Q&A: Relationship Fact or Fiction?

Q&A QAQ: A Facebook friend asked me: "I have been struggling with a relationship lately and came across the following list of relationship advice in an email and I love it so thought I would pass it along to you. I also would like to know from your professional experience which ones you agree with and ring true to you. A: I appreciate when people check their sources of relationship advice rather than just take it at face-value. The truth is there is so much lame, but good sounding, advice out there that has nothing to do with the research or evidence about what actually works. So I've added my take on this list as follows: The numbered statements in bold are from the list and aren't mine (I don't know the source, yet... you know how these emails get passed around completely un-sourced... if you do know, please let me know). The comments in plain text below each one are mine:

1) If someone wants you, nothing can keep them away.

Sounds good and may be true for some. Someone may want you, but they may be shy, lack confidence, have been burned/hurt in previous relationships, etc. There may be many things that keep someone away. Also, just because someone wants you doesn't mean you want them. If that's the case, and  nothing can keep them away, I suggest a protective order is in order... ;-)

2) If they don't want you, nothing can make them stay....

Again, sounds good. All kinds of things keep people in dead (or "mostly dead") relationships--some legit and others not: kids, economics, fear, abuse, low self-worth, etc.

3) Stop making excuses for them and their behavior.

Yeah. I concur.

4) Allow your intuition (or spirit) to save you from heartache.

Yeah, too often people ignore their "gut." I teach people to tune into and trust their deepest, truest self.

5) Stop trying to change yourself for a relationship that's not meant to be.


6) Slower is better.

Yes! Yes!! YES!!! In dating and courtship my advice is "Four seasons and a road trip." Take the time to get to know someone not just in the feeling of love and in the good times, but get to see what their real character is which only comes out in conflict and stressful situations. See how they problem-solve and correct their mistakes (or not). Also, in relationships: Slow communication is good communication; Slow conflict is good conflict. Emotions are reactive and quick. Slow it down. Do smart love, not just feelings love. No amazing cathedral or temple was rushed. If it's worth building it's worth building well. Rushed work = sloppy results and shoddy workmanship. What are you and your relationship worth?

7) Never live your life for another before you find what makes you truly happy.

Watch out for absolutes like "never" and "always." I agree this point is important, however, there are plenty of people who got married young and stupid (like all of us!) who had no clue what made them truly happy. However, some of them not only figured that out, in the midst of living their lives for their partner and their children, they figured it out through that very process of living their lives in the service of others. I get the point to not lose one's sense of self in an unhealthy relationship, but conversely losing one's ego in a healthy relationship can be one of the healthiest things one can ever do and experience in life and can be a path to finding the most profound happiness. This one smacks a little too much like the overdone narcissistic Culture of Self we live in that can be the enemy of healthy relationships. But I get the valid aspect of the point being made. I hope you get the point of what I'm saying on the other side of this coin.

8) If a relationship ends because you’re not treated as you deserve, then heck no, you can't 'be friends.' A friend wouldn't mistreat a friend.

I agree. Friends are friendly. Duh.

9) Don't settle. If you feel like you’re being strung along, then you probably are.

Yeah, no doubt! Why settle for the "best of the worst" when you can learn how to "Attract the Best" of the best?!

10) Don't stay because you think 'it will get better.' You'll be mad at yourself a year later for staying when things are not better.

True. I'm assuming that this list is talking about being in the dating scene, not already married. Because I agree totally with this statement if dating—don't waste your time working on a project person/relationship in dating. Maybe, maybe not in marriage. The truth is that for those who were considering divorce but decided to stay—five years later 69% reported being glad they didn't get divorced. Conversely, those who were considering divorce and did, five years later only 23% reported being glad they did get divorced. So the truth is it often does get better.

11) The only person you can control in a relationship is you.

Yep. But there are effective and ineffective ways to influence your partner. Learn the most effective ways. One of my fav workshops I do is called Animal Training for Humans.

12) Avoid someone who has a bunch of children by a bunch of different people. They didn't take responsibility for the pregnancy, why would you be treated any different?

Uh, yeah. Good one.

13) Always have your own set of friends separate from theirs.

Always? Nah. Watch out for absolutes. But yes, have your own friends, but you don't have to have separate friends. Whatever works is fine so long as the relationship respects each other having friends: shared or separate sets.

14) Maintain boundaries in how you are treated; if something bothers you, speak up.

Boundaries and assertiveness are relationship 101 basics that most neglect or don't even know they should have.

15) Be aware that healthy relationships are built on trust, and that trust takes time to develop. It may be unwise to share too much of yourself and about yourself too quickly. (See 6 above)

Yep. Well said. In dating, slow.

16) You cannot change anyone else's behavior. Change comes from within.

True... except, again see #11 above. You can't change people, but we all influence each other and there are wonderful and healthy ways to positively encourage people to change/improve.

17) Don't EVER allow another to feel they are more important than you, even if they have more education or a better job. And don't ever make another feel less important than you are either.


18) Do not make another into a quasi-god; they are only human, nothing more, nothing less.

Yep. No pedestals.  People are people. No one is your savior—don't put that kind of impossible head trip on someone.

19) Never let another define who you are.


20) A person will only treat you the way you ALLOW them to treat you.

I agree.

21) All people are NOT dogs.

Yep. Reject the whiney victim/martyr mantra "there aren't any good ones left!" Keep that up and you'll prove yourself right. Instead, get off the over-crowded pity pot and learn how to "Attract the Best" (see #9).

22) You should not be the one doing all the bending...compromise is a two-way street.

Yep. It doesn't have to be 50/50 all the time. And we shouldn't be keeping score. However, reciprocity is vital. Equality is essential.

23) You need time to heal between relationships...there's nothing useful about baggage... deal with your issues before pursuing a new relationship.

Yep. Again... SLOW!!!

24) You should never look for someone to COMPLETE you...a relationship consists of two WHOLE individuals...look for someone complimentary...not supplementary.

Yep. I call "You complete me" the Jerry McGuire Myth in my Realistic Expectations Roadmap: Navigating Marital Myths workshop.

25) Dating is fun...even if they don't turn out to be “The One”.

YES! Let a date just be a date. Don't project your whole future into this date or this person. Just enjoy the date and your date's company for what it is: A good time with a nice person. Period. If things develop great. If not then you had a pleasant time.

26) Allow another to miss you sometimes...if they always know where you are all the time, and you're always readily available - You may be taken for granted... remember that you have your own life to live which may not always include them.

Kahlil Gibran wrote one of the best things ever: "Let there be spaces in your togetherness."

27) Don't fully commit to another who doesn't listen to you and try to meet your needs.

Yes. But meet your own needs, too.

Bottom line: It's a pretty good list overall (apart from clarifications as noted) based in setting clear boundaries for yourself and asserting those boundaries.