What Makes a Good Relationship Work?

HeartThere are those who give little of the much which they have – and they give it for recognition and their hidden desire makes their gifts unwholesome. ~ Kahlil Gibran

What do you think is the most important ingredient for a successful relationship?
Would you say love? How about respect? Maybe you think it’s sex? Is it communication or commitment? Yes, all of these elements are critical. I find it hard not to put love at the top of the chart. In my mind, the others are subsets, or aspects, of love. Now, which of these ingredients is most essential for love? I got an e-mail from a friend recently and his vote is on giving. According to him, one of the biggest problems is that we generally “enter a relationship in order to get something…” This is so true.

Couple Romantic SunsetMy first response reminded me of a scene in the movie, “It’s a Wonderful Life.”

Little Violet: (commenting on George Bailey) “I like him.”
Little Mary: “You like every boy.”
Little Violet: “What’s wrong with that?”

What’s wrong with entering a relationship in order to get something?
I say nothing. In fact, if we didn’t get a lot of “somethings” from a relationship, I suspect humanity would have died off a long time ago. In a very real and practical way, we need a great deal from relationships. We need respect, commitment, security, and, yes, sex. The possibility of getting them makes a partnership really attractive, and that’s why we put so much energy into marriage. In addition, there’s the powerful lure of romance and infatuation. All these factors make relationships worth pursuing. If you don’t know how to receive, if your focus is too much on giving, you’re going to have relationship problems!

True as this may be, it still misses my friend’s point.
We often pursue and interact with others from a very selfish perspective. Much too often, we ignore that we’re in a relationship not so much out of a desire for mutual sharing, but with a motivation that screams, “Me, me, me.” I’ve been counseling couples for more than twelve years, and one of the main problems people cite in their marriages is communication. In order to help them, I give very specific and simple instructions to help them communicate more effectively. The essence of these directions is, “put aside for a moment what you think, and explore what your partner is saying.” Very rarely are couples able to follow the advice initially. Why? Because we find it much easier to focus on what we think and what we want rather than on what our partner thinks and wants. This is a natural habit, one that causes us no end of grief.

Fundamentally, most of us are willing to give.
What gets in our way is fear or concern that we’re on the short end of the receiving stick. Once this thinking takes root, problems snowball. We begin to withhold and become resentful; our partner reciprocates; and it’s downhill from there. What’s the answer? I suggest a healthy dose of giving with a dash of responsibility and receiving:

1. Put your energy into giving, but do it thoughtfully.

We tend to give what we want, but that isn’t necessarily what our partners want.

In his book, “The Five Love Languages,” Gary Chapman says, “People speak different love languages.” Forget for a moment how you want to be loved and figure out how your partner wants to be loved.

2. Ask yourself this important question: “Am I giving in order to get?” If you’re treating your partner with the attitude that your relationship is basically a “business deal” and you often hear yourself asking, “I do this and that for you, what are you doing for me?” – then you don’t know what it means to give, period. I’ll be blunt; you need help, go get a counselor.

3. Listening is an act of giving. Learn to listen to your partner; this takes practice; and it isn’t as easy as it sounds. See my article, Effective Communication and Listening. Your relationship will benefit a great deal if you make it a priority to “walk in his shoes.”

4. Figure out what you lack in your relationship and ask yourself: “Is this something I should be getting from my partner, or am I being unreasonable?” This question can be difficult to answer. Too often we make demands of our partners that are a projection of our own insecurities. To really figure this out you may need help from an objective friend, counselor, or minister.

5. Be clear about your own wants. Too often people ignore their needs with the mistaken idea that giving is always better that receiving. This is a fallacy that inevitably leads to resentment and heartache. In order for your relationship to flourish you must be on the receiving end on a regular basis. Practice taking responsibility for getting what you want. It’s up to you, it’s your life!

David Cantu
Life Coach Austin, Texas
Create a Good Loving Relationship – Approach it with a Giving Heart – Article © 2009

Comments

  1. This is a beautiful article. An important part of life depends on how we develop our relationships with others.

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