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How Humility Strengthens Your Relationship

bigstock--130327058Humility means accepting the truth that you are not always right, and that others have something to offer. This is an important concept to apply in dating, marriage, and most other relationships.

You show humility by:

  • letting go of thinking you need to impress him (or her) by appearing perfect;
  • acknowledging, at least to yourself, both your shortcomings and strengths;
  • making space for the other person to express himself by listening thoughtfully.   
  • setting aside your judge, at least for the time being. Be curious, not critical, when his opinions or politics differ from yours.

Humility Means Accepting Differences

Typically couples who see me for therapy start out thinking their partner is wrong for wanting to do things differently from him or her. One spouse might have an authoritarian style of raising children; the other could be more permissive. One might be more liberal and the other more conservative. Morning person, night owl. Vegetarian, carnivore. And so on.

Relationships thrive when we can accept differences. So it’s important to get off thinking that our way is superior to the other person’s, and when opposing views occur, to accept the reality that usually neither of us is right or wrong. We are simply different.   

Humility Is a Strength

Some people confuse humility with weakness. But the opposite is true. It takes inner strength to acknowledge that we don’t have all the answers, to refrain from injecting our point of view into a conversation before really hearing what the other person has to say.  

These two teachings from renowned sages foster a humble mindset:

“Who is wise? He who learns from every person.”

“Who is strong? He who subdues his personal inclination, as it is said, He who is slow to anger is better than a strong man, and a master of his passions is better than a conqueror of a city (Proverbs16:32).”

Learning from Others

A willingness to learn from others takes strength, especially in our American culture, which values independence. It means that when tempted to act like a rigid oak tree, you can choose to be more like a willow that bends with the wind. Of course, this doesn’t mean that you should discount what knowledge you have. It means being able to set yourself aside so as to make room to learn about someone you’re getting to know, by listening with interest when he shares his thoughts, feelings, hopes, and dreams.

Subduing Urge to Fight or Flee

It can be hard to show humility when someone acts disrespectfully toward you. When provoked, you may feel inclined either to lash out or to withdraw. Instead of getting into fight or flight mode, you show strength by setting aside your ego and responding thoughtfully and kindly.

Showing Humility on a Date

You show humility by being a good listener and also by acknowledging that you don’t have all the answers. When Lena met Weston she had just started her own business and told him she didn’t know if it would be viable. They’ve been married for fifteen years and he still remembers how he liked her for “not putting on airs.”   

How Humility Strengthens Your Relationship

Marcia Naomi Berger, MSW, LCSW

Marcia Naomi Berger, MSW, LCSW, author of Marriage Meetings for Lasting Love: 30 Minutes a Week to the Relationship You’ve Always Wanted (New World Library, 2014, audiobook, 2020), has a private psychotherapy practice in San Rafael, California. She offers and workshops for couples and singles, and continuing education classes for therapists at NASW conferences and online. She has taught also at the UCSF School of Medicine, UC Berkeley Extension, and Alliant International University. A former executive director of a family service agency, she earlier held senior level positions in child welfare, alcoholism treatment, and psychiatry.

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APA Reference
Berger, M. (2018). How Humility Strengthens Your Relationship. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 23, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Jul 2018 (Originally: 12 Apr 2017)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Jul 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.