There are so many great relationship advice tips out there today, that I thought to bring some of them together under one roof in two posts. I’ve never done a “best relationship advice tips” post before, so this is my first crack at it. I’m sure the list will expand over time, but these are 16 of the best relationship advice tips I’ve come across in my life so far. This is part 1.
1. No amount of therapy can overcome the wrong choice in partner.
When I read this the first time, it really stayed with me because of how profound it is.
I’ve seen many couples and individuals in relationships over the years, where I quietly thought their biggest problem wasn’t the lack of any relationship skills, but rather the fact that they are in a relationship with the wrong person.
Now, I need to clarify that being a relationship with the “wrong person” does NOT make that person bad or unworthy.
That’s not what it means that all.
What it does mean, however, is that some people simply should not be in a relationship with each other.
Their outlook on life, values, beliefs, goals, needs, behaviour, social circles, etc. is simply too different from each other to make it possible to lay any form of foundation for a healthy relationship.
That of course also doesn’t mean that people who are vastly different from one another can’t be attracted or experience some chemistry, but there is a question to be asked about the chances for a long-term healthy relationship when people are too diverse.
If you’re experiencing any form of relationship problems right now, I would suggest that you consider this as a possibility at least.
The fact that you’re struggling to connect and grow together, might have very little to do with your lack of good relationship skills and more to do with the fact that you’re in a relationship with the wrong person.
I would, however, ask you to be cautious at this point, as all differences of opinion or viewpoints aren’t necessarily a sign of incompatibility.
We are all different, which means differences of opinion are bound to happen.
But, what I’m referring to here is a deep realisation that you got together with the wrong person and no amount of therapy will fix that.
And make your next move based on that truth.
Suggested Read: How to End an Unsatisfying Relationship
2. Be together for the right reasons.
This one flows on from the previous relationship advice tip.
Not only is it important to make very sure that you’re in a relationship with the right person, but also that you are together for the right reasons.
Ask yourself quickly:
- Why are you with your partner?
- Why did you marry the person you’re with?
- Where there any external pressures or expectations put on you by your culture, religion, situation, or family? Or anything else?
- Can you list at least five crucially important reasons to you, why you are with your current spouse or partner? Do they still form the foundation of your relationship?
- And if not, what does that say?
The reason many people struggle to make the relationship work, I found, is often times because they got together for the wrong reasons.
I have seen couples in coaching before, who have come to me for “relationship counsel,” only to find out that their relationship started as an affair.
They got together because both, or just one of them, cheated on their original partner(s) and started a relationship.
In my experience, it is extremely difficult to “save” such a relationship that has now run into issues but was started on a foundation of deceit.
It is also very difficult to grow a relationship when people are together for other wrong reasons.
Another classic example is a couple being together because they fell pregnant very early on while dating.
In some cultures, religions, and definitely in years gone by, there was almost an unspoken expectation put on couples to get married when they fell pregnant out of wedlock.
But, I have seen numerous marriages fall apart later on because two people got together for the sole reason of an unexpected pregnancy early on in their relationship. Something that should never have been.
Now, I’m not saying that some relationships haven’t worked out. Many probably have.
But, I’ve also seen quite a few divorces and breakups once a couple realised that the only thing keeping them together was an unexpected baby.
The moment they faced that truth, they could actually move on to better and healthier relationships, and by doing so, create a healthier future for their child.
I am not a believer in staying together because you fell pregnant.
If that results in you ending up with the wrong person, you’re potentially laying a foundation for a lot of heartache in the future – for both yourself and your child.
As long as you’re with someone in a love relationship, make sure you got together for the right reasons.
Suggested Read: 6 Myths About Relationship Commitment You Need to Know
3. Have healthy and realistic expectations of your partner.
Something I’ve learned that can really tear couples apart is unhealthy and unrealistic expectations.
We can probably add unclear expectations to that as well.
It is a fact of life that when we enter a relationship with someone else, both people bring their own “baggage” into that relationship.
And it shapes how we see the world – our “model of the world” so to speak.
How we see the world, feel about things, needs and expectations, our habits, dreams and goals, fears and anxieties, family and friends, work colleagues, etc. don’t simply fall away when we enter a relationship.
All those things become part of our relationship – and can oftentimes make things quite tricky.
If we don’t understand our partner’s “model of the world,” we are potentially setting ourselves up for much heartache down the track.
It’s impossible to meet our partner’s needs and expectations, soothe their fears and support them in their goals and dreams when we don’t even know what they are.
But, in saying that, it’s even more difficult to create a healthy, happy, and intimate relationship when we have unrealistic and unreasonable expectations of each other in a relationship.
Initially, we might make a huge attempt to meet our partner’s expectations, but once we have failed enough times, we will lose motivation and interest to keep doing so.
Consequently, it will only lead to frustration, unhappiness, and resentment.
Conversely, one of the fastest ways to improve your relationship is to make sure that you have realistic and healthy expectations of your partner.
That way you make it easy for them to meet your expectations, and by doing so, positively reinforcing them to keep doing that.
This is especially important for men.
One of our biggest fears is that we are inadequate in making our partners happy.
We are extremely worried that we might fail or be found wanting as men.
As a woman, if you have unrealistic and unhealthy expectations of your man, and he keeps falling short (or it feels that way), you are setting him up for even bigger feelings of shame and inadequacy which will only push him away.
A man who feels he cannot live up to your expectations will try initially but withdraw eventually (stonewalling, fleeing, silence, hobby, mates, anger, etc.).
And given enough time and disappointment of living up to your expectations, he might even end up seeking solace somewhere else (break-up or affair).
Suggested Read: 8 unrealistic expectations you should avoid as a couple
4. Don’t work too much on communication – build connection more than anything else.
I read a very good book recently, called “How to Save Your Marriage without Talking about It.”
The authors made an interesting point that many couples don’t have a “communication” problem, but rather a “connection” problem.
I tend to agree with them, as good communication flows naturally between two people who have a great connection.
Even when one, or both, partners struggle to” talk.”
When we have a healthy connection with our partner, communication tends to happen more naturally, freely, and openly.
Just think back to the start of your relationship.
Very few couples found it difficult to “communicate” well during the early years.
In fact, they even dealt with difficulties pretty competently, even when it was by hook or by crook at times.
But they get through it.
And the reason for that is because their connection was solid.
It’s important to understand that men and women are fundamentally different biochemically.
One of the main differences, that causes a lack of connection over time, is the fact that women, in general, are driven by the need to feel connected and safe in a relationship which also leads to their biggest fear of losing connection and feeling isolated.
Men, in general, are driven by the need to feel adequate and competent, which also leads to their biggest fear of being found wanting or falling short, and thereby being shamed.
The way this plays out in most relationship problems (between men and women), is that the more a woman talks to her a man about the disconnect she is feeling, the more inadequate he feels which triggers shame in him.
Consequently, he tries to avoid any “let’s talk topics” as such, as they simply function as a trigger or reminder that he isn’t doing a good enough job of satisfying her needs.
In other words, he is failing. In his mind.
What some experts are saying is that “talking” about your relationship problems won’t fix it.
Talking for a man is simply a constant reminder that he is failing her.
Now, that doesn’t mean a woman shouldn’t talk to her man about what she’s feeling – but she needs to have different expectations from that conversation.
A man doesn’t necessarily need to respond verbally to acknowledge what she is saying.
He deals with whatever she is saying differently than most women do.
The problem is, many women expect their man to respond the same way another woman would – because that creates the highest levels of connectedness within her.
But he is not a woman.
Biochemically he is different. As is she.
For him to expect her not to talk about what she’s feeling, and dealing with it “like a man,” is equally unfair and unrealistic.
She will eventually find ways to connect with someone, even if that means it’s not him.
So the question becomes, how do we create higher levels of “connection?”
Here is a shortcut to help your thinking in the matter.
Men need the following for increased connection:
- Touch (physical – the moment a woman withholds her physical affection, he starts worrying that there is something wrong with him)
- Trust (he needs to feel that she trusts him completely in that he is doing the best he can – even when he can improve in reality)
- Appreciation (he needs to feel that he is doing a good job – even when he can actually do more. Criticism won’t get him to do more, quite the opposite in fact)
- Admiration (he needs to feel that she thinks he is great, he’s doing the best he can, and that he doesn’t fall short in her eyes. He is competent in getting things done – even when that’s only 10%)
Women need the following for increased connection:
- Time (she needs his physical presence as well as mental attention. She needs to feel important in his life, as time spent with her increases connection)
- Caring (she needs to feel being cared for – his emotional and physical presence, support, and time with her eases her fear that she is not lovable or alone. She needs to feel she can rely on him)
- Understanding (she needs to feel that he understands what she is feeling. This doesn’t mean he has all the answers or the best solutions to her challenges. Quite the opposite. Any solutions offered by him actually prove to her that he does NOT understand her. She needs his attention, nearness, presence, and a listening ear – validating that he’s in her corner and he’s got her back. He loves her, no matter what)
- Respect (she needs to feel that he respects her as an equal and loves her for who she is. She needs to feel his respect for her as a human being and partner. How he communicates, how he treats her, how he acknowledges her, how he involves her – all communicates respect. This soothes her fear that she’s alone or worthless.)
The issue here is not just about learning to talk about your feelings more.
It’s about understanding that men and women function differently, and have different needs biochemically, which either leads to an increase or decrease of connection.
And this connection, in turn, impacts the level of communication a couple has.
Suggested Read: Communication isn’t all verbal.
5. Talk about everything – even the stuff that sucks.
The previous point about connection is vitally important for creating a healthy relationship.
But, you obviously have to talk about some stuff.
Just because men are not prone to talking like women, in general, doesn’t mean they don’t want to or should not talk about stuff.
For a relationship to grow, couples need to talk about things.
In fact, I believe, as a couple we should be able to talk about everything – even the stuff that sucks.
There is no point avoiding the hard issues simply to create a false sense of stability or certainty.
If there are issues that need to be talked about, they need to be talked about.
If the way he spends money isn’t serving the wealth of the relationship, it needs to be discussed.
If the way she has withdrawn from the world while becoming overly focussed in the children, and it’s hurting the romance of the relationship, it needs to be discussed.
I love the way Tony Robbins puts it when he says,
I don’t believe in positive thinking. There is no point in saying “there are no weeds, there are no weeds” when the garden has weeds.
I agree with that.
If there are “weeds” in your relationship, and it’s suffocating the growth of all the good stuff, it needs to be talked about.
In my experience, it’s usually easier to deal with weeds when they are small than when they’ve been allowed to grow into treelike size.
Avoiding the uncomfortable issues won’t make them go away.
They will most likely only fester and grow.
If a relationship is important enough for a couple, then learning to talk about the stuff that sucks is an important skill to learn.
But, again, one simply need to keep in mind that men and women communicate differently.
There shouldn’t be an expectation that a man should deal with challenges the same way a woman does, and vice versa.
That space to be different needs to be allowed in a relationship.
Suggested Read: Talking is NOT communication.
6. Learn to listen and hear properly, and you won’t have to talk that much.
What I have observed with many couples so far, is that there is often times not a lack of talking.
In fact, there is often times a lot of talking.
The problem is, listening and hearing properly that lack at times.
What exactly do I mean by that?
I’ve sat and observed dialogues between many couples, only to notice that even though they were using a lot of words to express how they were feeling, they were actually talking past each other.
They were not hearing each other at all – and consequently, created ample opportunity for conflict.
But, the moment I could help them slow down, and interpret what the other was saying, the conversation started moving forward.
They could resolve the issues.
Now, that’s not to say that this is always the case.
Sometimes a couple simply doesn’t want to hear each other.
They are so angry or sad, and the limbic brain is fully engaged, that they simply cannot hear each other.
They are choosing to “communicate” from a certain unhelpful emotional state, which makes hearing each other virtually impossible.
However, if you can learn how to keep your emotions in check, put your pride to the side for the moment, stay on point, and work together for a workable outcome or resolution – you will find that conflict all but disappears.
But, part of this process is adopting the attitude and desire to WANT to hear and understand your partner.
If you’re only in it for your own needs and desires, you won’t be able to practice empathy and hear what your partner is saying.
I’ve learned in my marriage that understanding my wife is as much about me WANTING to hear her, as it is about the skill of listening.
Suggested Read: The Art of Loving Communication.
7. A healthy relationship demands two healthy individuals.
I don’t know who started this idea, but I grew up learning that a healthy relationship demands a 50-50 approach.
I’ve since learned that this is absolute rubbish.
A healthy relationship demands a 100-100 approach.
In order to create a healthy relationship, you typically need two healthy individuals.
Now, of course, there are times when one partner isn’t a 100% and the other one picks up the slack, but that’s not the rule.
It’s an exception.
In order for a relationship to be balanced, healthy, happy, and intimate, both partners need to work extremely hard on their own well-being.
When one partner has to make up for the other over any lengthy period of time, it becomes simply too taxing on that person and relationship.
Something that’s quite common here in New Zealand, is the reality of certain mental health challenges, like depression.
If one partner struggles with something like depression, and it’s left untreated, that reality will eventually wear both partners down and start tearing the relationship apart.
I’ve seen it happen over and over again.
The same can be said for other issues such as low self-esteem, poor health, addictions etc.
Whenever one partner is using the other as a crutch, so to speak, over a period of time, it can only harm that relationship.
Love cannot, and will not, flow naturally and freely between two people when the one functions as a crutch or Band-Aid for the other.
That becomes a relationship of dependency rather than mutual and equal respect and love.
Suggested Read: Are you in a co-dependent relationship?
8. Space is a good thing.
Living in each other’s pockets might seem like a very romantic thing to do, but you would be wrong.
Just because we are in a relationship with another person, doesn’t mean we have become the same individual.
We are still individuals.
And we need to be allowed space to express, nurture, and grow our individuality.
When a relationship starts demanding a couple to essentially become the same person while ignoring their own individual needs and personalities, it is setting itself up for failure.
Of course, the goal is to grow closer together.
That goes without saying.
But, a couple needs to realise that growing as individuals, is essential for the growth of the relationship.
It comes back to the previous relationship advice tip, that a healthy relationship demands two healthy individuals.
The only logical way that can happen, is when there is enough trust in the relationship for each partner to allow the other enough space to express their individuality.
When we restrict or limit our partners to be who they truly are, it’s actually all about us as individuals and our insecurities, rather than the benefit of the relationship.
Even when we say otherwise.
It is, of course, important to understand that that “space” we are talking about here, isn’t about “escape.”
When we need space to escape the demands, responsibilities, and expectations of our relationship, we are onto something else.
I’m not suggesting the need for space as a way to escape your relationship, but rather space as a tool for growth – individually and collectively.
When you catch yourself using space to run away from your partner, something else might be going on.
So allow your partner space to be themselves, grow, and be who they are.
That’s why you fell in love with them in the first place.
Suggested Read: 8 Things happy couples do
Live and love fully,