Relationships come in all shapes and sizes but why do some stand the test of time? While others falter, consigned to memories of the past? What is it that successful relationships have that unsuccessful relationships do not?
In my experience, there are two kinds of relationships that last. Those based on growth and those based on fear.
Growth based relationships evolve, they change, you grow together, you grow alone. You’re always prepared to see something new in each other that you haven’t seen before (even after all these years).
Fear based relationships are stifled, they are based on fear of what might happen if we were ever truly honest with each other. They are afraid of facing feelings, truth and are based around solely focusing on exploring the external (the house, the holiday, the car) and not the internal (love, vulnerability, compassion).
What I write below is true for growth based relationships. This is because in fear-based relationships you might physically be together but that’s where the togetherness ends.
Here are five things I’ve noticed that you need to have a growth based long lasting relationship.
1. You don’t believe in fairy tales
There is a belief these days that all good things in life are easy and just flow. If it’s hard then it’s probably because it isn’t right. People are changing jobs more now than ever. Relationships are lasting less, divorce rates are high because people are constantly fed the story that life is like a fairy tale. And your life can be like this too.
The reality is that yes there are wonderful times in relationships but there are shit ones too.
The success of your relationship isn’t determined by how well you manage the good times, but how well you can suffer together in the bad.
There are going to be some bad times in your relationship as this is the reality of life. Your stoicism and resilience in dealing with these times together is the key to managing these difficult times and coming out the other side the stronger for it.
2. You have an imagination
The ability to have genuine compassion for another human being starts with having a good imagination (bear with me here).
Can you imagine being in their shoes? Imagine for a second the heartache they have been through that has resulted in them being at this point in their life right now. Or why they would be speaking and acting the way they are?
No? Then imagine for a moment that you were them. Imagine the life they have lived. Get out of the idea that your experience is the only experience.
Years ago I was walking across a road and a woman cut right across me as she screamed into her mobile phone. She had no idea I even existed. All I could think of was how selfish she was. How arrogant and self-centered to not even turn around and apologise.
Then I had this realisation. I imagined this bubble around her. The bubble of her life within which I had no idea or comprehension. I started to imagine who she was speaking to on the phone, maybe her sick mother or angry headmaster.
She was in a rush. Maybe she was rushing to pick up her daughter from school who always cried whenever she was late.
The key thing was, I had no idea. But stopping for a second to imagine her life helped me to find the compassion to get out of my bubble for a second and into hers.
There will be countless times in your relationship when your partner makes you so mad and is clearly talking complete nonsense. In those moments, instead of blaming them, stop. Imagine their world because inside the bubble that is their life. It makes complete sense, and with some imagination, it can start to make sense to you too.
3. You know about the shit pipe, and how to avoid it
I think we’d all agree that communication is one of the most important elements in a successful relationship. However, managed in the wrong way it can become one of the most divisive things you’ll ever use.
The key is learning how to use communication as effectively as possible.
Let me explain.
Think of communication as being a pipe between two people, down which they can pass how they’re feeling. Their love, joy, gratitude and vulnerabilities.
Seems great doesn’t it? That is until you realise you’ve also created a pipe down which you can share your rage, your hatred, your resentment and your bitterness.
If there is no underlying love, respect or friendliness between you then what you’ve created is a shit pipe. Something down which you can pump all your crap, and they pump theirs (and no doubt some of yours) back to you.
Having honest open communication is one thing. But this needs to be built on a firm foundation of love and respect for your partner. Failure to do so means you’ll be talking loads, but getting absolutely nowhere. This will lead to you feeling like you aren’t being heard or understood.
Knowing when to communicate and when to wait, is key to a successful relationship. Communicating and hoping to resolve conflict when you’re tired and emotional is never a good time. So make sure you pick your times wisely.
4. You know you can’t change them
The desire to change others is often born out of a lack of acceptance of yourself. You think if you can just change the other person then it will lead to your own happiness and the happiness of the relationship. Then everyone will live happily ever after.
It never works this way though. It just leads to resentment and bitterness because what you’re saying is that they aren’t ok the way they are.
Learning to accept and love yourself first is the key. Successful relationships contain two successful people who have learnt to love themselves first. This is because loving another once you love yourself is so much easier. Once you manage this you’ll realise nothing needs to change after all.
5. Pick your fights
The success of a relationship is not proportional to how many fights you resolve, but which fights you decide to have.
There are some fights which in the heat of the moment feel like the most important thing in the world. Your partner may have created so much hurt, but in hindsight, what precise shade of blue your last car was, really isn’t that important.
I know you probably think what he or she said stands for a lot. That it represents all sorts of things wrong in the relationship but it’s important to realise sometimes that this is just not the fight to have.
Learn to know which fights to have and which to not.
We like to have everything fixed and boxed away nice and tidy but successful relationships are based on realising there is some crap in the relationship, but being ok with it.
I hope this post was helpful. Do you have any others you would add to this? Let me know in the comments and please share this post with a friend if you enjoyed it. For regular content like this just fill in the box below.
To your success