I was listening to a David DeAngelo interview with a guy named Gay Hendricks about what makes a successful relationship.
Gay Hendricks is a psychologist with a PhD from Standford. He’s written a lot of books on the subject of relationships and the mind-body connection. 25 of those books were written with his wife, who’s also a psychologist. They got some acclaim when Oprah featured them together on her show. And ever heard of the underground classic “Radical Honesty“? He helped Brad Blanton publish that book. But his best credential is probably that he’s been married for like 30 years and he and his wife are still in love.
His take was it takes 3 things to keep a relationship alive.
1. Complete and total honesty. Most of us humans walk around the world deceiving others and deceiving ourselves. If you’re completely honest with her, and she’s honest with you, neither of you hide. Instead, you allow yourself to be seen completely. Transparent. That’s how you get intimacy. And that’s how you get communication.
2. Take responsibility for your own actions. We humans are also quick to criticize, point the finger and find fault with each other. We do all that before we look at ourselves and see our part in things. It always takes two to tango. If something goes awry, it’s not that she’s a bitch. You had your part to play in things. Before blaming or criticizing, look to yourself first and learn what you could have done better. She must do the same. This creates a positive environment, not a negative one. Who wants to be in a negative environment? Create a positive environment. Don’t criticize. Rather, see her good, and take responsibility for yourself.
3. Have your own life, and always seek to grow. A good relationship is one where both people can develop as human beings. Seek to grow continuously, and find a woman who wants to grow and develop herself continuously, too. Otherwise the relationship will become co-dependent and will choke you and her. Love your woman, but love her second. Don’t make your relationship #1. She’ll feel smothered. Make your deepest purpose in life #1.
4. I’d add a fourth thing: sex. Woody Allen said it best: “once the sex goes, the whole relationship goes.” Without sex, what do you have? Exactly. A friendship. Sex is a super-glue. It keeps a couple together, and it keeps the passion alive. Sex is communication. It creates physical intimacy and unity that words alone can never accomplish.
A lot of people when they get into a relationship, think all the work’s been done. Why put the effort in anymore? They stop stop looking or being their best, most attractive selves. Everything you did to win your woman by putting your best foot forward, NEVER STOP DOING.
Keep creating sexual tension, keep being interesting and being the man, have a life outside the relationship, and don’t ever stop being that obnoxious couple. Once you stop, that’s when the relationship goes south. Keep creating those wonderful feelings you felt at the beginning of a relationship. And keep seeing the best in her.
The poet-artist Kahlil Gibran
talks about relationship and space in the chapter “On Marriage” in his book “The Prophet.” Here marriage refers to relationships, too:
Ay, you shall be together even in the silent memory of God.
But let there be spaces in your togetherness,
And let the winds of the heavens dance between you.
Love one another, but make not a bond of love:
Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls.
Fill each other’s cup but drink not from one cup.
Give one another of your bread but eat not from the same loaf.
Sing and dance together and be joyous, but let each one of you be alone,
Even as the strings of a lute are alone though they quiver with the same music.
Give your hearts, but not into each other’s keeping.
For only the hand of Life can contain your hearts.
And stand together yet not too near together:
For the pillar of the temple stand apart,
And the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other’s shadows.