Fulfillment at Any Age

How to remain productive and healthy into your later years

Could New Thinking About Relationships Help Yours?

A new theory of long-term committed relationships proposes that the ability to seek self-expression predicts the greatest chances of its success. The process of achieving self-expression may make the stakes higher, but the potential rewards much more satisfying in the long term. Read More

Far too complicated for my

Far too complicated for my liking! Here is my take on relationship.

Relationship is the means by which at least two people help each other in some way and at some level to achieve a purpose.

Help is instinctive. But help has to have an objective for the value of the help to be realised so the purpose of a relationship should be defined at the onset. That may come over as clinical for a personal loving relationship but actually it's essential. You wouldn't, for example, go into a shop and hand over your money without telling the shopkeeper what you wanted to buy. You wouldn't trust the shopkeeper to know what you wanted without you telling him. So why should your partner have to guess and/or assume what you want when you form a relationship of a personal nature. It really isn't any different.

In my opinion and experience, the secret of successful relationship is to understand and apply the principle of help. If I want something, even if I don't know what it is that I do want, but for whatever reason am stuck or in a quandary, I ask my partner for help. Different people see our situation differently. Whether negative and critical or positive and constructive, they suggest solutions (things) that are helpful in some way and at some level but where relationships go wrong is when the help is rejected by the person on the receiving end misinterpreting a suggestion and dismissing it.

Logic is based on past experience but each experience is new so whenever a situation arises that you're unable to handle or cope with, it may be necessary to change your approach, to be flexible in your outlook. It doesn't matter how illogical the suggestion might sound, the point is that whenever we need help and help is proffered the suggestion should be acted upon without question.

The more adept you are at helping and being helped, the more opportunities for help will come your way, the more your relationship will thrive.

The same principle applies to the relationship you have with yourself. That inner relationship must be in sync with your outer persona. There is no point in trying to be honest with someone if you're unable to be honest with yourself: no point is expressing what you want to someone else if what you really honestly and truly want is different. The need for congruency is vital.

Helping yourself is about trusting your intuition. If in doubt ask yourself and let the answer emerge in a feeling of its own accord. Don't force it, don't get annoyed with yourself, all that does is to delay the process and tie you up in knots (confusion). If you're still unsure then ask a stranger. Don't ask your friends or family, likely they'll respond based on their perception of you i relation to them as distinct from why you truly are. A stranger doesn't come with that sort of emotional baggage and won't care in the same way.

Help given and received isn't necessary the final answer. Help can be stepping stones: in other words a series of different forms of help along the way may be necessary. One person may not have all the answers for you, but they may have at least one to help you get started.

When I met my to-be-wife, i asked what she'd like out of our relationship. She told me, then she asked the same question of me, I told her. To this day, more than 20 years on, the same objectives continue to hold us together happily. We rarely mention the objectives, no need over the years I've helped her in many ways, she's helped me in many ways as well.

Thanks for this great post Susan

Hi Susan, thanks for this great post! I love Finkel's work around attractions and his writings about the Michaelangelo effect. Very glad to read your post--and I very much agree with your take on meaning versus pleasure as a worthy metric of success.

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Susan Krauss Whitbourne, Ph.D., is a Professor of Psychology at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Her latest book is The Search for Fulfillment.

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