Here’s some shocking news to start with. Relationships don’t even really exist. They simply don’t. If you don’t believe me, try to hold a relationship in your hand or move it from one place to another. You can’t. Because relationships only exist in your head.
Every relationship you have in your life is nothing but a collection of thoughts, including memories and different convictions about a person. Why is this such an important fact?
Well, because if relationships are only thoughts in your head and they don’t really exist, it can be easily manipulated how you see a specific relationship.
You know the feeling of being in love and seeing the other person with rose-tinted glasses and after two to three months, reality check comes? Or when you’re shocked if someone does something you never expected they could do? Or how because of the halo effect, you think famous actors have much better personalities than they actually do? (The latter is also why you should never meet your heroes.)
These kinds of errors happen exactly because of the fact that relationships don’t exist, but are only a construction in your head. There are so many such cognitive errors you can make, from projections, transference, stereotyping, the halo effect, perceptual set, Pollyanna principle, self-serving bias, selective perception, contrast effects, expectancy effect etc. The list of cognitive biases in relationships is endless.
That leads to a few important facts:
- Your image, including assumptions about any other person, are wrong, at least to a certain extent; and wrong assumptions are the mother of all fuckups. That’s why the glass in relationships is already broken (more about this analogy later). Becoming aware of errors is painful, and that’s a part of life.
- The wrong assumptions you have also lead to unrealistic expectations about how a relationship will unfold, which only really leaves you one rational option – enjoy relationships while they last, in the present moment, now. Relax. Relationships are to be enjoyed, not controlled. That doesn’t mean you don’t plan your future with other people, but you should do it only in the agile and lean way.
- Since relationships are only thoughts in your head, you can avoid pain in a relationship by taking care of your own thoughts. You don’t even need the other person in a relationship to participate to solve any relationship issues (especially with troublesome parents or exes). Change yourself (your perspective) and you will change others.
- Relationships as individual constructions in your head are one of the best ways to better understand yourself and get to know yourself to the core. Because you will try to simulate your early relationship experiences with every relationship later on (abusive parent, abusive partner).
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The bottom line is that relationships are easy or hard only because you make them as such in your head; and in every relationship, you try to seek and experience what is familiar to you. And what’s familiar to you are your early relationships with the authority figures from your youth. That’s how your image will be distorted.
Based on these facts, many people then conclude that no matter who you’re in a relationship with, you will always have pretty similar experiences. Well, that couldn’t be further from the truth. Even if you make many cognitive errors in relationships, people are different and every relationship is a unique experience.
The false image you have about a person always exists, but there’s still also always an actual exchange of energies and actions (thoughts, touches, expressions, intentions etc.) that’s happening in a relationship. Despite the cognitive biases, the energy exchange with every single person is always a unique experience.
Your image of a person is always wrong, but your experience of a relationship is not. That’s why people remember the most how you make them feel.
In these terms, people bring out the best or the worst in you. In these terms, who you spend time with and what kind of a person they are matters a lot. Even if relationships don’t exist, we can say that there are positive experiences of a relationship and negative ones.
You can see relationship with the most rose-tinted glasses possible, but abusive, ignorant, passive‑aggressive or any other similar behavior in a relationship is still toxic. And deep down, you always know if a relationship is toxic or not (making an error is human, but there’s a limit to when a relationship becomes toxic). A passionate love-hate relationship is a toxic one, for example.
It’s extremely important whether a relationship is a healthy or a toxic one. I’ve seen it over and over again. A very damaged person in a healthy environment and with many healthy relationships starts to blossom. A promising, emotionally healthy and good person in damaging and abusive relationships gets broken and rots away.
I’ve been in both kind of situations, so I know the difference very well. This is why you have to choose very carefully who you spend time with. It’s one of the most important decisions in your life. There is no middle path; a relationship is either a toxic or a healthy one (as we will see later).
Before we go to relationship advice, there’s one more important angle to consider. People are animals. Social animals, to be more exact. That means that we compete, collaborate, conquer, make allies, have appetites, trade, pay attention to reputation, have sex, and so on.
So whether you want it or not, every relationship is a trade. There is no such thing as a free lunch and there are no exceptions. A few decades ago, people had children primary as an economical investment. You get something out of a relationship (or expect to get when you form it) and you have to give.
No matter how much in love you are, no matter how good of a person you met, it’s a trade. There must be value seen in you and you have to see value in others. The value can be sexual, emotional, intellectual, spiritual, material, social or any other type. No value equals no relationship, at least in the long term.
The best and most honest relationship advice
Now considering all three facts below, let’s look at the best relationship advice ever.
- A relationship doesn’t exist, it’s only a combination of thoughts in your head, which is why you see every relationship with many errors and wrong judgments. So the only win-win situation is to enjoy relationships. Next to that, you always see a person as something familiar to your past experiences.
- The tone of a relationship can only be a toxic or a healthy one, and this provides a very real experience of a relationship. No matter your internal image, this is the part of a relationship where you meet the objective truth. Everyone makes mistakes, but there is a limit when a relationship becomes toxic.
- Every relationship is nothing but a trade. If you don’t provide value, it’s hard to form deep, lasting and interesting relationships. There are many different types of value you can provide, and by far the best one is your own uniqueness, together with the effort.
And now here it is, the best and most honest relationship advice:
- Always have the center on yourself
- Become the best version of yourself
- There is no ice to break
- There is no middle path, find your fit
- No zombies and bozos
- Diversity and the 1/3 rule of relationships
- Build multiple dimensions with superior communication
- Relationships are like bank accounts
- No relationship is perfect, the glass is already broken
Always have the center on yourself
No matter how much in love you are or how awesome of a relationship started in your life, personal or professional, always keep your center on yourself. The moment the center is on another person or the relationship itself, instead of you, the quality of a relationship starts to decline. Always.
First, you have to be an independent, emotionally healthy individual, with your own life, visions, missions, goals, hobbies and interests. Only then can you form healthy and deep relationships. There is no other way. Without having the center on yourself, relationships will always be toxic in some way.
Now, having the center on yourself doesn’t mean that you don’t care, don’t make any compromises and don’t invest in a relationship at all. If you don’t have center on yourself, it only means that you’re clinging to a relationship too much and stifling it without letting any freedom in it.
Signs of not having the center on yourself:
- Too fast commitment escalation (you think about marriage on the first date)
- You get mad if your message isn’t replied in a second
- You don’t like your partner’s hobbies and friends
- Everything you do, you want to do together with your partner
- Extreme jealousy
- If you need more ideas, go through overly attached girlfriend or boyfriend memes
It’s no different in business relationships or friendships, you may want to do everything together, you’re jelly of other people, and so on. In any case, the fact is that the more you pull someone towards yourself, the more they’ll try to back off.
If you want to improve the relationships in your life, start by having the center on yourself. Start building your own dream life, share your visions with other people, and they will love to join you on your journey. There are a few steps you can take to have the center on yourself:
- Set your own life vision, mission, goals and know that nobody can make you happy
- Build up your self-esteem and self-confidence
- Tackle negative thinking and cognitive distortions
- Develop an abundance mindset
- Don’t have only one intense relationship in your life
- Make sure your needs are met (in and out of a relationship)
- Become the best version of yourself (here is how)
Become the best version of yourself
You definitely are worthy and important as an individual, no matter what you do and what your position in life currently is. There is a very simple and crucial rule of healthy self-worth which goes: never place anyone’s head above your own. Your personal strength must come from this kind of a belief.
Nevertheless, as I mentioned before, every relationship is a trade. The better version of yourself that you are, the more you have to offer. A valuable consequence of constantly improving yourself is that your relationships get much better in general and you open yourself to completely new relationship opportunities.
There are many ways of how you can improve your value in a relationship. Here are a few examples:
- Fit and groomed body, good style, strength and endurance can bring more physical value
- Higher education, hobbies, interests, visions, etc. bring more intellectual value
- Many social connections, status, people skills, etc. bring more social value
- Common values, fighting for a good cause, being a good person can bring spiritual value
- Money and assets bring material value, and so on.
People spend time with people with common interests and subjects. People spend time with people they’re attracted to because of charisma (charisma comes from having a powerful why in your life). People spend time with people with whom they can exchange value. I know it sounds completely unromantic, but every relationship is a trade.
There is no ice to break
There are 7 billion people living on this planet. Many of them have the potential to really change your life forever with how they see life, with many of them you could experience completely unique adventures, and many of them could help you grow faster or create even more awesome things than you’re currently creating.
The only thing that’s preventing such a thing from happening is the absence of a fat penguin. What? Well the absence of someone who would break the ice for you. You have no idea how many opportunities you miss just because you’re afraid to say hello to a stranger.
There’s an eye-opening perspective about that. Assume there is no ice to break and that you’re already connected to all the people. We all share the same planet, we’re all made from the same material, we all face our own struggles and fights. Just show genuine interest in people and know that you’re already connected with everybody.
Just show genuine interest in someone and the relationship will start unfolding.
Always connect with new people and don’t be afraid to talk to strangers. There is no ice to break. The ice exists only in your head. That doesn’t mean that every opening will be a pleasant experience (especially in dating), but that has nothing to do with breaking the ice, it has to do with finding your fit.
Rejection is something that you can move on from. Regret will never leave you.
There is no middle path, find your fit
In every relationship, there is common ground (values, interests, etc.) and there are differences. If there is no common ground and only differences exist, relationships don’t form. On the other hand, the wider the common ground, the better your foundations for a relationship.
It’s called finding your fit. Now, the mistake people make is that they jump into a relationship too quickly, before they even know their preferences, and even less a person. Like in Hollywood movies, where you see someone fall in love at first sight and then live happily ever after.
Life doesn’t work that way. Irrational thinking and actions like that are based on the scarcity mentality – better safe than sorry and alone for the rest of your life. And then you commit to the first person who shows interest in spending time with you. I’ve seen so many people who settled too soon and then they’re too afraid to break up the relationship, staying unhappy forever.
In reality, it’s much better to take time and search before you commit. Meet people, talk to them, get to know what you like in other people, etc. You can even help yourself by making a persona of an ideal relationship. Put in the effort to find your true fit, someone with whom things really work well.
And when you find your fit, know that it only means that you’ve found something that holds true potential. You’ve found something you can build upon and look forward to. It is then that you pass on from searching to hard work in a relationship, and growing and learning together from the differences.
Now, here’s the main catch in the whole story. You either find a fit or you don’t. A relationship either works or it doesn’t (in a certain moment). There is no other way.
Here’s a very easy task you can do to find out where you stand in your relationships. Take a piece of paper and follow the next steps:
- Horizontally, write numbers from 1 to 10.
- Vertically, list 5 – 10 important relationships in your life.
- Rate every relationship from 1 to 10.
- For the relationships that you rated between 4 and 7, it means you can’t decide if they work or not, and that tells you nothing.
- Rate them again, now only with 1, 2, 3 and 8, 9, 10 marks. This will show you if a relationship really works or not.
All the relationships marked with 1 – 3 clearly don’t work. There are only three options why.
The first one is that they aren’t your fit. Irreconcilable differences or whatever. The second reason may be that it’s time to let go, it’s time for the relationship to end. The third reason may be that too much was withdrawn from the relationship bank account and it’s time to heavily invest back (more about that soon).
Know that there’s nothing wrong about ending a relationship in a decent and human way, if the relationship doesn’t work anymore. All things come to an end, and there is always the point when you have to move on. Only a few relationships are lifelong relationships. So don’t be burdened with guilt and shame when it’s time to move on.
No zombies and bozos
People will make you or break you. Healthy and deep relationships will make your life on Earth heaven, and toxic people will make it living hell. So you must choose every relationship extremely carefully.
Here are the rules:
- Don’t spend any time with energy vampires and zombies
- Don’t work with bozos
- Don’t deal with crappy people at all
- Ignore the haters
There are many reasons why people will try to make your life miserable, from clashes of interest, different values and the desire to preserve the status quo, to envy and simply having shitty personalities. Don’t even bother, just understand and then move on.
When you get in the mud with a pig, you get dirty and the pig likes it. So completely ignore the evil people. Don’t think about them. Don’t talk to them. Don’t write to them. Don’t give them advice. Never gossip about them. It’s you who’s looking for the drama.
Diversity and the 1/3 rule of relationships
Let me emphasize again: who you spend time with matters a lot. You have to find people who fit into your life, and you have to find people who love you, support you, mentor you, believe in you, push you, help you to focus, encourage you, and so on. And you must do the same for other people.
To achieve the universal relationship balance, there is an important formula to follow:
- Spend 33 % of your time with people who are less competent than you (and mentor them)
- 33 % of time with people who are on the same level as you
- 33 % of time with people who are much more successful than you
- Still, try to learn from everyone you spend time with.
Next to that, although you have to find your fit to enjoy relationships, don’t spend time only with one type of people who think and act like you. Spend time with as many different people as possible, that’s the only way your relationship experience will be the richest. Never let your ego block you from learning or meeting someone new. I spend a lot of time with entrepreneurs, scientists, writers, athletes, many different people.
This rule goes for personal and professional life. Science shows that half of the difference in career success (promotion, compensation, industry recognition) is due to one variable: being in an open network instead of a closed one. So network with many different people.
Build multiple dimensions with superior communication
Relationships are always multidimensional, and the more dimensions are present, the richer and the more varied they are. So when you spend time with people, try to engage as many dimensions as possible.
Examples of relationship dimensions are touch, intellectual stimulation, emotional encouragement, sharing economic resources, working towards common goals, having fun together etc. When you’re spending time with someone, you should try to activate as many dimensions as possible. The best way to engage more dimensions in a relationship is to “put down your mobile phone” and listen.
Want to prolong the battery life on your iPhone? Put it the fuck away when you're talking to me.
Yes, the key to outstanding relationships is outstanding communication. In order for every relationship to work, you have to really communicate (in person) and you want to communicate a lot. Put down your phone, look people in the eye and start listening with full attention. Something magical will happen in every one of your relationships.
And outstanding communication isn’t that hard. You have four types of communication:
- Active constructive response (80 %)
- Passive constructive response (10 %)
- Active destructive response
- Passive destructive response
Just make sure you apply the active constructive response 80 % of times in communication with other people, next to really listening to them and showing genuine interest. Oh, and one more important rule I almost forgot. Make the compliment to critique ratio at least 5 to 1. Yes, for every critique, five compliments must follow.
Relationships are like bank accounts
Every relationship is like a mutual bank account. By doing something good for the relationship – like offering a massage, listening presently, spending quality time together, sending a loving message, doing hobbies together, etc. you put money in the bank account.
By doing something bad for the relationship, like being ignorant, passive-aggressive, abusive or disconnected in any other way, you withdraw money from the relationship bank account. The more damaging acts you do, the more money gets withdrawn.
Every relationship bank account can be full of money, barely above water, in negative numbers or even bankrupt. A lot of “money” means relationship happiness, low numbers mean nothing but low quality of the relationship.
If everyone is only withdrawing, a relationship will sooner or later go bankrupt. That means a relationship gets terminated. If you do extremely damaging acts like cheating or beating, the bank account will probably go bankrupt immediately, even if it was full before.
On the other hand, if you’re regularly depositing money, the bank account will be full and your relationship will blossom. The moment you start withdrawing, the relationship starts withering away.
In the relationship bank account, the same rule applies as it does to the money one – it’s so easy to spend money and it’s so hard to save it. But at the end of the day, that’s what makes the difference between rich and poor people in whichever context, the money or the relationship one.
Talking about mutual bank accounts, there is one more important rule. Make sure you invest into relationships as much as you get out of them. The investment ratio in every relationship should be as close to 1:1 as possible from both parties. If there is no balance, people get frustrated and even the most beautiful relationship can get in trouble.
No relationship is perfect, the glass is already broken
Last but not least, don’t look at any relationship with rose-tinted glasses. Nothing special is going on in your life. You aren’t experiencing anything so unique that other people would be deprived of.
Remember, you definitely are unique, just like everybody else is. Just like everybody else is. Don’t look at relationships like a fragile glass that can be broken, but like a glass that’s already broken.
We are all only people with flaws and sins. People will lie to you, disappoint you and sometimes betray you. Rarely intentionally, but sometimes even that can happen. But this is part of relationships and life. Accept it, enjoy relationships while they last.
Why such a tough reality? Well, it takes a lot of hard work and wisdom to find the right balance between id (animal instincts) and superego (doing the right thing). Even when you do find the balance, periods of life come when you’re thrown off-kilter.
Before you find this magical balance with enough wisdom and even once you do but are forcibly thrown out of it, id may do a stupid thing. That’s what makes us human. That’s what you do to other people and what other people do to you from time to time.
When that happens, it may hurt, but if you have the center on yourself (like the first rule dictates), you survive and move on if necessary. Remember, when it comes to life and relationships, the glass is already broken. There is nothing to break, because there is no perfection in life.
Much like there is no ice to break, there is no glass to break. And at the end of the day, forgive, but never forget. We function based on patterns and so does every relationship.
And for the end, do you want to know what real relationship tests are? Extremely good and extremely bad life situations. Now knowing the best relationship advice ever, good luck with them in your life. And please share this article with people you love.