17 Things That People Who Are Great in Relationships Do Differently (That Anyone Can Do)

17 Things People Who Are Great At Relationships Do Differently

People are meant to be with people. It’s one of the particularly lovely design features of being human. When we love, we grow, we flourish, we fall, we learn. Relationships can bring out our best or bring out our worst. Sometimes they’ll do both before breakfast. The best people to be with are the ones who inspire us to explore the way we are with people and the world in a way that’s safe enough to own, experiment with and change if we want to.

Being with someone who is great at relationships can feel a bit like magic and a lot like home. The good news is that anyone can learn the lessons they’ve learned and be great at relationships too. Here are the things that people who are good at relationships have learned to do, that anyone can master:

  1. They let themselves be vulnerable.

    They know how to live and love with an open heart. When they let you in close it’s beautiful, and the intimacy and trust flows freely. Being around that kind of person is addictive. They are able to own all of their messy, fragile, uncertain, extraordinarily beautiful parts, making it easy for the people they are with to do the same. There’s nothing like not having to hide. That kind of purity and permission is effortless to be with. They aren’t like it with everyone though, and you know it.

  2. They self-disclose.

    Self disclosure is the essence of intimacy. They’ll talk about their thoughts, ideas, feelings, fears and they’ll ask about yours. It’s important because it signals trust and a desire to be close. Aside from sex, it’s this level of self-disclosure that makes an intimate relationship different to others. It nurtures a fierce understanding of each other and gives a context (not an excuse) to behaviours, moods, feelings, fears and weaknesses, making it less likely that things will be taken personally and that fights and arguments will be given enough spark to to catch fire.

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  3. They aren’t a slave to their past.

    A past. We all have one. People who are great at relationships don’t let it define them or any future relationships they have. They use the past to inform the future, not to drain or burden it. We all make mistakes and we’ve all probably been out with a few, but the people who are great at relationships don’t let bitterness, regret or guilt chomp at their heels and ruin something that could be amazing if they let it. They can move on, let go and are able to see new things with fresh eyes, and not through a filter that is dusty with hurts and heartaches of the past.

  4. They expect to be happy.

    They expect happiness for themselves, their relationships and the person they love. More importantly, they act as though happiness is always on its way, even if it gets delayed by life’s upsets sometimes. People who are great at relationships know they live in the real world and not in a storybook, so they know there will be arguments, bad moods, sadness and sometimes not enough time/money/fun, but they accept that bumps in the road are a setback and a normal part of play, and they are able to look beyond them to whatever better things lie ahead. 

  5. They want you, but they don’t need you.

    Needy people will never bring out the best in anyone, because they’ll take whatever you give and then look for confirmation that it was for them, that you actually meant it, that there’s more coming, and that you’re not giving more to someone else. It’s exhausting. There’s no excitement, there’s no challenge, and there’s no inspiration to be better than you are. People who do relationships with flourish let you know that they’re with you because they want to be – because you’re you and you’re different to everyone else on the planet and they think you’re incredible. They love you because of who they are with you, not because they’re terrified of who they are without you. They just love you.

  6. They own their ‘stuff’.

    They know where they end and where you begin and they won’t try to dump their stuff onto anyone. If they’re cranky, tired, frustrated or angry, they’ll own it. They’ll take full responsibility for their own insecurities, jealousies and whatever else might knock them off track (and yes, they’re human people not human machines so of course they have their bad days/weeks) but they’ll take full responsibility and work towards dealing with it.

  7. They will grow with you, but they don’t need to change you.

    They know who you are. They know who they are. They know what they were signing up for when they thought the combination of the two of you was pretty special. They’ll grow with you when they can, and they’ll support you in the growth you do on your own, but they won’t need to change you.

  8. They give and take. 

    They are able to give and receive with an open heart. It’s a giving that is rich, generous and deliberate, but it’s done with a level of self-respect that doesn’t let them keep giving when nothing comes back. They know they aren’t any good for anyone, especially themselves and the people they love, if they allow their emotional well to run dry because they’re with someone who takes more than they give.

  9. They don’t take themselves too seriously.

    There are some things that make humans particularly wonderful. Laughter is one of them. It helps couples to work through stressful times and to maintain a connection. It’s designed to make us feel better about the world and closer to the ones we’re next to in it. Laughter shows people that you understand them, like them, love them and people who are great at relationships don’t hold back on any of these.

  10. They let you know.

    They’re quick to let you know when you’re getting it right. They’re grateful, observant, available and present. They don’t need to outshine you and they’ll be your greatest cheer squad, celebrating you and the things you do. They’re quick to let you know that they’re proud of you, that they appreciate you and that they think you’re pretty great to be with. Yep. They can be pretty irresistible like that.

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  11. They’ll put you first.

    They know that if they put you first, and you put them first, you’re onto a winning formula for something extraordinary. They don’t keep score – that’s one of the great things about them – but be careful if there’s nothing going back their way. They’re not stupid and when it gets to the point that they’re giving too much more than they’re receiving, they’ll be done.

  12. They do what they say.

    They’re accountable and they aren’t into games, because they know with games there is always a loser. They’ll be where they tell you they’re going to be, they’ll call when they say they will, and if they’re keeping secrets, don’t worry – it will be because they’re organising a special surprise.

  13. They love like loving you is easy.

    Love can be hard work but it should never feel like it takes more than it gives. When you’re in a relationship with someone who does relationships well, you never have to guess where you stand. They’ll let you know by the things they do, the things they say, and the way you feel around them. Love was never meant to be a guessing game.

  14. They talk about the stuff that matters.

    They keep the small talk for the small stuff and aren’t afraid to dive into the deeper things. They’ll trust you enough to talk about the things that matter to them, and they’ll want to be close enough to you to notice what’s important to you. They’ll ask about things, explore things, and be open to whatever beautiful depths a conversation leads to. And they’ll happily go there with you. They’ll even lead the way if you want them to.

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  15. They hold you when you want to be held and touch you when you want to be touched.

    Physical intimacy is so important in a relationship. It releases oxytocin (the bonding chemical) reduces cortisol (the stress hormone), communicates love and is the most nurturing thing in the universe. It’s not just the deliberate types of touches like sex, kissing, holding, but the incidental ones too – the stroke as you walk past, brushing hands, touching your back as they walk behind you – it’s beautiful, life giving and will strengthen a connection like nothing else on the planet.

  16. They’re committed to working through an argument rather than proving they’re right.

    They know that both people can be wrong and both people can be right – sometimes at the same time. They work with the data rather than the emotion, and they know that even more important than anyone’s version of the facts is how each of you feel about those facts. If you’re jaded about something that was hissed at you in an unguarded moment, you won’t hear, ‘But I was just trying to explain that I’ve stacked the dishwasher every night this week and that you haven’t done it at all. Geez why is everything a personal attack with you!’ Instead, they’ll apologise for the snap and if there’s something you need to hear, they’ll do it with love and generous intent and in a way that keeps you connected, rather than in a way that propels you to pack a bag and call your sister.

  17. They love you the way you want to be loved.

    Not everyone wants to be loved the same way. Knowing someone intimately enough to love them the way they want to be loved, and caring about them enough to do that is the formula for a relationship that will last a thousand Sundays.

People who are great at relationships have a way of making the person they’re with feel a little bit smarter, funnier, stronger, more beautiful – a little bit more able to take on the world and win. The relationship is close, intimate and loving and seem effortless. Of course no relationship is actually effortless – all take work and a willingness to give, receive, grow and maybe do some things a little differently – but things that are meant to last forever were never meant to be rushed.

6 Comments

Julie

This is one of the most important and insightful articles I have ever read. Brillant! So much to take away. I loved it because it also allows for a person to see that they are not behaving this way in the relationship and to examine WHY not. Everyone in or thinking about being in a relationship needs to read this. Thank you so much.

Reply
Olami Tunde

this is a great thoughts and ideas… am so glad i can see myself as a great lover cos i show all to the person i get involve with. as u said life isnt a storybook, so i have my own ups and downs but it doesnt affect my relationship

Reply
Elise Wolfe

I’m happy to realize that I do most of these things, but i sometimes overthink things, and while I hope for the best, I prepare for the worst. I’m going work on adopting #4. That’s beautiful.

Reply
Linda

Good positive ideas, thoughts and wishes. Where are these perfect people? I am curious about the age of who wrote this article.

Reply
Hey Sigmund

Thank you Linda! As for age … old enough to know that there are no perfect people, that there are great ones all around the place, and that anyone can move closer to being ‘perfect enough’ for the right person if they want to.

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Growth doesn’t always announce itself in ways that feel safe or invited. Often, it can leave us exhausted and confused and with dirt in our pores from the fury of the battle. It is this way for all of us, our children too. 

The truth of it all is that we are all born with a profound and immense capacity to rise through challenges, changes and heartache. There is something else we are born with too, and it is the capacity to add softness, strength, and safety for each other when the movement towards growth feels too big. Not always by finding the answer, but by being it - just by being - safe, warm, vulnerable, real. As it turns out, sometimes, this is the richest source of growth for all of us.
When the world feel sunsettled, the ripple can reach the hearts, minds and spirits of kids and teens whether or not they are directly affected. As the important adult in the life of any child or teen, you have a profound capacity to give them what they need to steady their world again.

When their fears are really big, such as the death of a parent, being alone in the world, being separated from people they love, children might put this into something else. 

This can also happen because they can’t always articulate the fear. Emotional ‘experiences’ don’t lay in the brain as words, they lay down as images and sensory experiences. This is why smells and sounds can trigger anxiety, even if they aren’t connected to a scary experience. The ‘experiences’ also don’t need to be theirs. Hearing ‘about’ is enough.

The content of the fear might seem irrational but the feeling will be valid. Think of it as the feeling being the part that needs you. Their anxiety, sadness, anger (which happens to hold down other more vulnerable emotions) needs to be seen, held, contained and soothed, so they can feel safe again - and you have so much power to make that happen. 

‘I can see how worried you are. There are some big things happening in the world at the moment, but my darling, you are safe. I promise. You are so safe.’ 

If they have been through something big, the truth is that they have been through something frightening AND they are safe, ‘We’re going through some big things and it can be confusing and scary. We’ll get through this. It’s okay to feel scared or sad or angry. Whatever you feel is okay, and I’m here and I love you and we are safe. We can get through anything together.’
I love being a parent. I love it with every part of my being and more than I ever thought I could love anything. Honestly though, nothing has brought out my insecurities or vulnerabilities as much. This is so normal. Confusing, and normal. 

However many children we have, and whatever age they are, each child and each new stage will bring something new for us to learn. It will always be this way. Our children will each do life differently, and along the way we will need to adapt and bend ourselves around their path to light their way as best we can. But we won't do this perfectly, because we can't always know what mountains they'll need to climb, or what dragons they'll need to slay. We won't always know what they’ll need, and we won't always be able to give it. We don't need to. But we'll want to. Sometimes we’ll ache because of this and we’ll blame ourselves for not being ‘enough’. Sometimes we won't. This is the vulnerability that comes with parenting. 

We love them so much, and that never changes, but the way we feel about parenting might change a thousand times before breakfast. Parenting is tough. It's worth every second - every second - but it's tough. Great parents can feel everything, and sometimes it can turn from moment to moment - loving, furious, resentful, compassionate, gentle, tough, joyful, selfish, confused and wise - all of it. Great parents can feel all of it.

Because parenting is pure joy, but not always. We are strong, nurturing, selfless, loving, but not always. Parents aren't perfect. Love isn't perfect. And it was meant to be. We’re raising humans - real ones, with feelings, who don't need to be perfect, and wont  need others to be perfect. Humans who can be kind to others, and to themselves first. But they will learn this from us. Parenting is the role which needs us to be our most human, beautifully imperfect, flawed, vulnerable selves. Let's not judge ourselves for our shortcomings and the imperfections, and the necessary human-ness of us.❤️
The behaviour that comes with separation anxiety is the symptom not the problem. To strengthen children against separation anxiety, we have to respond at the source – the felt sense of separation from you.

Whenever there is separation from an attachment person, there will be always be anxiety unless there is at least one of 2 things: attachment with another trusted, adult; or a felt sense of you holding on to them, even when you aren’t beside them. 

If separation is the problem, connection has to be the solution. The connection can be with any loving adult, but it needs more than an adult being present. Just because there is another adult in the room, doesn’t mean your child will experience a deep sense of safety with that adult. This doesn’t mean the adult isn’t safe - it’s about what the brain perceives, and that brain is looking for a deep, felt sense of safety. This will come from the presence of an adult who, through their strong, loving presence, shows the child their abundant intention to care for them, and their joy in doing so. The joy in caretaking is important. It lets the child rest from seeking the adult’s care because there will be a sense that the adult wants it enough for both.

This can be helped along by showing your young one that you trust the adult to love and care for your child and keep him or her safe in your absence: ‘I know [important adult] loves you and is going to take such good care of you.’ This doesn’t mean children will instantly feel the attachment, but the path towards that will be more illuminated.

To help them feel you holding on even when you aren’t with them, let them know you’ll be thinking of them and can’t wait to be with them again. I used to tell my daughter that every 15 seconds, my mind makes sure it knows where she is. Think of this as ‘taking over’ their worry. ‘You don’t have to worry about you or me because I’m taking care of both of us – every 15 seconds.’ This might also look like giving them something of yours to hold on to while you’re gone – a scarf, a note. You will always be their favourite way to safety, but you can’t be everywhere. Another loving adult or the felt presence of you will help them rest.
Sometimes it can be hard to know what to say or whether to say anything at all. It doesn’t matter if the ‘right’ words aren’t there, because often there no right words. There are also no wrong ones. Often it’s not even about the words. Your presence, your attention, the sound of your voice - they all help to soften the hard edges of the world. Humans have been talking for as long as we’ve had heartbeats and there’s a reason for this. Talking heals. 

It helps to connect the emotional right brain with the logical left. This gives context and shape to feelings and helps them feel contained, which lets those feelings soften. 

You don’t need to fix anything and you don’t need to have all the answers. Even if the words land differently to the way you expected, you can clean it up once it’s out there. What’s important is opening the space for conversation, which opens the way to you. Try, ‘I’m wondering how you’re doing with everything. Would you like to talk?’ 

And let them take the lead. Some days they’ll want to talk about ‘it’ and some days they’ll want to talk about anything but. Whether it’s to distract from the mess of it all or to go deeper into it so they can carve their way through the feeling to the calm on the other side, healing will come. So ask, ‘Do you want to talk about ‘it’ or do you want to talk about something else? Because I’m here for both.’ ♥️
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