Relationship rules serve as guidelines for maintaining and enjoying happy, healthy relationships.
As a relationship guide, I spend a lot of time simplifying the most important elements that make a good relationship. The more I teach, the more concise it gets. And I think I have it boiled down to just three parts, three important ingredients to help your relationship thrive.
While they are few in number, the steps might be considered challenging as they require a lot of thought, patience, and trust. The thought part is you thinking about the parts and actually deciding to make yourself do the work. The patience is not expecting to get things right all at once, to be able to allow yourself to develop new positive behaviors in the time it takes. The trust is so you will believe in yourself when you doubt your progress and remind yourself that you can indeed do this.
So, let’s begin.
Relationship Rule #1: Request. Openly Ask for What You Want, but Don’t Command
Relationship rule #1: ask for what you want. Sounds simple right? It is simple, but you have to start with understanding how you have been asking for things in your past. Most people ask this way, “You never do…”, or “I don’t like it when you do…”and there’s always “Why don’t you…”
You see, humans are funny. We have no problem telling people what we don’t like, what makes us unhappy, what hurts our feelings, and pointing out what someone did to us. We are experts at letting people know when we are upset. In fact, these are the ways most people go through life, trying to get what they want.
I think the reason for this is because most of us don’t really know what we want and what would make us happy. If we did we could just ask for these things in a loving, non-aggressive way and our beloved would probably jump at the chance to fill our requests. A request is a beautiful sound to hear, and when asked in the right way your mate who loves you will want to do things for you because with a request they know the things that will make you feel good. This is a fact. If you, in a loving way say to you beloved, “Babe, Could you remember to pick up your socks when you take them off at night and put them in the hamper? Thank you Baby, it means a lot to me.” You will get a very different reaction then just commanding them to do this simple act.
You may be laughing right now because there are so many words and a lot of sweetness just to get someone to be neater, but trust me on this, telling someone, “Pick up your socks!” is a lot more harsh than the other way. And that’s how most people talk, ordering another person around. If you change just this one thing, how you ask for what you want, instead of telling your partner what you don’t want, you will improve your relationship by more than 50%.
So, now on to the second part.
Relationship Rule #2: Repair. Apologize and Make Peace When Things Go Badly
Relationship rule #2: REPAIR. When you get a scrape on your arm and need to take care of it you might wash it first, apply an anti-bacteria cream and put on a band aid. You just took care of your wound. Getting our feelings hurt is like scraping our arms, but on our inside. It’s our inside wound, our emotional state is all messed up. Our insides need addressing too. This is where repair comes in.
What I’m really talking about is saying “I’m sorry.” Just two words and maybe the hardest two words for many people to utter, and yet the most powerful words you may ever speak. Because “I’m sorry” makes your inside pains feel better, just like a band-aid.
Repair really takes two people though. One person who can recognize what they did that may have harmed the person they love. They are the person that makes the approach. It doesn’t matter who it is. In my relationship, even though I am the therapist, it’s my husband who makes the first move. I often hold on to my feelings longer than he does; my inside wound stays agitated for awhile. But when he says, “Hey, I’m sorry I said…” or “I’m sorry I forgot…” or, “I’m sorry I hurt…” I just feel the washing of my inside wound, the anti-bacteria cream and the band-aid all coming at me at once. You see it’s not even what he said he was sorry for, it’s the beautiful tone he uses and that’s the REPAIR I need. It’s a beautiful salve for my soul.
Then I can say “I’m sorry too. I took it personally when…” And then, just like that we are back. Back loving each other and being connected without residue. This scrape doesn’t have to be brought up again, ever. It’s finished, done, beautiful. If you can accomplish this phase, along with the first key, you are 80% there.
Relationship Rule #3: Build. Express and Enjoy Your Love
Moving on to the third key in a relationship, I call this the building phase. The first two keys deal with getting your relationship stable. The last part, the building phase is designed to enhance what you have already created, building on that 80%.
In this phase we have built the confidence to know how to ask for what we want. And we have polished our skills at mending and repairing things when they get off course. This next part is about appreciating where we are, being grateful for what our partner brings to our life and showing them how much it means to us. When we are in this stage we are thinking less about what we have not received from our partner and more about how we can enhance their life and ours. We move from not getting enough to celebrating what we have. It’s a subtle shift and a wonderful place to grow into.
From here it’s really up to the two of you to figure out what comes next. Do you travel together because you love each other’s company? Do you plan other excursions to celebrate each other? Do you do things daily to make your partner happy? Are you curious about them? When couples reach this stage they are more playful and connected. They have done the hard work and now they are going to enjoy what they have built.
Be an adventurer in your life. Be bold and build your own beautiful relationship, you can do this. When it comes down to it, only the two of you really know how you will be happy together. Have the confidence to believe you can get there.
Need a Little Help Beyond Basic Relationship Rules?
Beyond Relationship Rules: Read a Book About Having Better Relationships
Can’t make it on Monday? You can learn more about how to make your relationship the best one yet. Read Linda’s book, Safe. Happy. Loved. Simple Skills for Your Relationship. It can help you improve communication in your relationship, so that you can help each other be even happier! Give it a read.