3 Key Principles All Relationships Need to Survive

Young man giving his girlfriend a piggyback ride on an autumn day.

There are three things you need in every relationship if you want to be completely happy. (Image: Nyul via Dreamstime)

There are many stories on the Internet that will tell you why your relationships are no good or how to meet your soul mate — this is not one of them.

This is a story about what three things all relationships need, whether it’s a marriage, the relationships with your children, or friendships. Without these things, you will not be completely happy, and your relationships will deteriorate over time.

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3 key principles successful relationships require

1. Truthfulness

Honesty is critical when building relationships, and this has significant consequences for you over the short term and long term. It is one of the most difficult lifelong guidelines to follow when dishonesty is a mainstay in society.

To be truthful not only means being honest about things and feelings with others, it also means being honest with yourself. It seems pretty easy; however, it becomes hard when you have the courage to be truthful when others disagree.

If you are not being truthful, your relationships will falter, and people will become suspicious when you share stories.
If you are not being truthful, people will become suspicious when you share stories; they will start to require proof or confirmation from other sources. (Image: kaboompics.com via Pexels)

The truth of the matter is, most people will believe you, that is until they find out you are lying. Once that happens, it is instinctive for people not to believe you anymore, and from then on they will listen with a sense of disbelief. It is at this stage that we start to look at emails and phones to check if that person is still lying, and this is where the main problems start.

If you are not being truthful, people — especially family and friends — will become suspicious when you share stories; they will start to require proof or confirmation from other sources. The more lies you tell or the more careless statements you make, the more validation others will need.

Always remember, there is nothing more precious than your reputation.

2. Tolerance

I have often wondered why it is so difficult for most of us to show tolerance toward others. Tolerance is strength of character, but it can also be a learned behavior.

Is it really so important to have things our way or to win the argument? Walking away with the thought: “I showed him!” Or even: “I’ve really put her in her place this time!” Why is it we are so compelled to have the last word?

Tolerance is fundamental if you want to maintain a relationship of harmony and peace while preserving the differences in people. Most people have a strong competitive streak, which could be part of our genetic makeup, but it has been strongly reinforced by society, which emphasizes winning at any cost.

Unhappy young couple sitting next to each other at the breakfast table.
Why is it we are so compelled to have the last word? (Image: Bill Strain via Flickr)

There may be a thousand reasons why we are intolerant; however, if you are seeking a better relationship then you need to explore why you are. It could stem from not having a voice as a child (being told to be quiet and do whatever you are told), perhaps you were bullied at school and made a conscious decision that no one would do this to you again, or perhaps you even stopped yourself from saying the things you would liked to have said for the sake of keeping the peace.

Either way, you need to get rid of this destructive baggage. If you don’t, your unresolved issues will continue to make not only your life miserable, but also the lives of those you love.

Here are six tips to start being more tolerant:

  1. Let others every so often enjoy the pleasure of being right
  2. Pick your battles wisely
  3. Don’t make things of little importance become major issues
  4. Give others the benefit of the doubt
  5. Remember, people aren’t perfect
  6. Always remember YOU AREN’T PERFECT EITHER

Tolerance is an important attribute to have, which many people do not have, but need.

3. Compassion

Compassion runs to the very heart of good communication and meaningful relationships. Being compassionate involves imagining being in someone else’s shoes and the desire to ease their suffering. However, it does not require fixing problems or agreeing with others.

It’s giving someone your full attention and presence. For example, if your partner feels you’ve ignored them you can feel compassion for their state of mind even when you don’t agree with their perception.

This also means that when someone is angry at you, you should still have compassion toward them. Even when it is hard to show compassion, if you look to see what is driving their anger, you may find there is a good chance to communicate effectively about what really matters to each person.

Closeup of the clasped hands of an African American couple.
Compassion is being able to recognize the humanity in all people, and to accept that all of us have our weaknesses. (Image: Fizkes via Dreamstime)

For example, if your partner is angry, because you are too absorbed in your own activities, by becoming defensive, it simply continues the cycle of anger, with you remaining unaware that the person may feel somewhat abandoned but is unable to admit it.

However, compassion does not mean you have to condone or tolerate abusive behavior; it is possible to have compassion for someone who has hurt you or others, and still hold them accountable for their actions.

Compassion is to recognize the humanity in all people, and to accept that all of us have our weaknesses.

It took the better part of my life to understand these three principles, and now that I have, I am better for it. I hope it may help your relationships, as it has mine.

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