Talk Openly About Everything, Especially the Stuff That Hurts

Respect yourself and your wife. Never talk badly to or about her. If you don’t respect your wife, you don’t respect yourself. You chose her-live up to that choice.

  • NEVER talk shit about your partner or complain about them to your friends. If you have a problem with your partner, you should be having that conversation with them, not with anyone else. Talking bad about your partner to others will erode your respect for them and make you feel worse about the relationship, not better.
  • Respect that they have different hobbies, interests, and perspectives. Just because you would spend your time and energy differently, doesn’t mean it’s better/worse.
  • Respect that they have an equal say in the relationship, that you are a team, and if one person on the team is not happy, then the team is not succeeding.
  • No secrets. If you’re really in this together and you respect one another, everything should be fair game. Have a crush on someone else? Discuss it. Laugh about it. Had a weird sexual fantasy that sounds ridiculous? Be open about it. Nothing should be off-limits.

These are hard questions, and they’re even harder to contemplate early on in a relationship

We always talk about what’s bothering us with each other, not [with] anyone else! We have so many friends who are in marriages that are not working well, and they tell me all about what is wrong. I can’t help them-they need to be talking to their spouse about [it]. If you can figure out a way to be able to always talk with your spouse about what’s bugging you then you can work on the issue.

I receive hundreds of emails from readers each week asking for life advice. A large percentage of these emails involve difficulties in romantic relationships. (For what it’s worth, these emails, too, are surprisingly repetitive.)

(In fact, this response became so common that I actually put it on my contact form on the site because I was so tired of copying and pasting it.)

If something bothers you in the relationship, you must be willing to say it out loud. Doing so builds trust, and trust builds intimacy. It may hurt, but you still need to do it because no one else can fix your relationship for you. Just as causing pain to your muscles allows them to grow back stronger, introducing some pain into your relationship through vulnerability makes the relationship stronger.

Along with respect, trust was the most commonly mentioned trait crucial for a healthy relationship. Most people mentioned it in the context of jealousy and fidelity-trust your partner to go off on their own, don’t get insecure or angry if you see them talking with someone else, etc.

But trust goes much deeper than whether or not someone is cheating or not. Because when you’re really talking about the long haul, you have to get into some serious life-or-death shit. If you learned you had cancer tomorrow, would you trust your partner to stick with you and take care of you? Would you trust your partner to care of your child for a week, or longer, by themselves? Do you trust them to handle your money or make sound decisions under pressure? Do you trust them to not turn on you or blame you when you screw up?

A couple years ago, I discovered that I was answering many of these relationship emails with the same response: “Take this email you just sent to me, print it out, and show it to your partner

It’s like, “Oh, I forgot my phone at her apartment, I trust her not to sell it and buy crack with the money… I think.”


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