Author and teacher,

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What are the three things you believe are most important in making a relationship better? What have been your experiences?

In my fifties, I have discovered a GREAT relationship. However, I thought I had it before, and for a variety of reasons, those relationships failed. Looking back, I can see why, and I know that although I had my failings, a couple of times those relationship failures had nothing to do with me - circumstances over which I had no direct control intervened and changed everything.

However, now I have found what I was really looking for and we are married, committed to each other "for this world and the next", which we put into our wedding vows.

The three things I place most importance on are:
1: Listening. I now take time to listen intently to what Susan is talking about. There's a couple of reasons, not the least being that she is incredibly intelligent and is always worth listening to. However, it's always interesting - she is from the far side of the planet to me, a 12 hour time zone difference, and there is so much we want to learn about each other's different life experiences.
2: Time to talk and share. Not just time watching TV, but time invested in doing things together, such as developing the business, discussing strategies, as well as talking about life, family, what to do at Christmas, and much more. Time to share, to express and to just BE together.
2: Honesty. We had a learning experience early on, when I had some issues with an Ex that I thought I could resolve on my own. Bad move. Susan not only had better ideas about it, she understood the other end of the situation, being female, and could make suggestions that worked. However, not telling her everything early on delayed the resolution and hurt her too, as she wondered firstly if there were trust issues, and secondly, she wondered if there was "anything else!"

What are the three things that you believe are most important in improving a relationship, or repairing/retrieving a failed relationship?

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    Nov 22 2013: Ray, Next month will mark 21 years of happiness with my sweet man. I agree with others that there are so many important things, but here are the three that immediately come to my mind.....

    1. Acceptance: When we feel that we are accepted by our partner, we can relax and feel confident. At the same time, when we accept our mate, we receive a relaxed and confident person and that makes for a very peaceful home.

    2. Remember where you started: Every so often, look at your wedding photos, play "your song", or visit the place you met. Bring back to mind the reason that you found each other and fell in love in the first place and you will find your reason to remain together. and...

    3. Keep things private. Do not disrespect your mate by bad mouthing them to family, friends, or anyone else because when the argument is over, they will be scarred and you will look like a fool. Keep all issues of the relationship IN the relationship.

    And, I really need to add one more.... never go to bed angry, always kiss goodnight!!!
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    Nov 15 2013: Make sure you'r on the same page , whatever page ,you'r on at the time .

    Sexual appetites, should be , must be very similar .

    Cooking and preparing food together ,

    Kids ??? yours, hers, yalls , discipline of them needs to be similar , a must .

    Goals need to be talked about and recognized .

    Drug use ?? Alcohol use ???

    The most important thing , always be sweet and kind , and once something is said in anger, it cannot be un-said, no matter how many im sorrys you repeat over and over .

    There will be times, when you can be right or you can be HAPPY, you must make that choice , and if you must be RIGHT, all the time you may be with the wrong person .
    • Nov 15 2013: A lot of wisdom in what you say Jeff, thank you.
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      Nov 15 2013: Good points Jeff,

      I totally agree with the idea that we can be right or we can be happy, and it is a conscious choice. If a person feels that s/he must be right all the time, why does that indicate s/he may be with the wrong person? How can being with another person alter the belief that one has to be right all the time? Could it be something in oneself that could be dealt with rather than simply saying we are with the wrong person?
      Wherever we go, there we are with our "self".
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        Nov 21 2013: well I will tell you what I think ,

        I would rather be alone than to argue..
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    Nov 14 2013: I guess this issue will remain unanswered, since there is no key to happy and joyous relationships. Different people need different things, and it would be a challenge to single out some universals. Anyway, I reckon there is a bunch of things one needs to take into consideration if you find the relationship serious.

    First and foremost, there must be a divine particle. I am absolutely serious here, it is something beyond our understanding, beyond words. It happens when you are around the person you are in love with, you do not want this moment to end. Whether happy or miserable, you want to run to them and share your thoughts or emotions. It is your final destination, just 'your person".

    It must be somebody you trust, who can guide you through your successes and failures without judgement, but with a healthy dose of criticism. I believe it must be somebody whose presence does not trouble you in the long run - you can sit next to each other in silence and it does not feel awkward.

    I would also enumerate tolerance and ability to have a comprise. There will be plenty of instances along the way when we simply don't agree on fundamental matters. Of course we can force our own mindset and view, but for both sides to be happy, sometimes we will need to give up our own comfort and happiness for the sake of our beloved one.
    • Nov 14 2013: I LOVE your "Divine Particle" concept. I hadn't heard it expressed that way before and it works for me.

      Your other two points are great also, and very important. Especially the 'comfortable silence' point. Filling up your lives with rubbish, so as not to feel uncomfortable with a space is crucial. So many fall into that trap and then lose the ability to communicate when necessary...
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      Nov 14 2013: Excellent post, I too like your concept of the "divine particle." You are quite right on the the fact that this concept is something beyond our understanding, as even with my previous long-term relationships, I had found myself experiencing a bond of which words alone can't really describe. In my post, I simply described this concept as "love," yet such a bond truly extends beyond shared feelings, interests, and personality traits.

      What I find quite interesting is why this "divine particle" can be relatively one-sided. In other words, the feeling that an individual is "just your person" does not necessitate that this individual has the same feelings. Speaking from experience, sometimes a relationship can be "forced," leaving one individual to feel more strongly than the other. That being said, I believe that a successful relationship hinges upon both individuals feeling just as strongly for one another.
  • Nov 13 2013: I am interested in this question but more importantly I am interested in the idea behind it. These days everything seems to be becoming data driven. Everyone is trying to analyze something or the other and it has come to the point where, yes, individuals are analyzing relationships. I find that to be odd but im sure there is truth and success with the studies that have been done. For me you cannot analyze everyone in a relationship. Everyone is looking for something different and they will be attracted to other individuals that can fulfill those needs, simply out. That is human nature. Now I cannot say what will make a relationship better because I don't know which relationship or who's relationship but when looking at it in a general context people always want a few things. I will list 3.

    1.) I believe that people want honesty.
    In relationships you always want someone whom you can trust.
    2.) You want someone who will provide you with new and fun experiences. Provoking many emotions out of each other.
    3.) Individuals want others that they can be themselves around. No one wants to keep being someone they are not. Don't lie to yourself.
    • Nov 14 2013: Very important points Kunal. Thank you. When you plan on spending your life with someone, you need to be able to look ahead 20-40 years and feel confident this persin will be fun to be with, and that you are secure with them, and not have to act at being something other than who you really are - that's a long time to be on stage without showing yourself - better to be yourself all the way through. That would also mean you attracted someone who did like who you really were too!
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    Nov 15 2013: Being honest, having effective communication of thoughts and feelings between one another, and being able to look at and understand situations from their perspective. I am only 22, and engaged, so I feel I am either completely wrong or right on target.
    • Nov 22 2013: Sounds like you are right on target Chris! And the fact that you are reading a post such as this suggests your intentions are on target too - educating yourself, especially at the ripe old age of 22, in matters of the heart, suggests that you will get it right. Most folks leave it til after the disasters to learn how they messed up! You are getting in early to prevent it - good for you!
  • Nov 15 2013: Absolutely Colleen... Nothing happens without something is communicated, and the quality of the communication sets the standard for the quality of the relationship!
  • Nov 15 2013: Empathy is the most important thing in any relationship. The better you understand the emotions of others, the harder it becomes not to love them.
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    Nov 14 2013: Hi Ray,
    Everyone on this thread mentions very important elements, which contribute to good relationships. For me, it is communication.....communication.....communication. Listening is part of good communication skills....taking time to talk and share is part of the communication process...honesty is part of good If we cannot adequately COMMUNICATE all this to a partner, sometimes a partner does not know these things exist in the relationship. I speak from experience.
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    Nov 14 2013: Ray, Good three. Hard to pick just three.

    1. You should both know who you are. This settles the guessing games and starts the relationship off on the right foot. Trying to be someone else to fit their image is a losing game and can destroy a relationship.

    2. Honesty and respect for each other. Nuff said.

    3. Make decisions together ... be flexible. This would include talking to each other ... sharing dreams, goals, hopes, etc ... and making the achievement of those hopes and dreams possible.

    The full list would take a long long time.

    I like your also ... I think the answers will cross your and my line often ....

    All the best to you and your bride. Bob.
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    Nov 14 2013: 1. "Love"

    This does not just apply to intimate/romantic relationships. Essentially, "love" should serve as a common bond which encompasses shared feelings, interests, and personality traits. It goes without saying there should always be deep-seated reasons for why we establish a relationship. It's important to note that lifelong connections generally go beyond simple physical/tangible interests.

    2. "Trust/Honesty"

    Trust and honesty go hand in hand, as it's difficult to place trust in someone who isn't honest, and vice versa. One should also be honest and trustful with themselves, otherwise it's likely that they will find it difficult to trust or be honest with others. A lot of times we sabotage our own relationships due to such self-doubt.

    3. "Communication"

    Effective communication is the framework that makes for lasting relationships. Without effective communication, common bonds can start to unravel, and trust and honesty can fall by the wayside. More often than not, serious communication breakdowns can create a cascade effect that leads to the end of a relationship.
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    Nov 14 2013: 1. Trust
    2. Respect
    3. Space
  • Nov 14 2013: 1. Commitment - I have never talked to anyone who has been married for 20+ years who hasn't been to the brink of divorce
    2. Like - it is sure nice to be with someone you like to spend your time with
    3. Work - having a common task or goal - raising children is one common task that we have worked on well together
    • Nov 14 2013: Great points. I relate to #1 - a couple I know - now married 60 years, had a HUGE argument when i was around oine time, and said things I bet they both regret. However, that was 40 years ago now!

      The other tow are important - infatuation wears off and there needs to be someone you still like afterwards, and a shared direction/purpose is vital too. Thank you.
  • Nov 13 2013: I like the three things you identify, but I will argue there are many more than just 3 things. Sincerity is an important factor, although you might pile that on honesty. A sense or purpose in the relationship, where you are needed, and feel needed at all times. Understanding/empathy/compassion is important so that you understand how life situations and events cause your partner to react. I think you need to have retain your won identity, but think of going through life and facing challenges as a team. I think you must have a genuine sense of caring for the one you love that is as great, or possibly greater than you care for your self.
    • Nov 14 2013: There are MANY more than three things, as the comments are bringing out Robert, but three most important from a person brings out the top points from everyone.

      Sense of identity is important - it's easy to get lost in a relationship and lose the true sense of self!
      • Nov 14 2013: Should have said "many more than 3 important things."

        I do not think there are only three most important things, I think there are just many things needed and the importance varies by person and changes with time. Trying to prioritize to get to a top 3 is like asking a parent of 10 kids 'which are the top 3?' or 'which is the most important leg on a table?'. I think the key is to be attentive to your partner and decide what is needed the most at any given time, then do your best to provide it.
  • Nov 30 2013: Great sentiment Johnny, thank you.

    Are you making any New years Resolutions in your relationship? I posted a blog about it here at and as well as regular goals, resolutions about relationships are brilliant also - New Years is a time for renewal in every way!
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    Nov 30 2013: I have only one. Accept the other person as they are, do not attempt to change them in any way.
    I am not saying that you need to have a violent partner, I am saying that if you match in your relationship, than it is all well, and if you don't, see it as is and move on.
    In doing so, you are honest, accepting, humble, interested in their well being,
  • Nov 23 2013: Lovely sentiments Amy. On my phone, the photo I have is of my bride on our wedding day. When anyone sees my phone, that is what they see - and I think she's stunning! The inside picture when the phone is opened, is a picture of us early in our relationship - rotates bewtween one on top of MLC tower overlookng Sydney Harbour, the other a photo of us in our garden - a selfie! Your point - remember where you started. Love it.

    Accdeptance - absolutely. I'm no oil painting and I don't expect it, in any area of life, but I love being loved for who I really am! Susan knows who I am, and STILL loves me! That's gotta be a turn on - someone who is that crazy - or that in love with me, is someone I want to spend the rest of my life with...

    We are both private people so this has been huge for us. We have some very close friends and we share with them, but nothing private that would embarras either of us, and we see it in others and note the trouble it causes.

    That's probably a huge key too - look at what is NOT working for others - AND DON'T DO IT in your own relationship! Heaven knows, there's enough bad examples out there!

    Many thanks for your comments - greatly appreciated - next time I blog on about this topic, I'll be putting these comments in.
  • Nov 15 2013: Obviously, there are more than just 3 things and many have been mentioned.

    1. compromise
    2. give each other space when needed
    3. ignore the small stuff and let it go.
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      Nov 15 2013: Wayne,
      I agree with your post. might be good to be aware that "small stuff" may mean different things to different people?

      I LOVE to talk about and explore feelings for example, and my husband did not like to do that, so I was often told that I was making a mountain out of a mole hill, and the way I like to communicate was ignored. My only point, is that what is sometimes considered small unimportant stuff by someone, may be very important to the other person.

      That is where your suggestion to compromise comes in, AND I think it is important to genuinely listen, to be more able to understand what is important to each person.
      • Nov 15 2013: Knowing the distinctions we each make about 'small stuff' is so important! They are different for everyone. Insignificant things to one will irritate or anger another. Habits and idiosynchrasies that are cute to begin with can grow to frustrate your partner, unless they are openly discussed and it is OK to do so within the relationship.

        If it's not OK to discuss them, that is symptomatic of a deeper issue. It needs dealing with as a real priority.

        Got to be careful with compromise. The dictionary definition is compromise is where "each party gives up part of their goal in order to achieve a settlement". That sounds like lose/lose to me! I'd rather keep discussing it until we agreed on something we both liked and felt good about, and had a win/win! Using that definition, that is no longer a compromise!

        Whenever a person feels they didn't get what they set out to get in a discussion or argument, they feel either cheated or that they came off second best. That's when they had a 'lose'. I try to avoid those situations if possible, and work towards a win for everyone.
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          Nov 15 2013: GREAT POINT about compromising Ray, and thanks for clarifying:>)

          I don't perceive that a compromise necessarily means giving something up, but rather, finding common ground, where both can feel good about the choices that are made together. I like win/win situations as well, and strive for that in relationships:>)
        • Nov 15 2013: Ray,

          Let me give you an example. I hate opera but I go twice a year because my wife loves it. I may learn to like opera but I doubt love it. My wife hates camping, I grew up doing it and love it. We go once or twice but the camp grounds need to have a toilet and a shower. 8>))
      • Nov 15 2013: Colleen,

        You are right there are small things that may be actually big to someone else. That is something one learns about the other and you check yourself for these and see if they are really major or you think it is major or something you can let go and keep it minor.
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          Nov 22 2013: Learning about each other is an important point Wayne, and I think it's also important to realize that we sometimes change over time, so it's important to continue to listen and adjust to about it....understand it as partners.

          I was in a situation where my partner said he knew me, and I perceive that he knew me as a very young women, when we began the relationship. After 20+ years, he seemed to hold onto the perception of me as a very young person, and did not listen to new information that I was willing to share. That is what motivated me to make the distinction of what is small stuff to one person, may be big stuff to another person. I think/feel that to be a big part of the reason for divorce after 24 years of marriage. We were both changing in some respects, and because of difficulty with communication, we could not accept or understand that in each other.
      • Nov 22 2013: Great point - need to grow what you know about the person, they are changing you are changing and you both have to know that and hopefully keep the middle moving also.
  • Nov 15 2013: Very true Stephen. So much good stuff is coming out of this! Unless you can tune into someone else, it's hard to relate/be in relationship with them. Then, when you do tune in, so much becomes apparent!
    • Nov 15 2013: Exactly. Communication, listening, shared interests, all of this shows a large amount if empathy between partners in a relationship. The more you know someone, the more they become a part of you. And just as you see your own life as precious, you see there's as well. That is why it is so hard for people who do not love themselves to have strong relationships, because their empathy does not lead to love but more hate.
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        Nov 15 2013: I wholeheartedly agree Stephen,
        We are often taught that loving ourselves is selfish, and we are only supposed to love others. I don't honestly think/feel we can give something to others that we do not have in our "self". When we have respect, compassion, empathy, etc., in ourselves, we can more freely share that with others. When we try to give something to someone else, that we do not have for ourselves, it may feel like we are depriving ourselves of something, and it also sets up expectations of receiving those things from the partner. It appears that the strongest and most content relationships are with people who are genuinely connected in themselves....know thyself,...and be willing to share that with a partner:>)
  • Nov 15 2013: Thank you Bob. And yes, we are doing just fine.

    I want others to experience the same and believe it is possible, more often than not, if both people in the relationship want it. That's why I posted the page - so that people who may be wanting more could discover that is was possible to have more.

    However, as you noted above, each must have their own identity, so the relationship can be based on solid foundations, they must be honest and respect each other if they are serious about rebuilding - it's a decision that should last a lifetime, and they also need to share the process! Hard to have a one-sided relationship. By definition, it is doomed to failure, like a chair with the legs off one side!

    And yes, there's lots more, but this is a heck of a start!
  • Nov 15 2013: SO true Michael...

    I have written extensively about this over the years, learning more each time. You may have seen my latest post where I explored a lot more about it. Communication is so broad and encompasses so much.
  • Nov 15 2013: Space is really important. There are times when regardless of how much love is there, some peace and quiet and space are critical too!
  • Nov 14 2013: My apologies for getting back to this conversation late - our internet went down for 36 hours!

    Thanks for all the comments, this is great. I have written a lot more on this topic at but I will respond to each comment individually, they are all great!