Practice #13: Do your part to create a happy relationship. It’s Valentine’s Day weekend! We wish all of you a weekend of love with your sweethearts. Whether you’ve just fallen in love or you’re in a long term committed relationship, you largely create your experience with your partner. Some people may say happy relationships are a 50/50 effort. That’s a half-happy relationship. In a great relationship both people give 100%. To help you keep that feeling of appreciation and love throughout the year, here are three secrets we’ve learned to stay happy with another person.
1. See the person for who they are, not who you want them to be. People make the mistake of projecting their own expectations onto the other person. One woman married a quirky artist. She expected him to be a successful business person. How she could expect this when he demonstrated no interest or talent in money or business was unrealistic. She was projecting her own dream onto him. See the real talents and personality of your partner and love them for who they truly are.
2. Focus on your partner’s good qualities, not the negative ones. None of us are perfect. There are going to be some things, hopefully only a few, that bother you about your partner. It’s amazing how these little things can be blown out of proportion, while ignoring the person’s other wonderful qualities. We know someone who broke up with his girlfriend because he thought her hobbies were extremely trivial. Say what? He thought she was not intellectual enough for him. He overlooked her loving heart and all of their shared values and other interests. Couples who get more and more irritated by their partner’s small quirks tend to break up. Couples who see their partner’s peculiarities as endearing tend to stay together.
3. Understand that both people can be right. This is a profound lesson we learned while hiking in the Olympic National Park early in our marriage. We were halfway into a 60-mile backpacking trip. The route finding was difficult and we were tired after three days of continuously steep uphill terrain. I wanted to find the actual trail. I was convinced it was nearby and we just had to look a little more. Steve wanted to bushwhack through the woods, reasoning that the trail must be downhill of us. In bear country, this did not seem appealing to me. Bickering ensued.
I plopped down on a rock to wait while he went crashing through the woods in search of the elusive trail. About three minutes later he shouted out, “Found it!” The trail was in fact exactly where I wanted to keep looking. Steve did also find the trail by doing exactly what he’d suggested. In that powerful moment we acknowledged that we’d both been right. We realized this was a lesson we’d carry through our entire marriage. We thankfully have.
When your partner has a different point of view, it doesn’t make them wrong. They just have a different perspective than you do. Both opinions can be equally valid.
Keep these three things in mind as you share life with your partner. May all your Valentine’s Days be filled with joy!