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25 Things I Learned About Relationships That You Should Really Know

By Neil Strauss , December 4, 2019

1.  If you want to start dating better people, become a better person.

You attract partners who are at your level of maturity and emotional intelligence. So instead of constantly shopping for the person you want to spend your life with, become the person you want to spend your life with.

2.  Not until you can be alone without loneliness are you ready for a relationship.

3.  There’s no need to fear being abandoned by your partner.

Because the only people who can actually be abandoned are children, adults incapacitated due to illness, and dependent elders. If you’re a functioning adult, then no one can abandon you but you.

4.   Intimacy is sharing your reality with someone else and knowing you’re safe.

And them being able to share their reality with you and also be safe. (definition via Pia Mellody)

5.   The Mindset

Unhealthy relationship mindset: “Do I wanna live with the way this person is doing that thing for the rest of my life?”

Healthy relationship mindset: “Do I love you in this moment, as you are.” If yes, proceed to next moment together.

6.   Only when our love for someone exceeds our need for them do we have a shot at a genuine relationship together.

7.   In the dance of infatuation, we see others not as they are, but as projections of who we want them to be.

And we impose on them all the imaginary criteria we think will fill the void in our hearts. In the end, though, this strategy leads to suffering. It’s not a relationship when the other person is completely left out of it.

8.   They say love is blind, but it’s trauma that’s blind. Love sees what is.

9.   The Buttons

Question: Why does my partner keep pushing my buttons?

Answer: You chose them because of your buttons. If you didn’t have them, you wouldn’t be with that partner.

Question: But where did those buttons come from?

Answer: Your parents put them there as part of your first experience of love (or lack thereof), and now you’re trying to heal them through your current experience of love.

Question: So how do I get rid of them?

Answer: Through a commitment to getting rid of them, using all the tools available (except your partner). Then fix the hole and have a relationship as a whole person.

10.   You can’t have a relationship with someone hoping they’ll change.

You have to be willing to commit to them as they are, with no expectations. And if they happen to choose to change at some point along the way, then that’s just a bonus. They say love is blind, but it’s trauma that’s blind. Love sees what is.

11.  The true test of a relationship is not in how good the times together are, but in how well you handle the bad times

And how quickly you legitimately recover from them.

12.   Avoid resolving emotional arguments in the moment, when someone is still heated.

Wait until the moment has passed and the emotions have subsided, and then deal with the problem together. Don’t argue with someone in an emotional age regression.

13.   The Dysfunction and the Function

Dysfunctional Relationship: “You’re working too much. You’re never around for me.”

Functional Relationship: “I love that things are going so well for you and you’re doing what you love.”

Corollary: People will take more time to be with someone who supports them. They will stay busy to avoid someone who doesn’t.

14.   One key reason that sex becomes less passionate and frequent (and sometimes non-existent) in a long relationship or marriage is not because of familiarity.

It’s because people tend to project their childhood issues onto their partner, and turn them into the worst of mom or dad. And one of the many problems with parentalizing a partner is that no one really wants to sleep with mom or dad.

15.   Unexpressed expectations are premeditated resentments.

16.   The fear that someone will abandon you, the fear that you are unloveable, and the fear that you are not enough for your partner will become self-fulfilling prophecies.

And when these things happen, you will think:

“See, this proves that my fear is real”

And you will begin the cycle anew with an even stronger fear.

But the cause is the fear (and the childhood issues that created it), not something intrinsic to you.

17.   A toxic relationship is two fucked-up people getting more fucked up together.

A healthy relationship is two fucked-up people getting less fucked up together

18.   It is unhealthy to expect your partner to always view you favorably.

However, negativity in a relationship is equally unhealthy. So avoid needing your partner to idealize you, whilst avoiding the temptation to criticize and control your partner.

19.   Too many books teach emotional withholding as a way to create and maintain love.

But If you lose someone for being yourself, then you never had them in the first place.

20.   If someone cheats on you, they did you a favor by showing you who they are.

If someone leaves you, they did you a favor by not staying in a relationship that’s not working for them – and allowing you to move on and find someone right for you.

21.   The real growth isn’t in letting go of something or someone who’s toxic.

It’s in letting go of the parts of yourself that are holding on.

22.   Too many people consider a relationship or marriage that’s become loveless and then ends a failure. The only failure though is a relationship that lasts longer than it should. The success of a relationship should be measured by its depth, not by its length.

23.   A relationship goes through phases.

First there’s the period of romance & projection, where you don’t truly see who the other person is; you just see who you want them to be.

The next stage is disillusionment, where you see who they really are and not your fantasy. That’s why couples often break-up in that three to nine month window.

Then, there’s a power struggle or conflict phase.

If you can each let go of your baggage, heal, and get through that, there’s an authentic and often lifelong relationship waiting for you.

24.   It is impossible for your relationship with your partner to be any better than your relationship with yourself.

25.   Stop waiting. Feel everything. Love achingly. Give impeccably. Let go. (-David Deida)

There’s so much more to share with you, but let’s stop here for now. It’s a lot to digest in one blog post.

Read. Repeat. Enjoy.

Neil Strauss is a ten-time New York Times best-selling author; a contributing editor at Rolling Stone; and a former music critic, cultural reporter, and columnist at The New York Times. where he won the ASCAP-Deems Taylor Award for excellence in music journalism. In 2018, he was honored with the Los Angeles Press Club’s Journalist Award for his Rolling Stone 50th anniversary cover story, “Elon Musk: The Architect of Tomorrow.” His 12-episode podcast, To Live & Die in L.A., was number one on the iTunes charts for two weeks and spent four months in the top ten, where it was named one of the ten best podcasts of the year so far by Apple. It has racked up over 35 million downloads in just its first season.

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