You will give to them as long as they give to you. You will make them happy as long as they make you happy. That is the truth. But you never want to lose respect for your partner. Once you lose respect you will never get it back. As we scanned through the hundreds of responses we received, my assistant and I began to notice an interesting trend. Talk frequently. Talk openly. Talk about everything, even if it hurts. But we noticed that the thing people with marriages going on 20, 30, or even 40 years talked about most was respect. My sense is that these people, through sheer quantity of experience, have learned that communication, no matter how open, transparent and disciplined, will always break down at some point.
Conflicts are ultimately unavoidable, and feelings will always be hurt.
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You will judge their choices and encroach on their independence. You will feel the need to hide things from one another for fear of criticism. And this is when the cracks in the edifice begin to appear. Of course, this means showing respect, but that is too superficial.
You have to feel it deep within you. I deeply and genuinely respect him for his work ethic, his patience, his creativity, his intelligence, and his core values. From this respect comes everything else — trust, patience, perseverance because sometimes life is really hard and you both just have to persevere. I want to enable him to have some free time within our insanely busy lives because I respect his choices of how he spends his time and who he spends time with. And, really, what this mutual respect means is that we feel safe sharing our deepest, most intimate selves with each other.
You must also respect yourself. Because without that self-respect, you will not feel worthy of the respect afforded by your partner. You will be unwilling to accept it and you will find ways to undermine it. You will constantly feel the need to compensate and prove yourself worthy of love, which will just backfire. Respect for your partner and respect for yourself are intertwined. Never talk badly to or about her. You chose her — live up to that choice. Respect goes hand-in-hand with trust. And trust is the lifeblood of any relationship romantic or otherwise.
Without trust, there can be no sense of intimacy or comfort. Without trust, your partner will become a liability in your mind, something to be avoided and analyzed, not a protective homebase for your heart and your mind. We have so many friends who are in marriages that are not working well and they tell me all about what is wrong. I receive hundreds of emails from readers each week asking for life advice. A large percentage of these emails involve their struggling romantic relationships.
2. Have Realistic Expectations About Relationships and Romance
A couple years ago, I discovered that I was answering the vast majority of these relationship emails with the exact same response. Then come back and ask again. This response became so common that I actually put it on my contact form on the site because I was so tired of copying and pasting it. If something bothers you in the relationship, you must be willing to say it.
Saying it builds trust and trust builds intimacy. It may hurt, but you still need to do it. No one else can fix your relationship for you. Nor should anyone else. Just as causing pain to your muscles allows them to grow back stronger, often introducing some pain into your relationship through vulnerability is the only way to make the relationship stronger. Behind respect, trust was the most commonly mentioned trait for a healthy relationship. But trust goes much deeper than that. If you ended up with cancer tomorrow, would you trust your partner to stick with you and take care of you?
Would you trust your partner to care for your child for a week by themselves? Do you trust them to handle your money or make sound decisions under pressure?
Do you trust them to not turn on you or blame you when you make mistakes? These are hard things to do. Trust at the beginning of a relationship is easy. But the deeper the commitment, the more intertwined your lives become, and the more you will have to trust your partner to act in your interest in your absence.
What if she is hiding something herself? The key to fostering and maintaining trust in the relationship is for both partners to be completely transparent and vulnerable:.
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Trust is like a china plate. If you drop it and it breaks, you can put it back together with a lot of work and care. If you drop it and break it a second time, it will split into twice as many pieces and it will require far more time and care to put back together again.
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But drop and break it enough times, and it will shatter into so many pieces that you will never be able to put it back together again, no matter what you do. Figure out as individuals what makes you happy as an individual, be happy yourself, then you each bring that to the relationship. You are supposed to keep the relationship happy by consistently sacrificing yourself for your partner and their wants and needs. There is some truth to that. Every relationship requires each person to consciously choose to give something up at times.
Just read that again. That sounds horrible. A healthy and happy relationship requires two healthy and happy individuals. This is the person you chose.
It will only backfire and make you both miserable. Have the courage to be who you are, and most importantly, let your partner be who they are. Those are the two people who fell in love with each other in the first place. But how does one do this? What do I mean? Have your own interests, your own friends, your own support network, and your own hobbies. Overlap where you can, but not being identical should give you something to talk about and expose one another to.
Among the emails, one of the most popular themes was the importance of creating space and separation from one another. People sung the praises of separate checking accounts, separate credit cards, having different friends and hobbies, taking separate vacations from one another each year this has been a big one in my own relationship. Some even went so far as to recommend separate bathrooms or even separate bedrooms. Some people are afraid to give their partner freedom and independence.