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How to radically improve any relationship

In the past week or so, I've had around 5 relationship conversations with various people (friends, clients, acquaintances), and it really got me thinking.

I think these steps below are what I've unconsciously done in my own marriage of 10.5 years, and so I brought them to my conscious awareness and decided to share them with you.

Commit to your commitment.

Let’s say we’re talking about your marriage relationship. When you take a step back from the issue at hand, and you see the BIG PICTURE, that this is the person you are COMMITTED to, and recommit to that commitment, all the small stuff can fall away. We get so caught up and distracted and annoyed by TRIVIALITIES. Things that honestly don’t matter when we step back and look at the big picture.

This is my spouse! My partner! My soulmate! Why would I roll my eyes at their lack of cleanliness? Why would I mutter under my breath when they get home late? Why would I _____________ (insert your own reaction and situation).

Imagine you’re at the grocery store and your spouse is with you at the checkout and does something annoying. And you roll your eyes at the cashier, and mutter something like, “I don’t know why he always does that.” What you’ve done in that moment is put the CASHIER before your SPOUSE! Now, take this concept and apply it to your life, to where you might put someone or something else before the most important relationship in your life.

Commit to love.

Love just loves. You can commit to loving someone no matter what. No matter what they do. No matter what they say. Love is what matters in the moment. It’s always a choice, and always a good choice. You love someone else for your sake. You know who feels love when you choose love? You do. Do the loving for yourself, not for the other person. You’re the one who experiences love, and it’s an awesome emotion to be filled with.

Give up the need to be right and to control the other person.

(Hint: You can’t control people anyway, even though we all try to, all the time.) The need to be right is what ruins relationships. We feel justified when we think we’re right. What is the benefit to being right? NOTHING. Especially if you love this person. Our need to be right is misguided. So many of us are innocently trying to control someone else’s behavior—we want them to help more around the house, bathe the kids, call us back, be on time. But here’s the truth: Adults get to behave however they want. This perception we have that we can control other people by getting mad at them and punishing them for their behavior is so misguided. They’re not making that change because they truly want to, they just don’t want to deal with your reaction. Telling someone how you want them to behave is controlling them. It’s appropriate to have boundaries with people, but it’s not appropriate to manipulate them.

Imagine you told your husband, “Dear, you’d make me so happy if you had fresh cookies on the table every morning when I woke up. That’s what I truly want.” And although your husband hates baking, and doesn’t even know where to begin, he goes ahead and fulfills your desire because he wants to “make you happy.” But then what happens is, he’s resentful. And annoyed. But the cookies are there. Are you happy? Are you glad he’s baking you those cookies? Or is your next request, “I love when you make me cookies, but I want you to want to do this. I want you to be happy doing it.” Sounds, ridiculous right? But we do this all the time.

Not only do we have requests (er, demands) for what someone else should do, but also how they should feel when they do it … all in the name of us wanting to feel happier (it never works).

Take 100% responsibility for YOU—for how you feel, for how you act, for how you show up.

Not for their behavior or how they feel. It’s for how you feel in any relationship.

If you can go into a relationship and take full responsibility for how you feel, commit to love, commit to your commitment, and give up the need to be right—you’ll have a great relationship.


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