Relationships can be complicated. Yet they can be simplified and enjoyed through avoiding common mistakes. By applying the suggestions below, we can create the kind of marriage or that most of us really want — an emotionally and spiritually fulfilling one that lasts a lifetime.
Whether you’re married or single, you can foster good relationships with others by putting into practice these three tips:
Tip 1: Don’t Complain. Ask Nicely for What You Want, Instead.
When you feel like complaining to your partner about something the latter is or isn’t doing, first say nothing. Become aware of exactly what’s bothering you. You may find it helpful to take a few breaths. Maybe close your eyes briefly or relax in any way that suits you.
Before speaking, turn your complaint into a wish for specifically what you’d like your mate to do. Instead of complaining or sulking, ask kindly for just what you’d like to occur in the future. For example, don’t say, “You never bring me flowers.” Do say, “I’d love it if you’d surprise me with flowers sometimes.
Why do this? Your partner probably wants to please you. But he or she can’t read your mind. You need to say just what will make you happy.
Criticism can create distance and defensiveness. Positive, direct expression of our thoughts, feeling and needs fosters a close relationship.
Tip 2: Keep Your Agreements
We build trust by keeping agreements. Trust often breaks down because one partner thinks the other hasn’t kept an agreement. However, it often turns out that no agreement was really made. For example, if Carol tells Jim, as mentioned above, that she’d love for him to bring her flowers sometimes, and a year goes by with no flowers, she may resent him for not keeping his “agreement.” But was an agreement really made? Carol said what she wanted. But did Jim agree to give her flowers? He may have heard her request but not said he’d honor it. He may have been thinking, but not said, “Flower’s die; they’re a waste of money.” He did not agree that he would ever bring her flowers.
So, do make clear agreements. If Jim asks Carol to pick up onions at the store and Carol says, “I’ll get them tomorrow,” they’ve made a clear agreement. If she forgets to get the onions, and she has a pattern of forgetting to keeping agreements, Jim could easily stop trusting her to keep her word.
Of course, a partner’s forgetting to pick up onions isn’t likely to be a deal breaker. It’s not on the level of more emotionally charged broken agreements, such as failing to keep a partner’s secret, being unfaithful, or spending recklessly in defiance of an established budget.
But even around the small things, trust erodes when a perceived or actual agreement isn’t kept. The way to grow and maintain trust is first to make sure you make clear agreements. If things seem hazy, it make sense to ask, “Are we agreeing on this?”
None of us are perfect. Even when an agreement has been made, a circumstance may arise that prevents us from keeping it. If this happens, we’re likely to foster trust by telling the other person in advance why we can’t do what we said we’d do. For example, a partner might tell her or his mate, “I need to put in extra time at work to finish that report for my boss tomorrow, so I’m sorry that I won’t have time to pick up the onions. I’ll get them tomorrow, okay?”
So, if you want a trusting relationship, make clear agreements, and keep them. But if you can’t keep an agreement, don’t leave your partner feeling stranded. Explain your situation, and renegotiate to arrive at a new mutually acceptable agreement.
Tip 3: Marry Someone Who Can Stand You
Actress and singer Estelle Reiner, who was married to comedian Carl Reiner for 65 years, offered this sags advice: “Marry someone who can stand you at your worst.”
Many of us find it easier to notice a partner’s flaws than to recognize our own shortcomings. But it pays to be humble if we want to create a good relationship. The more we can know and accept our own limitations, the more we’ll be able to accept and overlook a partner’s foibles.
Rabbi Yosef Richards would probably agree with Mrs. Reiner. He says, “People are annoying. So find the person who annoys you the least and marry that one.”
Yes, all of us can be annoying. Of course, no one should tolerate an abusive relationship. But most annoyances are minor in the grand scheme of things. Partners can ask each other, tactfully and respectfully, to improve in a specific way. Yet, some annoying behaviors probably won’t change, such as a tendency to run late, be absent-minded, or something else. We can learn to adapt to and work around many of each other’s quirks.
It’s best to cut each other some slack about minor gripes, and to focus on what we treasure about each other.