Three Keys to Your Best Relationship
Above all, it’s the quality of your relationships that will determine
the quality of your life. Invest in your connections, even those that
seem inconsequential.” Therapist – Esther Perel
Your relationships impact every aspect of your life. The richness of your relationships is linked to a fulfilling life and your longevity. Yes, relationships are essential in the quality and the quantity of living. So, why not write a treatise? Why only write about three keys, you ask?
After 40 years of marriage, I wanted to keep it simple and give you my BIG 3. That’s about all I can focus on at any time, and I thought if I went into a long dissertation, it would frankly bore everyone to tears.
I know there are a lot more than three. In fact, there are a ton of character traits that are effective in building and maintaining good relations. One of the important ones and a close fourth is to stay focused on developing a happy long-term relationship. Have a long-range vision, a long-range perspective for your relationship, and keep it in the forefront of your mind. Be willing to work toward that goal every day, talk about it, imagine it, live into it.
Do you know how important a long-term perspective can be toward success? Dr. Edward Banfield of Harvard, after more than 50 years of research, concluded that “long-term perspective” is the most accurate single predictor of upward social and economic mobility in America. Long-term perspective turns out to be more important than family background, education, race, intelligence, connections, or virtually any other single factor in determining success in life and in work.
As I said, we’ve been married for 39 years and the times that I have gotten into the most trouble is when I prioritized a short-term gain or short-term pleasure in place of our longer-term desire for a sustained, loving, and fulfilling relationship. Fortunately, I was very good at begging for forgiveness, my wife was very generous with her graciousness, or we both hated the idea of making more of the situation than what it deserved. Thus resolving the issue.
Usually, it was just another human error along a long path of mistakes that we all have made. That is not to say that all character flaws in a relationship are equal. Some can damage or destroy a good relationship, and at times the damage is done twice as fast and cuts twice as deep. But the minor mistakes, the miscommunications, that occur in everyday life are a part of the differences that you must learn to live with and even appreciate. You can even learn to anticipate them with glee.
I wanted to give you what I believe are the top three keys to building and maintaining a loving, fulfilling relationship. Over the long haul, I think our 40 years together provide some of the “bona fides,” the authentic expertise, that you might want or need. Still, I will also bring in a few expert researchers to validate my claims. So here goes, in no particular order, the top three tips to building GREAT relationships–Presence, Trust, and Respect
First on the agenda is presence—the ability to connect and communicate authentically – being fully present with your partner helps build a strong relationship. This really matters. Presence is “showing up” in the relationship physically, mentally, and emotionally.
It is more than the occasional glance up from the endless scrolling on the phone or the barely understandable “uh-huh” during your favorite TV program. Other times we may be so worried about getting things done that we are not present to the people around us. These non-attentive episodes can pile up and can be devastating to a partnership. In fact, one study says that presence is the most significant predictor of long-term relationship success.
You are present when you give your full attention to your partner. Make sure your partner is seen, heard, felt, and totally engaged. Presence is the ability to focus on just your partner.
If you aren’t distracted by all the bells and whistles going off from your cell phone, tablet, TV, or computer, you can be available to focus on your partner. When you are present for your partner, they will feel it. They will sense your caring, your concern, your emotional connection. Being present in today’s hectic, distraction-filled world may be a stretch for some folks or seem impossible to others.
Slight growth in this area has a significant effect. Poor emotional presence involves the words, stories, and images that run through your mind when trying to connect to your partner. It is not thinking about what your favorite sports team did last night or how your friend will perceive your latest recipe.
It means BEING THERE, fully present, right now with your partner. Listening, caring, and sharing yields à connecting. And to really connect, sometimes you just have to listen.
Listening and Caring Shows You Are Present
Did you know if you rearrange the letters in the word LISTEN, you can spell the word SILENT? It may seem like a big coincidence, but to really LISTEN, you have to be SILENT.
Listen → Silent
You may want to hold your opinion and just offer a sympathetic “listening” ear unless specifically asked. Many people don’t necessarily want to be fixed or repaired. Sometimes, they may need to vet their frustrations before moving on, and they need someone with a sympathetic ear to listen to them.
One definition of “presence” refers to a person or thing that exists or is present in a place but is not seen. A ghost, or spirit.
Now, this may not be too far-fetched either. Your partner wants to feel your spirit. You are present even when you are not physically there. Caring enough to consider what your partner might feel or want or need when you are not physically together.
Being Curious, Aware, and Not Judging
In an article by Justice Schanfarber, it mentions the following ideas to improve your presence:
- Be curious
- Be self-aware of how you are reacting with your partner
- Do not judge
Presence, in this sense, is about paying attention and not being distracted. Being alive, focused, listening, hearing, providing non-judging attention. We accept our partner for who they are, which may be enough. Having a presence in a relationship is to see and feel without judgment. When we can tolerate the imperfections in ourselves and in our partner, we can better demonstrate a presence in the relationship.
Demonstrating presence sends the message that we truly see, hear, and feel our partner. This generally feels good. Giving your presence is an act of generosity that many people must develop if they want a long-term successful relationship.
It takes a certain level of self-awareness to expand your world and consider your partner. Open your senses to each other when you’re together and raise your awareness to include your partner when you are apart.
Presence is vitally essential to healthy, long-term relationships. It can build a foundation for trust and respect.
Dave has a special place in his heart to help individuals and couples struggling in their relationships. For more information, go to: WeBuildABetterU.com or contact Dave at Dave@WebuildABetterU.com
Our second key to successful relations is trust. Trust is the faith you have in someone that they will remain loyal to you and love you. To trust someone means that you can rely on them and are comfortable confiding in them—you feel safe with them. It is foundational. All relationships are built on a certain level of trust. Without it, the relationship will be shaky. Imagine living without faith in your partner. Each moment alone could become a bad dream where the ANTs, Automatic Negative Thoughts start to take over.
Trust is Important on Many Levels
Trust is a building block of friendship and love, and, of course, intimacy. It is a building block and one of the foundational elements of a relationship. As such, it often takes a bit of time to build trust. It usually does not happen overnight. Your partner needs to know that you are trustworthy and won’t ditch them at the first sign of trouble. Trust helps relationships survive during tough times. Lack of confidence is one of the reasons many relationships fall apart.
“The best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust
them.” Author – Ernest Hemingway
Trust also helps overcome obstacles. When there is a bond of trust, there is a feeling that you can overcome any problems that arise together. It allows you to feel safe and secure with your partner. It is a bonding factor for all the minor cracks that occur in day-to-day living.
When you trust your partner, you don’t need to explain or justify everything. It is reassuring to the relationship. It helps in healing after tense situations. It helps control emotions. You know your teammate is with you, and you accept them and believe they have the best interest of the relationship at heart. It builds confidence in the relationship because you both know that your partner will understand and trust your actions and decisions.
“Not being able to let go and trust those around you can be incredibly
stressful. You will constantly be questioning the actions of those
around you, never feel in control and generally
unhappy.” – David Cannell
Anthony Robbins and Cloe Madanes partnered to form the Institute For Strategic Intervention and developed a pyramid of stages that individuals, couples, or even teams go through to build trust.
In addition, listed here are several specific behaviors that help build trust in a relationship:
- Each partner is trying to do what they commit to and be reliable.
- Be truthful, responsible, faithful, and caring—build trust.
- Forgive each other quickly—especially on the small stuff.
- Don’t hold on to past fights. Let it go.
- Admit your own mistakes. It is part of life. None of us are perfect, but owning our mistakes is part of maturing and building trust.
- Repentance, admitting your errors, and deciding to do better.
- Connect with your partner. This is more than just the necessary communication. Refer back to presence.
- Understanding what they are going through, what they are feeling and thinking.
Of course, even “minor lies” will damage trust between people in a relationship.
Honesty is an essential ingredient to develop confidence. Without honesty, you are setting yourself up to destroy belief in the relationship.
Psychology Today Identified 7 Ways To Build Trust In A Relationship
- Say what you mean and mean what you say.
- Be vulnerable—you may want to do this gradually.
- Give your partner the benefit of the doubt.
- Express your feelings – especially when it is challenging.
- Take risks together.
- Be willing to give as well as receive.
- Remember the role of respect.
“Trust is the glue of life. It’s the most essential ingredient in effective communication. It’s the foundational principle that holds all relationships.” – Stephen Covey
I am reminded of my sister reciting her vows, and she included the phrase it is better to be loved than to be correct. This can be a big part of trust—knowing that the relationship is more important than anything else and that neither of you would intentionally do harm to each other or the relationship.
Insisting that you are right, you alone have the answer, that you don’t care what the other person thinks and that you can’t admit your mistakes damages trust and prevents a healthy and long-lasting relationship.
The basis of trust is the mutual feeling that you have each other’s best interest at heart. More specifically, trust comes from the sense, the belief, that the other person wants to meet your needs. That means even when it is inconvenient.
Trust is the belief that your spouse has good intentions.
R-E-S-P-E-C-T, sing it, Aretha!
Respect is holding your partner in an elevated position. Appreciating the uniqueness they bring to the relationship.
Belittling, Condescending, Or Contempt Will Drive Down Respect
One of the most emotionally lasting ways our partners can damage us is by belittling us, making us feel small, or viewing us with contempt rather than respect.
Crossing the line with disparaging comments, insults, denigrating remarks, or stonewalling damages the team. The destructive power of insults and denigrating remarks is well known. It is less known that stonewalling – not listening, not being present – has been proven to be a significant predictor of divorce. Stonewalling, blaming, and insulting convey the opposite message – that your spouse’s needs don’t matter, and this is disrespectful and kills trust.
Once a specific line has been crossed, it can be challenging to return to bliss. Innocent remarks can become metaphors and trigger the memory of the disrespectful interaction.
If spouses spoke to each other with the same respect they show their friends, the line would probably never be crossed. Practice respect daily. Mom Junction wrote an article and highlighted the following ways to build respect:
- Seek your partner’s advice
- Remember their preferences
- Complement them (especially in public)
- Be open-minded to your partner’s suggestions & opinions
- Voice your admiration
- Seek forgiveness when needed
- Support your partner’s desires
Showing respect is a form of validating each other. Having your partner hear and respect your opinion builds confidence that you care and that the relationship is real. Of course, having an open mind and showing mutual respect is essential too. This is not a one-way street. Both individuals in any relationship must show their respect. It is ok to disagree, as long as you respect your partner’s views and provide them the validation that each of us wants and needs.
A Pyramid of Power Relations — Trust, Respect, and Presence
Trust, respect, and presence create a pyramid of power. With any side of the pyramid damaged or missing from the relationship, the partnership becomes unstable. When all three sides are in place, the relationship can provide a stable structure that can flourish and last forever.
Of course, it isn’t just about your significant other. You need to be kind to yourself too. Continue to develop good, healthy, positive self-esteem. Allow yourself to express your intentions and concerns at all levels. Bring out the best in yourself and give of yourself freely. Your spouse needs to see who you are to trust and respect you. Here are a few more suggestions that will keep you on the right path.
- Stay positive
- Respect other opinions
- Appreciate ideas and acts of kindness
- Be thankful
- Show your love
- Be mindful of tone—self-aware of reactions
Without trust, presence, and respect, any relationship deteriorates, no matter how passionate it may have been at the beginning. With all three, trust, respect, and presence, a relationship can grow and flourish. It is a trifecta when you create feelings of unconditional trust in your partner. Respecting them for who they are and what they need. And being present for your partner, fully there for them, physically, mentally, and emotionally provides them that type of attention that can be addictive. It provides an even more profound sense of connection when you have all three. Implementing these three aspects of a relationship stops suspicions and cuts-out criticism. The result is a healthy, lasting relationship that can flourish forever.
Author – Speaker – Leader - Investor
Dave spent a long and distinguished career as a pilot and leader in the United States Air Force. Along the way, he managed to obtain three graduate degrees. As an investor in the stock market for more than 37 years, Dave has seen his share of ups and downs. When Dave retired as a Colonel in 2006, he founded Razor Sharp Investments. Subsequently, he worked with an investment education company, teaching new investors how to handle their money, and then two brokerage firms doing the same thing. In 2012, Dave founded his own investment firm. Dave has always been fascinated by the question, Why do people do the things that they do? On his discovery journey, he encountered Tony Robbins. He worked with his event staff to eventually progresss through the Institute for Strategic Intervention as a coach, making him ideally suited to tackle the most formidable challenges in a relationship. Dave continues to be committed to a life of service, mainly serving those struggling in their relationships over money.
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