The three key principles that underpin great relationships

published Oct 16, 2010, last modified Jun 26, 2013

Share time with your partner. Keep no secrets from him. Never do anything he disagrees with. Gain immunity to cheating and heartbreak.

My last relationship was a thrilling experiment for me, and I will probably have many nice memories of it until the day I die.  Unfortunately and ultimately, it did not work out despite my best efforts in trying to make it work.

So, after making up my mind, dumping her and tying my own psychological loose ends, I immediately set out to discover the reasons why I entered this relationship and why it was doomed not to be.  This is just the kind of person I am -- I am committed to discovering more and more about myself, about what makes people tick, and about what makes an endeavor succeed as opposed to fail.

What I discovered made some of my core beliefs change fundamentally.  I now believe these three practices to be the bare minimum a serious relationship needs to survive against all odds:

  1. Give your partner your undivided attention a minimum of fifteen hours each week, using the time to meet the emotional needs of affection, sexual fulfillment, intimate conversation, and recreational companionship.
    Without this attention, couples inevitably drift apart.
  2. Never do anything without an enthusiastic agreement between you and your partner.
    If one does things that the other hates, eventually the other will come to resent that.
  3. Reveal to your partner as much information about yourself as you know; your thoughts, feelings, habits, likes, dislikes, personal history, daily activities, and plans for the future.
    Secrets kept from your significant one inevitably surface and cause resentment, and negate you the biggest joy of all -- to be loved for who you really are.

Stop for a moment and think about these principles: a couple who follows these principles -- two people who discover enjoyable things to do together, who talk about everything and keep no secrets from each other, who don't do things that the other disapproves of -- is completely immune to cheating and deceit, to drifting apart, and to turning into two people who hate each other.  Conversely, these principles act as a very helpful screening device too -- a person who keeps secrets from his partner, who refuses to spend time together or to make the effort to find mutually enjoyable activities, who does things that piss his / her partner off, well, he or she is a shitty, self-absorbed, asshole partner and you're better off without them.  

Now I'll be honest with myself and say that my last partner was in many ways a terrible choice I made, because we were so different, because she had really deep issues, and because I had unresolved issues myself.  But perhaps we could have overcome them... except that there was an additional issue: not only had I not discovered these principles, my partner actively opposed putting them in practice!  Unsurprisingly, the problems in our relationship remained unresolved, started spreading like oil in a maritime oil spill, and the relationship sank.

Ultimately and undoubtedly, it is pathological beliefs, poisonous beliefs, the defense and practice of these types of beliefs, what ends up causing pain and misery in human beings.  I paid a very high price for tolerating or minimizing pathological beliefs in my last significant other, for trying to address them when she was clearly not ready for it, and for ultimately trying to deceive myself that we could make it as a couple without addressing them.

In conclusion: mad love and attraction is certainly not enough to make a relationship -- these principles above are necessary conditions for any relationship to survive and thrive.  I may or may not be in a relationship with someone who has different beliefs than mine, but I will never ever entertain the thought of a relationship with a person who does not share these three principles with me.