Updated: Sep 8
First, the DON'TS
As we say in our book long recognized as essential—Our Love Is Too Good to Feel So Bad—the most important thing for maintaining a healthy relationship is daily maintenance. You know, the stuff you do and the stuff you steer clear of doing every day. Like how with your body you brush your teeth and try to get some exercise every day, and how every day you try not to fall down a flight of stairs or do hard drugs.
Let’s start with the don’ts.
Look, we didn’t invent these, and I’m not wagging my finger at you. You do whatever the hell you want in your relationship. But, please, just don’t shoot the messenger: me. I’m just reporting what works and what fucks things up. These don’ts are don’ts because they turn good relationships bad and make iffy relationships worse. So...don’t do them!!
Now, look. I’m a realist. I do some of these don’ts! So I’m not perfect. What am I saying then? Do them as little as possible, as seldom as possible, and when you do do any of them, acknowledge that, apologize, and make up for it. And try to figure out a way to do less in the future.
You don’t have to be perfect. But we all can do better.
Now here’s a great suggestion. Sit down with your partner with this list of don’ts and ask each other, “Out of all these 10 don’ts, what are the 3 you think I need to work on the most?”
Then focus on those areas! Believe me, you’ve just gotten some really helpful feedback.
Now some of the items on the list might sound as though I’m asking you to not to share or even have your feelings. Don’ts like Don’t put each other down, Don’t complain, Don’t say bad things to each other.
I’m NOT saying not to have your feelings. I AM saying, hey, you’re unhappy? You have a grievance or an unmet need? Fine. But instead of leading with anger, resentment, misery, hostility, negativity, why not lead with what will work best: talking about what you need and why you need it?
If you need help with making this work for you—and lots of people do—that’s why we wrote WHY COUPLES FIGHT! There is a good way to get your needs met, and none of the things on the Don’ts list are it.
For happy couples in successful relationships, this list of don’ts isn’t a one-time thing. It’s an on-going project, never perfected but never lost sight of. A joint project. Because you two are in it together.
Up soon: the 10 Do’s for having a lasting and happy relationship.