that younger couples face, is a priceless resource for any young couple in building a better relationship.
Not all of us may not have access to those type of extended family connections we can tap into in this way. Luckily, we all have the ability to make new friends and to learn from them.
Any advice from someone who has succeeded in any area we are working on is useful. Even if our challenges may be different from theirs, they will always have useful knowledge that we do not.
Ideally, we want to have many such couples in our lives. Even if we have the benefit of an extended family to tap into.
There are many paths to success, but some things will be consistent across all of them. By having many such people to talk to, we can get better ideas of which parts of the advice we receive is based on personal preference, and which parts are absolutely necessary.
In other not-really-news:
Thanks for coming by and reading another post. It has been a bit of a while since my last one.
This is my first big writing project and I am learning a lot along the way.
I’m finding that, if I simply power through the necessary effort to put ideas on paper, it often ends up producing something not very readable.
In addition to creating physical space and temporal space to write, I’m finding that I also need to create emotional space.
Hopefully, as I get better at doing this, I will be able to post more regularly.
See you soon.😊