Behind all the issues that separate an ordinary relationship from a great one, is one common factor. Behind all the truly helpful advice on improving your life together, there lies one key to a great relationship.
Many different kinds of problems can cause a relationship to fall apart. Physical or emotional abuse, addictions, cheating, jealousy, and neediness are just a few of the issues that can destroy a relationship. But once the many potentially disastrous problems have been avoided, what have you got? Perhaps a relationship that qualifies only as "pretty good." But what creates a really great relationship?
At the beginning, we are in relationship because we are attracted to the other person - we think they are sexy, smart, funny, whatever it is that we find appealing. But very quickly, the focus of the relationship turns to whether we feel appreciated. If we don't feel appreciated, we don't feel loved.
It is common for those entering into a relationship to hold an idealized image of how a perfect partner is supposed to act. Perhaps a man is supposed to open car doors. Perhaps a woman is supposed to wear a certain kind of underwear. The internal dialog goes something like this, "Jim (or Sally) is a wonderful person and loves me. After we're together, he will change because he loves me so much. He will stop wanting to hang out with his friends, watch football games, whatever." How can anyone feel appreciated when their loved one is wishing or hoping for them to change.
The greatest roadblock to a great relationship is trying to force a partner to change through bribes or threats. This classic human tendency is lampooned in the long-running off-Broadway musical comedy "I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change." It's funny to watch other people go through the cycle of searching for the perfect mate, believing they have found that person, and than gradually attempting to remold the supposedly perfect partner. Unfortunately, in real life, this pattern is a cause of immense suffering.
I Love You Just the Way You AreThe number one secret of a great relationship is accepting our partner EXACTLY as they are. We cause ourselves untold misery whenever we believe our loved ones to be imperfect and try to change them.
To create a great relationship, say and mean, "I love you just the way you are." No pretense. No hoping for change. No thought that it used to be better, or might get better. Follow through by living into that sentiment every day.
Falling into the trap of thinking, "I wish you were different" or "Please change." is no way to show your love. Happiness lies in this number one rule of great relationships: Love and accept your partner exactly the way they are.