First of all, I am not an expert on the subject. My emotional resume includes failed as well as successful relationships. I don’t have the time or inclination to date each and every person to formulate what possibly might be a more accurate theory, but I simply offer some basic thoughts.
Next, I think these thoughts apply to all relationships including romantic, familial, friendships, acquaintances, and stranger alike. There are some standards that apply to all, but somehow romantic relationships have some other set of rules. I don’t believe that is true. Once again, this is based on my personal experience.
1) Know your weaknesses and strengths. I think that you really have a good idea about yourself before you can share that with someone else. It is alright to be quirky; we all are. We have to be aware of our own set of rituals, maybe think about why we do things the way we do, and know how we act when we can’t do them. If you know you become short-tempered when you’re tired or hungry or have an irrational fear of clowns, that’s fine. Being able to identify things like that will help you sift through real issue later. Don’t sweat having your quirks. Everyone has them. If they say they don’t, they are either lying or haven’t done their own inventory and might be best left alone. Assuming no one else has emotional baggage of some sort is completely silly.
2) Fight fair – All relationships will have disagreements of some sort. The more time you spend with someone, the more likely you are to see them at ALL points of their emotional, social, and physical range. If leaving wet towels on the floor bothers you enough to say something; then say it in a timely matter. Be as diplomatic as possible. Say it is just something you are used to and express some appreciation if they could stop. Let it go. The idea is to not sit on the problem for weeks/months on end, then blow up the next time it happens. Leaving wet towels on the floor should not also be a springboard into an anger-fueled tirade of everything that person has done wrong for the last 6 months. That is attacking. Namecalling? Attacking! Accusations or implying other non-spoken things? Attacking! It doesn’t mean the relationship is over. In this case, it’s just wet towels. This leads us to…..
3) Respect the other person and their boundaries – Think about the closest friend or family member you have had that you feel genuinely looks out for you. They call you on your stuff when they think you are messing up, but put it in a supportive way. They are also their to share your accomplishments and successes too. A friend also learns and knows what you like and don’t like, and acts in response to that. Here is where trust, honesty, and respect are established. All of it is fostered by communication. You don’t have to be a polished public speaker, but you do have to have an respectful approach when dealing with other people and their feelings. Long lasting relationships are not built on manipulating or using others. People worth knowing and hanging out with aren’t into the extrinsic form of relationships.
4) Never give ultimatums – These are usually given to manipulate someone into doing something else. They are generally given with the expectation that you will pick the answer they want. Relationships, like any natural force on the planet, constantly seeks equilibrium. Anger, hate, violence, control issues, ultimatums, etc. are not settled states. Equilibrium doesn’t mean relinquish all control to the other person. It is a shared balance. Both parties should be able to be themselves, and make their own decisions.
5) Everyone is entitled to their own feelings and emotions – People will feel the way they want to; however, that is not, nor should it be, license to dominate/hit/ threaten/manipulate/control other people. Stressing out is natural, but people need to learn how to identify and express their emotions in a safe, healthy way. Substance abuse (drugs, alcohol) interferes with that expression just as pretending to be victim to feeling emotion. Anyone wound so tightly that they become violent or belligerent upon feeling any anger or anxiety should be a beacon to leave unless it is dealt with an managed with professional help. Giving someone time to deal with it is fine. Not holding them accountable for changing is not fine.
6) Pay attention to some detail – knowing what someone’s favorites are is a simple thing to show that you think about someone. Remembering a conversational tidbit that they like a particular flower or food is a nice tip-of-the-hat when you see them again. However, you have to be careful with this. Something too intimate or personal could be interpreted as stalking or obsession. Unless you want to kill any hope of relationship, serious thought should be kept in keeping things simple. Saying “Hi” in passing to a complete stranger in a Piggly Wiggly supermarket, following them home, and pledging your undying love; that’s just creepy. Seeing someone again who caught your eye at the last party you both went to together, and remembering that she likes Van Gogh paintings; that’s a nice touch. Subtle is good.
7) Building Relationships are like poker games – You just can’t jump in on any table. You should develop a poker face to temper pure excitement from scaring off anyone willing to play, or masking disappointment when things don’t work out. Knowing when to walk away when things don’t look right. Sharing information about yourself is much like the ante up process. You share just enough to match what you think will keep someone interested but not too much to scare off future bids. If someone puts TMI (too much information) on the table, the other people will either feel compelled to share something too personal too match it or may fold (walk away). When you do win, rubbing it in other peoples’s faces is still not cool. When you lose, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be playing. It might mean finding another table to change your luck. Good luck does come into play here, but it has more to do with the willingness to learn skills than wearing a lucky outfit. Pardon the cheesy Kenny Rogers-like analogy, but I think this makes sense.