Ten tips for a stable relationship

There are only so many national security threats a blogger can cover before he needs to create something a bit more uplifting. Valentine’s Day is over, but it’s never too late to go over tips to a successful relationship.

Douglasernstblog.com has never given out such a list, but there’s a first time for everything. Since I’ve been with the same woman for roughly 13 years (with only a few hiccups along the way), I will now give you one recipe for a healthy relationship.

  • Never swear at your significant other. I have often seen couples who will turn towards “asshole” and “bitch” when they’re angry. They say it doesn’t mean anything, but quite frankly it does. It means a lot. No matter how angry you may get at your significant other, it sends a powerful message if you never go down the rout of expletive-laced tirades.
  • Communication. Communication. Communication. This may sound like common sense, but it’s one that everyone — everyone — falls short of on occasion. Think about how many problems could be squashed if we would just be direct and honest with our significant other instead of letting poisonous thoughts swirl around inside our head until they manifest into arguments. A little communication with a lot of tact goes a long way.
  • Your job is not to fundamentally change your significant other. Political junkies will remember the time President Obama said he planned to fundamentally change America. Note: You do not try to fundamentally change something or someone you love. If you see your significant other as a “project” that needs to be fundamentally changed, then you probably should not be in a relationship with that person. People change, but their “core” self (i.e., spirit) is incredibly stable. If you find yourself trying to change your partner’s core traits, then something is probably wrong — with you.
  • Consciously work on growing together so you do not grow apart. If you’ve ever watched ivy growing up a wall (e.g., Chicago’s Wrigley Field), you’ll notice how it can twist and turn and overlap. You and your significant other will change over time, but in many ways you should grow like ivy: you should be separate, but one. Sometimes people fall in love with a very specific person at a very specific moment in time, and then seem to want to keep that person physically, mentally, and spiritually frozen in that moment forever. It doesn’t work. That is why it is important that you fall in love with the “core” or “root” of a person instead of the outer branches of their personality. If you don’t realize that the person you fell in love with at 20 may have many different interests at 30, then you will be in for some painful days down the road.
  • Don’t hold grudges. This is easier said than done for a lot of people, but it’s extremely important. If you can’t “wipe the slate clean” relatively quickly, then it will cause a lot of unnecessary suffering. People do stupid things. Sometimes they almost wreck your car. Sometimes they forget to pay bills. Sometimes they make insensitive comments. If you live in the past, then your present and your future will pay the price.
  • It’s not always about you. If you have always identified with the Peanuts character Lucy van Pelt, there’s a good chance that you will have some rocky romances before finally realizing that a pinch of “Linus” makes relationships run much more smoothly. There is a difference between having a “take charge” attitude and being a bossy jerk. Most people get bossed around at work. The last thing they want is to be ordered around when they come home at night.
  • Stick to your principles. No one likes a push-over. If someone knows your principles, then they may get irritated from time-to-time when a situation demands that you stand firm, but deep down they’ll respect you. You don’t have to have bulging biceps to have a spine of steel — women respect men with backbone.
  • Demand excellence at all times — from yourself. If you are your own toughest critic, then there is a good chance your significant other will never “nag” you. If you exude excellence, then it makes no sense for those around you to harp on the little things — you’ll have already taken care of them.
  • Employ random acts of kindness. Besides the fact that random acts of kindness make you less predictable (in a good way), this sort of behavior has a way of “infecting” the person targeted so that they return the favor. Random acts of kindness create a positive feedback loop that is hard to reverse.
  • Say “I love you” regularly. This may sound strange at first. In fact, your significant other may even sigh with exasperation — but do not relent! If you truly mean it, then they will never get tired of hearing you say those three words. You can never truly love someone too much, but you can definitely love a soul too little. If you exclaim your love every day, then it will yield enormous benefits for years to come.

This is by no means a comprehensive list. These ten tips are simply a few of the things that have helped me sustain a relationship with my girlfriend (now wife) for over a decade. If I’ve left anything out, then feel free to add to it in the comments section below. If you have any questions, then feel free to ask and I’ll do my best to answer.