Harvard says it’s where you’ll find happiness.
Nothing will influence your life more than your relationships.
An 80-year Harvard study shows they’re the most important factor determining our happiness. This isn’t just about romantic connections — your friends, family, coworkers, and partner can either make or break your day.
Many times, I’ve decided to fix a wonky relationship — other times, I let it go. School doesn’t teach you how to do that. Instead, you’ll have to go through trial and error, which is why we so often mess up and end with heartbreak, bruised egos, and conflict instead of connection.
That’s why I’ve distilled my biggest learnings into seven simple, but hard-hitting principles that will help you have healthy relationships instead of toxic back-and-forths.
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This Simple Piece Of Math Explains Most Of What You Need To Know
Every relationship is a two-way street.
One of my friends has been in a toxic relationship for over a year. Whenever he did something his girlfriend didn’t like, she went bananas — and he jumped headfirst in the pool of _”I’ll do better.”_But no matter how much he changed and tried to avoid her triggers, they went through the same cycle again and again.
After he shared his struggles with me for the thousandth time, I told him one single sentence.
Even if you do 100% right, it’s still only 50% of the relationship.
Two weeks later, he broke it off.
When we’re invested in someone, we often take responsibility for things we can’t control. We do everything we can to make it better, but completely forget that one person can’t solve a two-person problem.
If your friend is always late, your coworker never does his share, or your partner doesn’t take responsibility for their actions and emotions, this is their part of the equation, not yours.
You can offer them a helping hand, but they have to decide to step up.
Use This Perspective Shift To Stop Fighting With Each Other
The biggest fights come from the smallest things.
My best friend and I didn’t talk to each other for weeks over a clogged sink. We were living together at the time and he didn’t stick to the cleaning plan while I was starting a business and had 100% of my day structured meticulously. I’m not saying he was in the wrong — we just had two different approaches to life at that time.
After weeks of back-and-forth arguing, another one of my friends said something that solved the conflict in a split second:
It’s you two versus the problem, not you two against each other.
I realized how stupid we had been, getting stuck in an ego-fueled fight about who was right. The solution was in plain sight all the time. Two days later, we hired a cleaner — and never worried about clogged sinks again.
It’s normal for humans to try and win a fight. Your ego is afraid of losing, of missing out, of not getting your way. But it’s not about who’s right or wrong, but about what’s best for the relationship.
To get there, ask yourself, _”How would I solve this problem if I didn’t care about being right?” _If that’s hard to imagine, go ask a friend what they would do.
Lose your ego and you’ll find a solution.
This Is Essential If You Ever Want To Have A Happy Relationship
Most relationships are doomed before they even start.
When I was 23, I met a woman and we fell head over heels for each other. We had our happiest days — until we didn’t anymore. Hour-long fights, smashed kitchen gear, and more and more tears filling the pot that boiled the bitter fruit of resentment.
We got with each other because we sought happiness outside ourselves — and learned a fundamental lesson.
Happy people create happy relationships, unhappy people create unhappy ones.
Yes, we all have tough stretches in life. But if you aren’t at peace with yourself or at least willing to work on it, a relationship is only a band-aid. Over time, the wound will fester, infecting everything it touches.
This doesn’t mean you have to become an enlightened Buddha before you get with someone. But if you don’t work on yourself, your relationships will reflect that sooner or later.
Your inside will create the outside — not the other way around.
Saying “Sorry” Isn’t Enough
Actions don’t lie.
I once had a friend who was exceptionally good with girls. When we went out to the bars or clubs, he never went home alone. There was only one problem.
He didn’t follow the simple _”bros before hoes” _code.
When he got a chance to make a girl laugh at my expense, he used it. When he could lift himself up by pushing me down, he did. When he could snag a girl from me while I went to the bathroom, he pounced on the chance like a tiger.
I told him I felt disrespected and he apologized profusely every time — but nothing changed.
In the end, I’m grateful for all of it because it taught me a valuable lesson:
Apologies without behavior change are just manipulation.
We all know someone who pulls the same shit again and again. Two-faced friends, unreliable coworkers, and disrespectful family members. Every time they do, they apologize — “I’m so sorry, it won’t happen again.”
But it does.
This doesn’t mean people don’t feel sorry for what happened — but when they have the choice, they do it again.
Trust actions, not words.
Photo by Masjid MABA on Unsplash
Stop Expecting Others To Read Your Mind
When we’re about five years old, something crucial happens in our minds.
We realize what we know, think, and see isn’t what the other knows, thinks, and sees. It seems trivial — “of course,” you’re going to say. Yet, I’ve seen people forget this essential truth over and over again.
One of my ex-girlfriends suppressed her needs because she was afraid I’d leave her. No matter how many times I asked her to please tell me what she needed, she rarely did, so I couldn’t consider her needs. Step by step, she built resentment — until she couldn’t be with me anymore.
I was dumbfounded and beating myself up for not seeing it coming. But while I realize I’ve made mistakes, I also understood there wasn’t much I could’ve done. She concealed her own needs while expecting me to somehow read her mind.
Expectation without communication equals resentment.
If you want your needs to be fulfilled, you have to voice them. You have to tell the other what matters to you. If you don’t, you’re sabotaging yourself and the relationship.
It’s unfair to both of you.
Yes, you might get rejected or they might not be able to meet your needs.
But holding back what you want won’t make you happy, either.
It’s Not About What You Say, But How You Say It
What you say isn’t always what the other person hears.
An innocent remark can feel like a personal attack and a sincere, heartfelt compliment can fly right over their head. Sometimes, it’s like you’re not even speaking the same language.
In his book, The 5 Love Languages, Gary Chapman explains that we all express and receive love differently. Some people go crazy for affirmative words and physical touch, others want to receive gifts and spend quality time together. It’s frustrating to give what you think is the biggest load of affection and have it fall flat — or to need some love but not get it the way that resonates with you.
My mum is very big about gifts. Every time I visit, she has a new keychain, sweater, or other gimmick for me. I appreciate the gesture, but on an emotional level, it doesn’t do anything for me at all.
This isn’t just about love — it’s about communication in general.
What you say doesn’t matter if you speak the wrong language.
Maybe all the other needs are little nudges, while head-on confrontations make them pull up their defenses. Maybe they need it straight and direct.
To speak the same language, share how you feel. Angry. Happy. Sad. Loved. Disappointed. Jealous. Challenged. We all speak Emotionese.
If you want better relationships, make sure you speak the same language.
This Is The Only Way To Find Common Ground
Relationships are a two-way street — but special driving rules apply.
I used to be a _”my way or the highway” _guy. This got me far in life because I’ve always prioritized myself, but it makes connecting with others difficult.
Bending over backward to please others isn’t the way to go. But always walking straight when the other wants to take a turn doesn’t get the relationship where you want it to be, either.
So how do you find a middle ground?
Always compromise, never lose yourself.
I recently met with a friend to watch Rick and Morty. After two episodes, he wanted to switch to YouTube — I’m not a big fan, but I agreed to give it a chance. Ten minutes into the video, I said I wasn’t into it. None of us had any hard feelings.
To find common ground, you first have to be clear about what you can give up to compromise — and what you want.
I can compromise on what we watch, but not on wasting my time, which I felt I was doing.
Be clear about your non-negotiables. Maybe you need one day a week for yourself, a certain level of luxury in your apartment, or the freedom to wear the clothes you want. That’s okay.
You won’t always get things your way, but you need to feel like you’re not betraying yourself.
In a great relationship, you respect the other’s needs — and they respect yours.
Compromise as much as you can, but never more.
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How To Have Better Relationships
Humans are social animals — nothing will influence your life more than the connections with the people around you. Apply these lessons to improve them fundamentally.
- Even if you do 100% right, that’s still only 50% of the relationship.
- It’s you two versus the problem, not you two against each other.
- Happy people create happy relationships, unhappy people create unhappy ones.
- Apologies without behavior change are just manipulation.
- Expectation without communication equals resentment.
- What you say doesn’t matter if you speak the wrong language.
- Always compromise, and never lose yourself.
Make each other’s lives easier, not harder.
Contributed Moreno Zugaro
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