People often want a magic or mystical solution to their problems.
They want to know the secrets or hacks to make a relationship work. The truth is that there are no hacks or shortcuts.
If our goal is Marriage 4.0: An Evolved Partnership, these nine Practices are the route to it.
The nine practices
The nine practices are the nine qualities that must be present in order to make a relationship as strong and rich as it can be.
None of us is ever perfect at any of these qualities because they are infinite qualities. You can never complete them, they are constantly tested by the circumstances of life, but there’s a level below which we let people down.
When we operate from below that level we lie, cheat and betray the people we are supposed to be most loyal and faithful to.
The lack of these qualities is what breaks relationships. You need to be operating above the line in these and choosing a partner who is also above the line.
Relationships struggle because we struggle with these qualities. So couples look for the Therapist or the magic wand that will fix their relationship. The relationship is fixed when we are fixed.
We make a better relationship by both being better.
Integrity is the quality of living up to your ideals and doing what you said you would do.
It comes from the Latin word Integer, meaning whole. This refers to the fact that someone who says one thing and does another isn’t whole. They are part talk and part action, but each following different scripts.
It assumes honesty and consistency of character. Honesty derives from having a sense of honour. A standard that you live up to.
It comes first because when you are in a relationship with someone who doesn’t do what they say you are in a constant state of doubt and insecurity.
There is nothing you can do with someone who lacks integrity because nothing they ever say means anything.
When someone is an addict, it means the addiction matters more than anything or anyone else. Therefore, they will never have integrity because they subjugate their responsibilities for their addiction.
When considering a mate, integrity is the most important characteristic they need to have.
Kindness comes from an old English word Kyndes meant to increase or produce. It later meant noble deeds or courtesy. I like to think it’s like another old word, ‘kin’, meaning our family, our people.
I interpret it like the golden rule. Treat others as you would like to be treated.
Kindness is a quality that we all know when we see it. It assumes we care and are strong enough to give to others without unreasonable cost to ourselves.
Relationships are full of tests and challenges. None of us are perfect and there will be mistakes and problems. We will irritate each other, It is then that we need kindness.
There will be times when you are strong while your partner falls. And vice versa. In those times the relationship is there to support you. It is working as a team with care and consideration for the other.
Kindness is the oil that eases the inevitable friction you will both face. When this is missing you will grate on each other in bad times. This leads to bitternesses, resentments and leaks in the flow of love. And so sooner or later the relationship will become too creaky and with too little love it will die.
Authenticity means that someone or something is genuine.
An authentic painting is a true original and not a lower value replica. In the same way you, and your partner, need to know that who you are committing to is genuinely what you think they are.
It is similar to integrity, but a slightly different shade. Integrity relies on honesty. I do whatever I say I will.
Someone being honest may not be telling the truth. Honesty is telling the truth as they know it. But they may lack awareness of the truth.
In the same way someone who has integrity, may not be authentic, because they may lack self-awareness.
Most of us have from birth been giving codes of conduct and told how to behave and act. Not many of us have gone beyond the cultural default and really understood what drives us as a unique individual.
Authenticity is going beyond what everyone else tells you to do and finding your individual blueprint and bringing that out.
Being the genuine you.
A relationship is the connection that bridges two individuals.
With two individuals you have two different perspectives, thoughts, beliefs, values and visions. Empathy is the bride for communication. It is how you can merge and meld the differences between you.
Specifically there are three types of empathy.
Cognitive empathy is the ability to understand the perspective of another. This is the skill to negotiate. However, even Psychopaths have this quality as it is necessary to manipulate someone.
Emotional empathy is the ability to feel what someone else feels. This can debilitate people as they take on all the pain of others.
Compassionate empathy is the ability to understand someone’s perspective, know what they are feeling without taking on their pain. It is this quality that helps us to understand what someone is going through, but also remain dispassionate enough to help is we can.
At times all of us struggle with life and we need people who can empathise with us, without being weakened by it.
Understanding, care and compassion are all qualities that make a relationship work more smoothly.
A Pig and a Chicken are walking down the road.
The Chicken says: “Hey Pig, I was thinking we should open a restaurant!”
Pig replies: “Hmm, maybe, what would we call it?”
The Chicken responds: “How about ‘ham-n-eggs’?”
The Pig thinks for a moment and says: “No thanks. I’d be committed, but you’d only be involved.”
A commitment originally was a pledge or a promise. Of course, that only has value if the person making it has integrity.
So for our purposes, commitment is about how dedicated someone is to the relationship.
Someone who isn’t committed will never put in the effort to make a relationship work.
Often people will hang around years with someone who won’t even commit to a formal relationship. Yet, that person doesn’t care and won’t invest the effort to make the relationship work. That doesn’t mean that the relationship will always be work.
Relationships do take effort, because there will always come a time when the relationship doesn’t work. However, for the most part it should run fairly smoothly.
So you need the commitment that when the grass seems greener on the other side, you stay focused on your current relationship.
Respect is feeling admiration for someone’s qualities.
It goes without saying that the person should have admirable qualities. If you look at your partner and feel disgust at their actions and behaviour, then the relationship will not work.
However, there is a double edged sword to this quality. Many relationships end because the man doesn’t feel respected anymore.
Yet when you’ve lived with someone for twenty years and seen all their weaknesses and foibles, it is hard to give them the admiration they want.
In general, us men typically want a level of respect beyond what we deserve. We need to feel we have value for our partner.
Part of our journey is recognising that whatever accomplishments we might achieve, to our spouse and children, we will always be the one that puts out the bins, moans too much, tells cringey jokes and botches the DIY. Our deepest sense of value has to come from ourselves and our sense of honour, integrity and authenticity.
All of us in relationships should strive to be better people. The respect we earn from our partner should reflect our striving.
All of us have qualities worthy of admiration. Even if you have to look deep to find them. It’s easy to take them for granted. Look for your partner’s qualities and show them the respect for who they are.
All of us need to be seen, understood and accepted. Pay your partner the respect of meeting this deep need and expect to also receive it.
Trust is having faith in someone. There’s two sides to trust. Trusting that someone’s intentions are true and trusting that they also have the capacity to do what they promise.
Trust is obviously a side effect of knowing your partner has integrity and respecting them as a person. It’s included here because sometimes, especially if someone has an insecure attachment style or has been hurt in the past, people don’t trust.
That insecurity will increase friction within the relationship. Without grounds it is an active disrespect and doubt in the person’s integrity. This then leads to manipulative and controlling behaviour.
Equally, you don’t trust without evidence anymore than you trust every spam message you receive. Faith should not be granted blindly. It comes based on grounds to believe.
If your partner is worthy of trust, then you should deal with whatever issue is stopping you from trusting and grant them the trust they deserve.
If they aren’t, then the relationship will never be satisfying and sustainable.
Without telepathy, communication is how we understand the other person.
It is communication that allows us to empathise with our partner.
It is communication that enables us to bridge the gap between us, bond and negotiate with them.
Without communication we are in the dark and unable to understand them.
Few of us are naturally good communicators. We have too many inhibitions, fears and anxieties to communicate authentically.
Our work is to risk vulnerability and share honestly what is going on for us. How the other person uses this tells us much about their character and integrity and their trustworthiness.
Gratitude has become a big topic in self-help circles.
Gratitude though has an element of awe. It is being thankful, tinged with a sense with a slight feeling of being unworthy of receiving.
Appreciation is more of a realistic assessment of a situation or person. It is seeing the person as they are and actively looking for the positive.
The Gottman’s talk about bids being key to a relationship. A bid, as they define it, is an attempt to connect. When your partner makes an inane comment about the weather, it is recognising that they are making a bid to connect with you.
Couples that are more responsive to each other get along better. Those that ignore or miss bids move further from each other.
Appreciation is the currency of relationships. We want to please our partner. But when we make efforts over and over again and are met with entitlement or apathy, we give up.
We begin to resent the other and the relationship starts to die.