Everyone wants to feel like a standup guy. There is nothing better than to have the respect of the people you respect. Especially the person you’re sharing your life with. The truth is that there’s hell to pay when you aren’t. You could be killing it at work and everywhere else – but having chaos with your partner sucks the joy out of every part of your life. In the past 27 years of my relationship (and the 25 years of helping people with their relationships) I’ve found several things that make a huge difference. Here are four that I know will make you walk taller and happier in yours.
1. Don’t make assumptions – make agreements.
“Common sense isn’t that common.” The truth is that, what’s common sense to you may be totally different than what your partner thinks it is. So, don’t assume that people know what you’re talking about or asking for. THEY DON’T!! Everybody’s got their own set of filters they use to navigate life; and whatever they grow up with seems totally normal and right to them. One example is, the couple where in the wife’s family the man was in charge of emptying the garbage, and in the husband’s family the woman was in charge of looking after the kitchen. While she waits for him to take out the trash and he waits for her to, the kitchen garbage is overflowing and the two of them are always pissed off. They each assume that their partner would “just use common sense” and get with the program. A simple discussion and some clarity would totally change their relationship.
I’m a huge believer in two things: Being Specific, and Being Explicit. If you make your communication and agreements this way, you cut through all the stuff you have floating through your mind at any given moment and get right to what each of you needs. It’s also a great idea to double check that you are both on the same page. Repeat what you think you heard – just like someone taking your order at the drive through. You can also ask them what they heard to make sure your message is coming across clearly. If it’s improved, then write it down so neither of you forget.
2. Keep your agreements OR renegotiate.
Once you have an agreement then KEEP IT!! Nothing causes doubt and stress in a relationship like broken agreements. If you can’t keep your agreement, then let the other person know as soon as you realize there’s going to be a problem. By the way, there is no agreement too small to honor. This goes for being on time or remembering to pick up milk at the store. It doesn’t matter if you promised to drop off her dry cleaning or if you say you will be home at 6:00, there’s a huge difference between 5:55 and 6:05.
3. Own it.
Some people still have the old beliefs that saying sorry makes you look weak. This is the exact opposite from the truth. People respect people who have the backbone to take responsibility for their actions, and how those actions affect others. You look weak and scared (or arrogant and stubborn) when you DON’T apologize appropriately. This makes you very hard to get along with. If I step on your toes while trying to give you a gift, my intention is to do something nice – but the result is that I hurt you. That deserves an apology even if I didn’t mean to do it.
The thing about giving a great apology is that timing is everything. A lot of people try to explain what happened while they apologize (or worse, INSTEAD of apologizing). This comes across like you’re justifying it or trying to weasel your way out of taking responsibility. (And DEFINITELY don’t try to make it their fault! Then you look like a complete jerk.) The point of apologizing is to acknowledge that your actions hurt the other person in some way and taking responsibility for that. If they ask for more information, then it’s ok to give it. Or you can explain things later (with their permission). But in most cases, just say “I’m so sorry for hurting you ….” And then SHUT UP!
4. Forgive or get out.
Life’s too short to hold a grudge. Especially toward someone you’re supposed to be in love with. No one enters a relationship so they can be miserable (or to make the other person miserable). But a lot of times that’s exactly what ends up happening because you can’t or won’t forgive. Everyone makes mistakes and, even in healthy relationships, people hurt each other (mostly by accident). Remembering this and forgiving as soon as you can takes YOU off the hook of having to haul around all that resentment. You will enjoy your relationship more and you and your partner will feel closer.
Of course, you’re human. Sometimes the hurt is so deep you can’t get to a place of forgiveness. Even if you can forgive, in some cases your partner’s actions have impacted the overall health of the relationship (especially if the same thing keeps happening). With either scenario, you need to call it for what it is and have the balls to pull the plug. It can be hard and even scary, but you’ll be doing yourself and your partner a huge favor. Don’t torture yourself by staying in a relationship where you’re resentful or don’t respect the other person. Give yourself (and them) the chance to be happy by yourself or with someone new.
For more relationship and other advice from Dr. Ganz Ferrance, visit his website
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