7 Vital Choices for Happy Relationships

Happy Couple Jumping

“Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage.” ~Lao Tzu

A little over a decade ago I thought I was going to marry my college sweetheart and become a young bride, which made it all the more devastating when happily ever after didn’t pan out. When we broke up, I felt literally like I lost a limb, complete with phantom sensations of his hand in mine.

It didn’t take long for a dark guilt to bubble up—a constant festering reminder of all the mistakes I’d made. I was highly unstable and insecure back then, and most of my relationships revolved around holding me up.

In the ruins of that romance, I didn’t know what scared me more—that someone else might hurt me again, or that I might hurt them enough first to deserve it.

I simultaneously felt an aching need to fill in the hole where he’d been and an overwhelming sense of nausea at the thought of being with someone else.

For eight years I ping ponged from fling to fling and extreme to extreme—putting myself out there far too soon or completely hiding my authentic self; expecting mountains to move or anticipating the worst; choosing the wrong people and refusing to let go, or choosing the right people and running away.

In each case, I either burdened the guy with a body bag full of my fears and insecurities, or dragged it around myself wondering why dating felt so exhausting.

I learned every lesson the hard way, after first proving myself completely insane by doing the same things and over and over again and expecting different results.

I’m now in a peaceful, loving relationship, and I realize the journey to this connection had more to do with loving myself than finding him. No relationship with someone else can ever compensate for secretly believing you don’t deserve it.

While I by no means know everything, I feel the hard part isn’t knowing what makes a healthy, happy relationship, but actually applying that knowledge consistently. It’s a lot easier to make a laundry list of lessons than it is to put them into practice, especially when heightened emotions are involved.

So I’ve done something a little different to explore the different ideas that support healthy relationships. As I often do, I put a question out to the Tiny Buddha Facebook page: what’s the key to a happy relationship?

I took a sampling of hundreds of responses and grouped them into seven tips. For each one, I listed a few simple ways to apply those ideas right now. If you’re not currently in a romantic relationship, a lot of these can still apply to the other relationships in your life.

7 Important Vital Choices for Happy Relationships

1. Practice self-love first.

It seems like you can only have happy relationships if you can be happy with or without them. ~Erika Gonzalez

Know that it is not the other person’s job to make you happy. The only person who can do that is you! ~Christi Emmons

The ultimate kicker: be honest with yourself about who you are. ~Kelly Bell

Know that you can be yourself and still be accepted. The best relationship is when you bring out the best in each other, and you are purely content when neither has anything to say. ~Stephanie Schwenning

Take it off the page:

  • Work on forgiving yourself. The past is the past and you deserve to put it behind you, but no one else can let it go for you.
  • Be good to yourself today. Practice yoga, meditate, or take a walk.

2. Focus on compatibility.

Be best friends first. ~Wendy Nicholson

Have an incredible “like” for each other. ~Diane Bateman

Have shared (or at least compatible) values and communication. Everything else can be forgiven, accepted, or put aside; however, values are the root of how we relate to all beings. ~Frank Ra

Find the person who inspires you to be a better you, and always encourage them to become the best them. ~Corinne Morrill

Take it off the page:

  • If you’re single, do something social that you love. You’re more likely to meet compatible people if you get out there and foster your  interests.
  • If you’re in a relationship, spend some time sharing something you both enjoy. My boyfriend and I met at karaoke, so singing together is a great way to connect.
  • If you’re in a relationship with someone and it always feels like hard work, ask yourself: Are you trying to jam a square peg into a round hole? It can be scary to walk away from the wrong person, but it’s the only possibility of meeting someone who will feel right.

3. Practice acceptance.

Accept that not everyone or everything is perfect. We are all perfectly flawed. ~Simon Kirk

Be non-demanding of your partner—partners don’t tell each other what to do. ~John Bigl

Mutual adoration and acceptance of the differences that make each of you individuals are keys to a phenomenal relationship. ~Casey Kimes

Happiness is a choice, as are all things in life. I choose to see and feel grateful for all of the best qualities in my partner, rather than focusing on shortcomings. ~Emily Roberts

Take it off the page:

  • If you feel yourself focusing on everything someone appears to be doing wrong, ask yourself if there’s something else upsetting you. It’s easier to blame other people than it is to look in ourselves, but oftentimes that’s where the problem is.
  • If you feel like changing something about someone else today, ask yourself what change you can make in yourself instead. If you feel unappreciated, show appreciation. It’s more empowering and productive to show people how to treat us than to complain about what’s lacking.
  • If there’s something you just can’t accept, ask yourself if you’re willing to walk away because of it. We can’t change other people, but we can change our relationship to them.

4. Have realistic expectations.

Don’t expect it to be happy all the time. ~Stephanie Goddard

Don’t sweat the small things and speak up when it really is important to you. ~Elizabeth Sadhu

Remember that it isn’t always happy, but get through those not so happy moments together or apart, whichever is needed. ~Jessica Duff

Keep realistic standards for each other. ~Ashna Singh

Take it off the page:

  • Notice when you’re projecting something onto the other person that has nothing to do with them, like a fear from a past relationship. Then make an effort to let it go.
  • Recognize when you’re looking for that person to do something for you that you need to do for yourself, like make you feel lovable or take care of your needs. Then release those expectations and do it for yourself.

5. Be kind in words and deeds.

Think about the person’s feelings before you speak or criticize them. ~Dana Brewer Covey

Have a fast ear and a slow tongue. ~Mark Ward

Have compassion and grow together, not apart, as the years go on. ~Krista Tverdak

Love must be bigger and stronger than anything else. Never keep any record of your partner’s mistakes and faults and be ready to forgive. ~Mel Escobar

Take it off the page:

  • See the other person as if for the first time. It’s all too easy to take someone for granted. Really notice all the wonderful things they do, and let them know what you see.
  • If you get frustrated with each other, ask yourself, “Will this really matter after I’ve cooled down?”

6. Be honest.

Talk about things that leave you vulnerable from the heart. ~Cheryl Floyed

Compromise and dream together. ~ Becca Stinson

From my grandparents, who have been happily married for sixty years: the three C’s: caring, communication, and compromise. ~Emily Larsen

Don’t sweat the small stuff, and if something really is bothering you talk about it in a calm controlled manner. Leave drama in the theaters and movies. ~Ben Reyna

Take it off the page:

  • Open up about something that you’ve been keeping to yourself. It doesn’t have to be big and dramatic. People can only be there for us if we let them.
  • If something’s on your mind, express it without implying the other person is responsible for your feelings.

7. Remember to act.

When you’re bored, do something about it. ~Ernie Somers

Adjust to change. Adjust to moods, lifestyle changes, and new additions, and always remember to love. ~Elysia Cordero

The rest comes and goes as we change and grow and struggle, but being able to laugh together brings you back together. ~Kerry Kokkinogenis

Have rich individual pursuits and pursue things together. ~Laura Texera

Take it off the page:

  • If you haven’t in a while, take time to do your own thing today—completely on your own or with friends.
  • Take time to laugh together, whether it’s watching funny YouTube videos or trying something new together.
  • If you feel dissatisfied with your life, don’t assume it’s your relationship. What other adjustments could you make to feel happier with your place in the world? Maybe you need to take a small step toward a hobby or more fulfilling job.

And lastly…

Start over again and again. ~Miguel Angel Carrillo Infante

It’s a new day—a new chance to practice giving and receiving love.

This post originally appeared on the site in 2011. Some of the Facebook responses were slightly edited for spelling; some were part of longer responses with more detail. Happy couple image via Shutterstock

About Lori Deschene

Lori Deschene is the founder of Tiny Buddha and Recreate Your Life Story, an online course that helps you let go of the past and live a life you love. Her latest bookTiny Buddha's Gratitude Journal, which includes 15 coloring pages, is now available for purchase. For daily wisdom, follow Tiny Buddha on Twitter, Facebook & Instagram..

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  • You know a lot of people say you should learn to forgive. I’ve come to learn that forgiveness is easy, and relationships need it big time. If eye for an eye was a real rule, all the people in the world would be blind. Forgive, for better relationships.

  • Jen

    This was great timing for me. I’ve been having a lot of second guesses and doubt about my 4 year relationship. I realized this morning the second guessing and doubts wasn’t about the relationship, but about myself. This post helped me get from that realization to starting to form a plan.

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  • Stlblugrl

    I really liked this.. very good read.. thanx Tracey

  • Paul

    Osho said relationships have stopped. He said: “Relating means you are always starting.” “That is the joy of love: the exploration of consciousness. And if you relate, and don’t reduce it to a relationship, then the other will become a mirror to you.”

  • Lori, I very much appreciated both the vulnerability you shared at the beginning of the article, and the wonderful, thoughtful compilation of lessons (choices), quotes, and actions we can do. Thank you!

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  • Meg

    I really like reading Tiny Buddha, I find little truths that I apply to my life in patchwork fashion. The only problem is I seem to have to relearn these truths every so often instead of keeping them in perspective. I relearn/relive my divorce that I truly can’t seem to leave behind, it’s been 5 years but something somewhere isn’t right. I didn’t really realize this until I read “No relationship with someone else can ever compensate for secretly believing you don’t deserve it” I burst into tears from nowhere because this is how I feel, I don’t deserve to be happy, I don’t deserve someone good. Now I just have to figure out why.

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  • Love this! Will be tweeting and posting to the high heavens. Thanks for such a moving, personal and then down right ACTIONABLE post!

  • Hi Jen,

    I think a lot of people associate doubts about their lives with doubts about their relationships. I know I have done that many times before. For me, it was easier to point the finger at the person closest to me than it was to really evaluate what I wanted in my life and what was holding me back. Thanks for reading and commenting. I’m so glad you found this post helpful!


  • Hi Meg,

    Thanks for your willingness to open up about your own experiences. I think a lot of us believe that we don’t deserve happiness and love. I know that feeling well! It’s only compounded when we look back at mistakes we think we made and feel a sense of regret or shame.

    What’s helped me is to look at myself as if I were my sister. She’s made a ton of relationship mistakes, but I still believe she deserves the greatest love this world can offer her. I would never label her, shame her, or focus on everything she may have done wrong. From there I remind myself that if I can give that love to her, I can give it to myself.

    Another thing I sometimes do when I start beating myself up in my head is remember my cute little 5-year-old face. I would never judge or hurt that little girl, so I shouldn’t do it to her two-and-a-half decades later.

    I wish you well on your continued journey!

  • I love that quote. It’s so true! I think forgiveness is one of the most important keys to happiness in life. Whenever we let go of anger or pain, we make room for something that feels better.

  • You are most welcome! Thank you for reading Denise. I’m so glad you enjoyed it. =)

  • Thanks Trisha–and you’re most welcome! I’ve learned to open up more with my blogging this past year, and I appreciate the opportunity to do that. =)

  • Hi Paul,

    I’ve read something similar before, though I can’t remember where–that there are no “relationships,” just relating to other people. I think it’s an interesting idea–that the relationship starts anew with each interaction. Thank you for sharing the Osho quote!


  • Thanks Tracey. I’m glad you enjoyed it!

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  • Vanessa

    I wish I had focused on #6 Be Honest especially since I’ve been a victim of dishonesty in the past. Then I wouldn’t have pushed away and hurt someone who truly loved and cared about me more than anything.

  • Rui Guimaraes

    The only way available for a long lasting relationship is respect. If a couple looses respect they loose everything. The weding is the worst enemy because it creates the false idea that both husband and wife have some kind of possesion rights over each other. Acting this way, the right for freedom is violated and the friendship starts to fade away and will die sooner than expected. The best relationship between humans is the real loving one that assures enough space for the needs of each single individual. Love and freedom is the best combination, you can love a person deeply but cannot place a human being in a cage like some do with birds. If you go out and people look at your wife, lover or girlfriend feel happiness and comfort your soul because that means you have chosen a very attractive and sexy friend to share the best moments of your life. That’s real happiness.

  • Hi Vanessa,

    I’m sorry to hear about what happened. I think honesty is tough for a lot of us because it can be such a vulnerable feeling. I’ve pushed a lot of people away in fear of them later rejecting me. In some cases, being honest after the fact helped. I don’t know your situation so it’s tough to say if that would be true in your case. But perhaps it isn’t too late to be honest and start anew?

    If it is, in fact, time to move on, I’m sure there will be someone else who cares about you just as much, and at that point you’ll be ready to take the risk of being honest. I used to think love was in short supply, but I’ve come to believe there are any number of compatible people for all of us. When we’re ready to truly put ourselves out there, love finds us. It’s a tough thing to focus on when you still have strong feelings for someone else. What’s helped me in the past was to remember I will feel that way–and maybe even stronger–for someone else down the line.

    Wishing you well,

  • Thanks for sharing your insights! I think you hit the nail on the head with respect, freedom, and space. These are all things that have crossed my mind as I consider the possibility of marriage in my future. I think they key to enduring happiness as a couple is to remember your time together is a choice, not a legal responsibility.

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  • Cynthia Hall

    Sharing interests, respecting diferences, and being grateful for each other have been key in keeping our relationship going for 26 years.

  • Cynthia Hall

    Sharing interests, respecting diferences, and being grateful for each other have been key in keeping our relationship going for 26 years.

  • Cynthia Hall

    Sharing interests, respecting diferences, and being grateful for each other have been key in keeping our relationship going for 26 years.

  • Sandy

    I went through the same experience as you. I was with someone for 4 years and he just couldn’t move towards marriage with me. I went through 2 years thinking it was me and punishing myself and the current guy I am with for what happened. I finally realized that I had to love myself before I could ever love someone else and did quite a bit of soul searching. Today, I am so glad I went through that experience or I may never have been able to find and understand my true authentic self. Love your site! Thank you for sharing your wonderful wisdom! I learn something new and valuable everytime I read your blogs. Namaste!

  • Hi Sandy,

    I’m so happy for your conclusion about loving yourself! I’ve been learning that in much the same way as we need to fall in love with our partners over and over again, we need to do the same for ourselves–continually acknowledge and celebrate the good we are and do. It seems that this is one of the keys to healthy relationships–loving ourselves even when it feels hard. Thank you for reading and sharing some of your experience!


  • Erika Gonzalez

    Thank you for this. It reminds me of a great Marianne Williamson quote ” We are reborn in any given moment when we do not take the past with us.”

  • I love that quote! Thank you for sharing it here.

  • Michelle

    Wow! So many great reminders! Thanks for getting them all down!

  • You are most welcome. Thank you for reading! =)

  • Rachael

    I have just come out of a relationship where the other person had to move to another country for work. Whilst I can appreciate the advice from Tiny Buddha and I am getting on with my life I am still finding it hard to accept that the other person wasn’t completely honest with me about the amount of time he would be out there and I feel I was ‘strung along’ for the last 2 months of our relationship and lead to believe we would make it work. Do you have any advice on how to accept the other person’s lack of honesty?
    Thank you

  • Hi Rachael,

    I’m so sorry to hear about your disappointment. There’s a lot I don’t know about the situation so it’s hard to offer advice. You might find this post helpful:

    The section on letting go of anger specifically. One thing that’s helped me when someone’s been dishonest or hurtful is to remember that even if I feel justified, holding on is a choice to torture myself–and only I can make the choice to stop.

    I hope this helps!

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  • Dani

    This post is exactly what I needed. I have been working on not taking things out on my boyfriend that are in reality things I am struggling with about myself. It’s so hard in the heat of the moment to step back and look at the bigger picture.
    This has given me some great tools to try to appy to my life.
    Thank you.

  • Dani

    This post is exactly what I needed. I have been working on not taking things out on my boyfriend that are in reality things I am struggling with about myself. It’s so hard in the heat of the moment to step back and look at the bigger picture.
    This has given me some great tools to try to appy to my life.
    Thank you.

  • Hi Dani,

    I’m glad you found this helpful! I work on a lot of these things in my relationship, and I’m finding it helpful, particularly when it comes to acceptance and expectations.

    Have a wonderful evening =)

  • This is great Lori. I’m currently attempting to build a relationship with a guy and it comes with a lot of fear and also a lot of excitement. Therapy has really helped me to talk something out and then not dwell on it–so I’m working on still being myself (which I have worked really hard at for a long time) and still being ready to be with this guy. This post really helped me to remember some key things I want to do well if our relationship progresses. Thanks!

  • You’re most welcome Grace! That’s wonderful that you’re working through old issues and being yourself. I think that’s the best we can do with any relationship. It sounds like this one is off to a wonderful start. =)

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  • Sunny

    Thank you so much for putting this out there.  I’ve been on this journey to self-acceptance it seems my whole life.  This article couldn’t have been read any other time in my life with such an impact it had on me now.  Thank you for your words!

  • You are most welcome, Sunny. I’ve been on that same journey. I’m glad this was helpful to you! =)

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  • Matiasluz69

    I’ve been in a relationship for 4yrs. I now I love him but I don’t trust him for things that have happened in the past. I’ve tried to overcome them but I still seam to hold them against him. Help

  • alejandra

    So I been dating this guy not for long and hes head over heels for me but I’m not like sometimes im very happy with him but then i get in these phases like i don like you I’m not happy I should end it because its never going to wotk out and my excuse for everything is because I have this wall up from this guy i was on love with head over heels so i jave never felt that for a guy so idk if I shpuld break up with him or not because of me having this feeling of unhappiness

  • Bene

    I was crushed when my lover of three years left to be with another woman. I cried and sobbed every day, until it got so bad that I reached out to the Internet for help. I threw away so much money – all for nothing – until I hit on the real thing. And that is you, Dr. Lametu. You were different from all the rest – you are the diamond in the rough. Thank you from the depths of my soul! I am extremely happy now. I hope God blesses you as much as He has blessed me. Meet him for real help via

  • Carla

    I’ve been in a relationship for five years and we are talking about marriage but I’m not sure anymore. I love him but not head over heels like before. He recently started trying really hard to keep me happy after not trying for so long. I don’t know what to do. He has also let his family disrespect me and never apologized but I let it go or maybe not. Again I love him.

  • MATA

    my break up, I sat in my bed all day, every day. I cried constantly I
    actually started to Google ways to get over a broken heart, and that’s
    when I found your email I just wanted to thank you so much for your
    help. It has gotten me through a lot, and I appreciate it immensely
    thank you for bringing my husband back to me and our kids thank you
    drlawrencespelltemple@hotmail. com you are truly a blessing.

  • lisa

    i have been in a relationship with my boyfriend for 2 years and he’s not affectionate whereas i am very affectionate and its starting to put a strain on things and when i told him i was not happy he said that he couldnt be affectionate because thats not him, so now im really hurt and confused on whether or not to stay

  • Kimber235

    My husband has decided that he wants to end our marriage after 13 years and 21 years together. I admit, I took him for granted. He is a very sensitive person and I pushed him away since having our second child 5 years ago. He dropped this bomb on me 1 1/2 years ago and after a roller coaster of, “I’m staying…I’m going…I’m staying…I’m going” he decided that we have too much to give up on. Honestly, we are best friends and things got very stagnant. We were still intimate but it was very routine and expected. We spent very little (if any) time alone with each other. This was killing our relationship in his eyes but he didn’t tell me how he felt until he “was done”. I completely owned my part of our relationship demise. I changed myself, not only for him, but for myself and my children.

    There was a small bump in the road 6 mos after this. I found an explicit email from a co-worker who had helped him through his rough patch with me some months before. I was devastated and was convinced this was the reason why he wanted to leave the year before. He was adamant that the emails were just that. Most people would probably tell me I am crazy for believing him but I do. He begged me to forgive him and not leave.

    Needless to say, it has been a hard 8 months since I saw this email. A roller coaster again of emotions for me. Do I trust him when he is traveling for work? Out playing hockey? It has been really tough. Now he, again, is saying that it isn’t working and he wants to leave! HE wants to leave.

    After all of this, he is still showing me affection and initiating intimacy with me. I have told him that I will never push him away because I love him and want our marriage. He flip flops between pulling away and pulling me close. He says he still loves me but is not “in love” with me. He finds me attractive. He says he is unhappy.

    I am convinced that he is unhappy with himself and blaming the relationship. I told him that I am worried about him because whatever is making him unhappy is not going to go away with a divorce. I have secretly been talking to his family and they agree and are worried about him. When and if he leaves, he will have more bills to pay, more headaches to deal with in being a single parent and it is all for nothing. We still laugh together, cuddle and are intimate. If the relationship is over, shouldn’t this be too?

    I am at a loss as to what to do. I have expressed these feelings to him. The last time he really seemed to listen and said he would talk to a therapist before he made any hasty decisions. He hasn’t told me he has went or tried to make an appointment. He seems to be doing nothing! The last thing he told me was that “he can honestly say he doesn’t know where this is going and he can admit that” which to me means that he isn’t sure it is the relationship causing the unhappiness. But now I feel he is doing nothing and holding this family hostage until he decides to do something.

    I’ll add, this all happened 1 month ago, with his realization he may need to see a therapist 2 weeks ago. I noticed that he is still actively looking for an apartment/house even after everything has been said.

    What do I do?

  • Hi Kimber,

    I’m so sorry to hear about everything that’s happened. It sounds like right now, there’s not much you can do–unless you decide to leave him. If you want to save the marriage, and he’s living in this wishy washy place where he hasn’t yet decided what he wants, it’s somewhat on his timeline.

    I know this might not be what you want to hear–and I absolutely understand why–but perhaps a trial separation will help him find some clarity. Maybe him looking for a new space is the best chance for your marriage, since it would allow him to experience life on his own and determine if that’s really what he wants.

    I know you mentioned him seeing a therapist. Have you ever asked him about marriage counseling? Maybe this would you both understand the best way to move forward–for the relationship, and for each of you individually.

    You are in my thoughts…


  • Kimber235

    Thanks Lori!

    We did see a therapist once but we were at a really good place. He was completely committed to working things out and we were both on the same page and the therapist agreed we should continue working together and only come back to see him if things were looking down. It took everything to get him to agree to go. I feel he is afraid of what someone may say if they get my version of what is actually going on.

    I am very afraid that he is depressed. From what I have researched, men often show irritability, place blame on the person closest to them and withdraw from that person. This is him to a tee. I am worried that if we do separate, his depression (if this is what he has) will worsen to a clinical depression. He has a strong family history of mental health issues. He says that he has talked to a professional. I am skeptical of this. His work has coverage in the same office that is covered by my work so he doesn’t want to go there (it would be different therapists so don’t see the problem). He works at a college where social work is taught and I fear he is seeing someone that teaches and doesn’t actually work in the counselling field. The person he saw told him that if he was depressed, there would be no way that he would be able to perform his job as successfully as he does. From my research, this appears to be completely the opposite of how men deal with depression. They say that men often throw themselves into their work as an escape. This makes me question the “therapist’s” qualifications…if he has seen anyone at all.

    His mother called him to talk to him tonight. She has very real fears for him. She is worried that if he doesn’t recognize his problems, he may try to do something to himself. I am not so convinced that he would be capable of doing this. She is though…to the point where she panicked because more rings than usual went through before he picked up. When she told him she was concerned about his mental health, he became upset with her. He is upset that everyone thinks he is depressed because it has been brought up before.

    As far as he knows I am unaware of this discussion. He suggested that he still doesn’t know where things are going with us. We are in limbo and it is torturing me. I want this to work out so bad. I don’t want to make any sudden movements for fear of scaring him. I also know that I can’t live like this forever.

  • I can only imagine how stressful this has been for you. I hope he finds some clarity soon–about his condition and about your marriage. You are in my thoughts!

  • sana

    ohmygawwwd…i was at d deadline to make “the” decision today and to just move on frm my guy whom i have been dating for a year now..after reading this post i am half relieved,atleast i know this for sure,eventhough he is from a different social background,male dominant, cares but does not communicate,unromantic,no travelling,smoka-holic,sensitive and angry young man and the list can goo on i am shudn’t give up on him…i know one thing that in this course of a relationship from the talkative,travel loving ,adventure n “live life today “types i forgot to love myself..the presence of a man like this influenced me the worst way possible..i became d depressed gal,who lost her friends and was no more me…all i became was a robot ,who did laundry,cooked him food n cleaned d house..i shudnt be expecting him to influence me..i shud hav dat frm matter how ugly this myt get NOBODY shud snatch away the real “ME”in me…i shud probably concentrate on d things he is good at..ask me to tell few good things about him as well as about me..i bet i cant say more than 3 or 2..i have forgotten to count my blessings…thanks to this wonderful post …Its all in us,we have the solutions of all the problems within us… :)..thankyou once again…God Bless..!!

  • Kimber235

    So new developments! I decided that since he feels the way he feels and nothing seems to be able to change his mind…his parents, his sister, me…I was going to give him his space and assume he is leaving. Let him set the timeline, live my life, be a good person (which I am) and begin focusing on myself. I have pano expectations and actually want him to leave in hopes that he realizes what he is giving up.

    In the meantime, we had set boundaries that there was no sex seeing as he has a hard time with this. He keeps trying. The person I know is a very unselfish person, very kind and reasonable. He has tried to initiate sex since then and I have put my foot down and walked away from the situation which is toying with my mental health. He apologized the next day saying it wasn’t his intention to do that and he was extremely sorry. I told him that if he would like to show me little signs of affection, that was fine (I want him to explore his feelings for me) but we need to respect the boundaries we have set for ourselves. He agreed and was very apologetic.

    Next day….same thing. Tenderly kissing me and stopping to maintain eye contact so as to ask “is this ok?” I told him that I wasn’t having sex and he said that’s not what he was doing (he was!). He then said “sorry if I disgust you,”. I said that he did not disgust me. I said “you know how I feel” because I have said many, many times I still want the relationship. He accepted this and went to sleep. Only to wake the next morning and start fondling me again. I allowed him to explore a bit and then got out of bed because I had to shower for work.

    What the $#%*? I am sure he is either in a midlife crisis or suffering from depression and blames his “unhappiness” on our relationship. Someone please help me make some sense of this. I think the pulling away phase is bothering him…realizes I am no longer 100% invested in stroking his ego. I am so confused but maintain that I am going to protect myself. Any thoughts!?

  • Erochucoco

    I have been in a relationship for the past 2 years. I love him very much and I can’t picture my life without him. The only future I see is with him. Unfortunately for the past year or so, I have been under a lot of stress from personal and family issues and it doesn’t help when my spouse and I are arguing constantly. I don’t understand why this arguing occurs. I have been trying to get to the root of the problem but I just don’t get it. It is VERY stressful. Every other day or sometimes everyday we are arguing over even the smallest things. I have been trying to fix things and be as understanding as possible but it is hard to see somebody else’s side when you know you are right. Can anybody offer some advice?

  • anonymous buddhist

    I think this story has become too central to your whole existence. I’d recommend focusing on taking care of yourself and interests outside of the relationship so as to bring yourself back into balance.

  • Hi there,

    I’m so sorry to hear about what’s been going on. Have you ever heard of non-violent communication? It’s often used for conflict resolution, and it may help you avoid arguments in the future. If you google it, you’ll find a ton of articles explaining what it entails.

    I hope this helps!


  • Bailey

    This article contains a lot of great advice, but one but really bothers me. “Eliminate the word should.” What a horrible suggestion! In a relationship, you have every right to say to your partner “You should treat me with respect.” or “You should be honest.” etc. It is fair to want basic respect and kindness, to tell your partner there are things you expect in a relationship. Without those things, you will never have a healthy relationship and it is ALWAYS okay to say those things should be there.

  • Hi Bailey,

    You make a great point, and I absolutely agree! Perhaps I should change that part to read “question your shoulds,” since I also think it’s fair to expect certain things that are crucial to healthy relationships, like respect, trust, etc.

    I do think, however, that all relationships are imperfect, and as imperfect people, we all make mistakes. For example, there have been times when I’ve been untrusting or rude to my boyfriend. I apologized, and I do my best not to make this the norm, but our relationship survived because he wasn’t rigidly clinging to the idea that I should be trusting and I should never be rude.

    I think there’s a lot of grey area when two people are in a healthy, loving relationship–and it’s a whole different story when we’re talking about an unhealthy or abusive relationship. Does that make sense?


  • Kc

    The first paragraph of this post resonated with me deeply because I am in college and with my college sweetheart currently. I have carried a lot of guilt and anger from a past relationship into this one and I have hurt him an awful lot because I lash out at him about some of the things he does when they really aren’t harmful or hurtful towards me at all, I sometimes look at other relationships and think maybe mine should be more like theirs. I also have a very hard time speaking my feelings and tend to hold everything inside until I explode. He is a wonderful person and he is my best friend along with my soul mate, but he is very exausted and sick of the way I have been treating him. And I understand it is because of the way I get angry at him for no reason. A lot of what you said in this post helped me a lot but I am lost and afraid that this relationship will end because of the way I have been acting. I think it may have to do with me not loving myself and being happy with myself you could not tell I’m very scattered in my thoughts right now. Any words of advice would help
    Thank you very much

  • Hi Kc,

    I’m so sorry to hear about what you’ve been going through. I know how tough it can be to let go of pain from past relationships. The good thing is that you’re self-aware. A lot of people have no idea what’s causing issues in their relationships.

    Have you told him about your former relationship and your struggles with sharing your feelings and loving yourself? Perhaps if you let him in he’ll be able to support you in addressing these issues. Then, rather than fearing that you’ll push him away, you’ll trust that he’ll be by your side, helping you grow into your strongest self.


  • Very True

    Many men and women that can stay faithful with one another and be compatible, that will make it work with a lot of love for each other.

  • Lizzy Johnson

    This is an amazing article and is just what I was looking for. I absolutely love and appreciate all of the suggestions and techniques you recommended if we wish to try and modify our behaviors towards creating more positive outcomes.

    Thank you!

  • Lizzy Johnson

    Oh goodness, me too. It’s hard not to feel responsible for holding us back from moving on or becoming as close as before. But the truth is that you can never go back to how things were before these incidents happened. They happened for a reason and the only thing we can do is to learn from them and grow from the experience.

    It’s not the traumatic event itself that changes us, it’s the way we choose to cope with the trauma that enables us to move forward and continue to grow.

    For me personally, I never understood why I could never fully trust my boyfriend again after past incidents. I thought I could, but I recently realized that it actually had nothing to do with me not being able to trust him. It was me not being able to put myself in that vulnerable position again and taking that leap of faith that we don’t choose to take the first time we fall in love; it just happens. If we can never fully make ourselves emotionally vulnerable to this person again, then we will never be able to fully overcome our fears of the past repeating itself.

  • Louise

    Read and learn about co dependency, independence and interdependence within relationships

  • Amy Couts

    #3&4 have really hit home with me. Just last night I had a serious talk with my boyfriend about him not meeting my emotional needs. Me needing my more physical affection. After reading this article I feel selfish and silly. He is a good, kind man and loves me(and my child)and treats me well. He does the best he knows how.I knit pick way too much. It’s not good and it’s ruining our relationship. I wish I had read this before I went to talk to him.

  • MusicalMinion

    Oh my goodness, this helped me so much and filled me with great hope. All these things were just what I needed to hear. I’m not in a relationship with anyone, but my closest friend of nearly five years told me over a month ago that he thought it was best if we stopped communicating. I realized that I had been confusing my feelings and emotions and blaming him for my feelings (when in reality, he’s never done anything to prove he’s not a friend or has my worst interests at heart). I just had constant doubts about our friendship and I was literally just waiting for it to fall apart so it would prove to myself that I certainly wasn’t loved. I was just waiting and watching constantly for every little thing, and with everything I’d interpret it as negative and, of course, something that would lead to the end of the friendship. It was so much easier to point the finger at him and say, “You’re the reason I’m not happy. You did this thing, so you’re responsible for my feeling this negative way.”

    I decided to seek therapy because my friend is too special and means too much to me. I realized just how bad things were when he said we shouldn’t talk anymore. I realize now that these negative thoughts were anxious thoughts, and I’m working to better myself. I’m still holding onto hope that he’ll want to talk to me as friends again.

  • I’m glad you found this helpful! I could relate to what you wrote in a big way, as I’ve felt and done the same things many times in the past.

    I suspect therapy will be eye-opening for you. I can’t imagine what my life would be like if not for the insights I gained through therapy!

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  • I finally ended a toxic and suffocating relationship earlier this year, and I feel like a bird out of the cage! I think I’ll find a happy relationship one day 🙂

  • Sarah

    You are beautiful and amazing!!! ~ Sarah

  • Thank you so much! =)

  • I think you will too, Lucy! =)

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  • m lo

    Glad I came across this. I’m going through a tough time right now and am just looking for a little advice, because i’m sort of lost. I’m 21, and have always been in pretty long term relationships for someone my age. Right now I am with this guy who was my friend in the beginning and he really liked me. I didn’t feel the same way for him, but we hung out every so often because we were friends. Well, i ended up getting a little tipsy one night and we had sex. I ended up seeing a whole other side of him; passionate, loving, caring…I hadn’t seen any of this before and we started dating. We hung around each other a lot more because I liked this side of him. After about a month, he told me he loved me..I wasn’t sure if I felt the same, however I have told him since that I do love him, because I do. It’s been about 6 months now, and my feelings always seem to go back and forth. I don’t really see him being my husband, and I sometimes feel like he feels for me more than I do for him. But, my feelings for him have changed since before. I do love and care about him a lot, and I want him to be happy. I just have this awful thought where I’m just not sure, all of the time. I don’t necessarily want to break up with him, because I love him and it would hurt us both. But I don’t always feel like I want to keep this going either. Any advice?

  • Umie

    Hi im in a relationship with my bf for a long time now things were really well between us but suddenly in 2 months things change I was home for holidays wen I came back his totally different since im back we only spent one day after dat I only see him no hug no kiss nothing I spoke to him alot but he keeps on saying nothing is wrong why is he running away from me we love each other alot but his not willing to even be with me if his wrong I speak to him he shouts me gets angry at me for nothing wat do I do to fix things between us im a insecure n jealous person but since im with him I control myself why are man so difficult to be understood and I can’t keep calm anymore it hurts seeing hm behave like dat

  • Northernson

    So, I NEVER post to these discussion boards. And when I say “never” I mean, this is the very first time….ever. I am the type of person who has learned to cope with my experiences internally and can actually be an emotional con artist a lot of the time. However, I have to say that Lori’s article truly resonated with me. After a 17 year marriage ending in divorce and now finding a woman who is truly amazing. I have found myself sabotaging this relationship with the antithesis of the majority of the bad behaviors Lori suggested against engaging in, in this article. I am absolutely my own worst critic and a genius at acknowledging my own wrong doing In a given situation, but a complete mess at putting the behaviors that would correct that wrong doing into practice. I truly appreciated Lori’s article and found a great deal of consolidated, all encompassing guidance that I haven’t seen from most articles on this topic. I’ve saved this article to my desktop and plan to reference the great suggestions given…thanks Lori

  • Hi there,

    I’m so sorry about the end of your marriage. I know my response is a little delayed. How have things been going in your relationship since you wrote this comment? Have you been putting these behaviors into practice more consistently?


  • amira

    I am currently on a long distance relationship for 9 months now and no doubt we’re both in love with each other. But since we started this LDR I’ve realised that I’ve been depending on him to make me happy. I assumed that it was just a phase and I will get over it after a while but 9 months have passed and I still feel the same. I want to be happy on my own and I don’t know why but I feel like to do so I have to leave this relationship. I just have this feeling that I can’t work on myself while being in a relationship. I don’t know what to do because I really do love him.

    what do I do ?