Relationship success is always a goal couples desire. My work as a couples’ counselor has given me a unique opportunity to study relationships of all kinds—both those that are successful and those that are too fragile to endure a challenge. Through this, I have discovered five important ways to create a good relationship and make it last. I call this my recipe for relationship success. The five ingredients are in no particular order, as they are all important. Just like baking a cake—if you leave one item out of the recipe, the results probably won’t be what you had hoped for.
Respect. Recipe item #1 should rank highly in your relationship. Respecting another person means recognizing their right to do what feels best for them, even if it doesn’t make always make you happy. Other people have their own goals, needs, values, principles, and their own personal history. Expecting another person to give up or change those things because of your love, says you don’t value them as they are. The hardest thing about real, mature love is recognizing your partner as a separate being. Respecting our partner is allowing them their own feelings, beliefs, and ideas, separate from ours.
Letting someone know they are valued and that their point of view is meaningful goes a long way in keeping a relationship full of passion and security. It is so important to acknowledge your partner’s good qualities and point these out each day, so your partner knows that he or she is valued and appreciated. It is also important to allow oneself to be influenced, in a positive way, by a partner whose perceptions or values we respect and trust. In this way, love becomes a journey of mutual teaching—a pilgrimage of the spirit.
Trust. Recipe item #2 can sometimes be difficult for new couples. When you think about it, why should we ever place complete confidence in another human being given how complex and unpredictable most of us are? Yet who would prefer to live alone with no one but themselves to trust or rely upon? If you have been lucky enough to find a lover you respect, there is a strong possibility that trust is an important cornerstone of your relationship. When you take a risk and place your confidence in someone else, it sends a strong message that you are assured of that person’s character, commitment, and follow-through. It is an invitation to be brave, in a world where we do not have enough opportunities to show our courage. Trusting and being given trust should never be taken lightly. It is the foundation of a strong and lasting relationship.
Acceptance. Acceptance is defined as the act of taking or receiving something offered. When we enter into a relationship we are saying that we accept what is being offered to us, despite our differences. Recipe item #3 says we agree to view those differences as positive qualities, not as threats or dangers. Acceptance does not necessarily mean agreement, It means (as Wayne Dyer so eloquently put it in his definition of love): “The ability and willingness to allow those you care for to be what they choose for themselves without any insistence that they satisfy you.” In a partnership, we agree to pool our collective perceptions, ideas, physical abilities and resources to get along better as a bonded pair. Maybe we have an instinctive drive to fill the gaps in our own experience or character by looking for a person who is different from us. Evolution has given us this gift.
Love. Love is a profoundly tender, passionate affection for another person. Recipe item #4 surrenders to the willingness of having your life complicated by the needs and struggles of others without impatience or anger. It’s actively fighting the temptation to be critical or judgmental while looking for ways to encourage and praise. Love sustains itself through loyalty and trust and a commitment to unity. When love is mutual it unfolds like a kaleidoscope, a vision only the two of you can see, complex in its beauty and novel in its humor.
Compassion. And finally, recipe item #5, Compassion, is a wide-ranging form of kindness and caring. It is based on a deep awareness of another’s feelings and a strong desire to alleviate the suffering. Compassion literally means “to suffer together.” As is life, suffering and heartbreak often come without notice and having a compassionate partner can make a huge difference. With a compassionate partner to ease our pain and support us, we become further bonded and more strongly connected.
This is my five-part recipe, Have I left anything out?
Share the ingredients you would add to make it even better.