THE SECRET TO A LONG HAPPY RELATIONSHIP
I’m going to share with you one of the greatest secrets to a long-lasting, healthy relationship…other than using the Bobsled Principle, that is!
It has to do with the vows that you are willing to make to your partner, once you are “in it to win it,” so to speak. There are so many different kinds of vows that partners make to each other during wedding or commitment ceremonies. But none is more important than this one…yet this is one vow never written into any of the ceremonies.
But it should be!
I PROMISE TO…
Couples will vow to love, honor, and cherish each other ’til death do their part. They promise to be there through thick and thin, in good times and bad, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health. But none of that is going to matter if you don’t also promise to do this one thing: you have to promise you will be completely honest with your partner if anything either you or they are doing is a threat to the relationship. And you have to be willing to speak up and say this…ESPECIALLY if you think your partner is not going to want to hear it. Even if your partner might get their feelings hurt at first. Even if it is embarrassing, frustrating, scary, ridiculous….whatever.
No ifs, ands, or buts.
For example, let’s say your partner has put on enough weight since you’ve gotten hitched that you find yourself no longer physically or sexually attracted to him/her. Hey, it could happen.
Pop Quiz: The average person in a relationship will:
A. find a way to gently but honestly tell their partner that there is a problem
B. not say one word, because you can’t possibly say that to someone you care about
C. just flirt with the attractive people they know instead
D. resign themselves to dodging having sex with their partner for the rest of their life
What is the correct answer?
AND THE CORRECT ANSWER IS…
Now you probably think the correct answer is A.
But, remember I asked you what the average person in a relationship is going to do…and it’s not A. The average person is going to do B, C, D, and worse.
Most people will NOT bring up issues with their partners, even when it’s stuff that will ultimately threaten the very ability of the relationship to survive if they feel it is going to make their partner uncomfortable, hurt their feelings, make them have to look at something that may be difficult, embarrassing, or scary.
What most people do is AVOID talking about the most important stuff, or they drop hints, make jokes, or do anything except Answer A: gently and honestly explain that there is a problem and “we” need to talk about what to do about it.
“WHY DIDN’T YOU TELL ME IT WAS A PROBLEM?”
Okay, so say you don’t tell your partner that the weight gain has affected you’re being attracted to them, for whatever reason. So you go on trying to be happy and fulfilled in a relationship that is no longer doing it for you. Trust me if I tell you that this is only going to last so long. Eventually, when there are holes and vulnerabilities in the relationship, bad stuff happens. And when it does, your partner (possibly soon-to-be-ex partner) is going to turn to you and say “Why didn’t you TELL me this was a problem back when I could have done something about it?
Yeah, maybe it would have hurt to hear the truth at first, but this hurts a whole heckuva lot worse.”
YOU GOTTA GIVE IT A FIGHTING CHANCE
If your relationship is worth anything, it is worth giving it a fighting chance if something is threatening it. Make this one important vow that you will NOT back down out of fear, that you will be completely honest with your partner, even if at first it’s going to be really, really tough for them to hear what you need to say. You’ve got to try to have some faith that the two of you will get through anything if you do it as a team.
Let your partner take some time to absorb the truth that you’ve had the courage to bring up, but don’t just let the issue drop…work to resolve it together if your relationship is worth keeping healthy or saving. The thing you have to lose by not taking the risk to be honest…is the relationship itself.
YOUR SUPPORTIVE EXERCISE
Yes, you guessed it. Your Supportive Exercise this week is to carefully examine your relationship (if you are currently in one) or to do a post-mortem on one that has ended. What do you wish you could tell your partner if you didn’t think it would just cause more problems, and hurt feelings, or if you just had the courage to say the truth?
Now think about the potential consequences of NOT telling your partner how you are really feeling about whatever the issue is. Is it really going to just resolve itself? Go away? Are you coping by just trying to “be okay” or “settle” for how things are now, even though it’s not okay with you? If your relationship has ended, was there an issue that was just never dealt with, never brought up, brought up, and then dropped because it created conflict or hurt feelings?
Resolve to practice taking, making, and practicing this one vow…the one you’re really going to need. And pass this one on if you know someone just starting out in a relationship or marriage…it may make a difference!
Dr. Anita Sanz, PhD, Psychologist
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