Some people are just good at relationships. Other people are awful at them and live life on a seesaw of high hopes and crushing heartbreak and disappointment. I was in the latter category for most of my single years, but fortunately, I got it together eventually and my years as a dating disaster have given me the ability to speak to others in this unfortunate category!
In all seriousness, I’ve been writing about relationships for nearly 10 years now and there are clear differences between those who get it right and those who never do. The people who are good at relationships aren’t necessarily more beautiful or charming. They don’t use some sort of voodoo or follow ridiculous rules. It’s something else, something much more innocent and easily achievable, for real.
So let’s look at what it takes to be good at relationships.
1. People who are good at relationships don’t treat relationships like life or death
By far the biggest area where people screw themselves up is getting so wound up over it all. It literally can feel like life or death. Our emotions are turned up to the max and we feel on edge and slightly terrified. And then comes the stressing and the analyzing. I mean, you gotta do it to save yourself from being blindsided, right?
Most people get so caught up in protecting themselves from getting hurt they can’t even enjoy the relationship. They are so afraid of the relationship ending, and the other person losing interest, that they forget to ask themselves if they are even interested.
And the relationship is far from an enjoyable experience.
There is a panic when he doesn’t text back … a sense of dread when he seems a little cold or distant … and these feelings of unease cause you to spin your wheels even more forcefully. It feels like you’re doing something productive by spending so much time thinking about the relationship, but really the only thing you’re succeeding in is driving yourself crazy—not to mention, creating a totally off-putting vibe.
People who are good at relationships don’t treat relationships like the end all be all for their happiness. They approach a situation with confidence and calm. They know they have a lot to offer and if this guy sees it, great! If not, that’s fine too, someone else will. It’s not the end of the world and the end of any shred of self-esteem if they experience rejection.
Essentially, people who are good at relationships know they will be OK no matter what happens. There is no panic, no need to analyze, no need to replay every interaction on loop, no need to figure out how he feels. They are just OK. They can be present and just let things unfold naturally without force or an agenda.
2. People who are good at relationships don’t jump 20 steps ahead
Dating is essentially a way to determine how compatible you are with another person. If there is chemistry and you are fundamentally compatible and you both want the same kind of relationship, then a relationship will usually develop. Dating is a discovery process, that’s all. It’s not a measure of your worth or your lovability.
People who are good at relationships know this and see dating as a chance to get to know someone else and see what can unfold.
People who are bad at relationships see having a relationship as a goal, it’s something they need for their sense of worth and their happiness.
They can’t be present and just enjoy getting to know the other person. They panic over how he feels and if he will commit. She needs the commitment not necessarily because she really likes the guy, but because of what it will mean to her sense of worth if she doesn’t get it.
If he doesn’t want to commit to her, it means she’s unworthy and unlovable. If he does, she’s worthy. Talk about having a lot at stake!
Insecure people don’t think they are worthy of love, so when the opportunity to be in a relationship presents itself, they grab hold with all their might for fear that such a good opportunity will never come around again. They chase after him, they try to mold themselves into what they think he wants, they try to win him over, it’s all about him.
Confident people don’t do this. They just enjoy. They don’t spend a relationship engaging with the panicked thoughts in their head, thoughts generated by fear and insecurity. They spend it connecting with the other person and deciding if this is someone they want to keep spending time with.
3. People who are good at relationships are already happy with their lives
People who are good at relationships are living happy, fulfilled lives before they even enter into a relationship. They bring their happiness into the relationship, instead of extracting happiness from the relationship.
A relationship can’t ever make you happy. It can enhance your feelings of happiness, but it can’t be your happiness.
People who usually fail at relationships feel miserable in their lives and believe the reason is because they’re single. So all they need to do is find a man and problem solved! But being miserable is the exact thing that will repel men away from you. That misery creates a vibe that no one—man or woman—wants to be around.
People who are good at relationships don’t expect relationships to make them happy. They find happiness outside of the relationship. They feel good about themselves and about their lives.
There isn’t one prescription for how to achieve this. Different people gain happiness from different things. And despite what you’ve been told, it is possible to find happiness on your own. People who are good at relationships make their own happiness a priority, rather than prioritizing finding a man. As a result, men are immediately drawn to them and relationships unfold effortlessly.
Once they’re in a relationship, they don’t abandon their former lives. They keep doing the same things they were doing before and they maintain a life outside of the relationship, rather than making the relationship the sole center of their life.
4. People who are good at relationships learn as they go and don’t adopt faulty beliefs
If a relationship fails, they don’t cast blame on the entire male gender (it’s because all men are lying scumbag players) or on themselves (it’s because I’m not good enough), they just accept that this is a part of life.
They try to learn whatever lesson there is to learn so they can be better next time, rather than dwelling on everything that went wrong and letting faulty ideas deeply penetrate their minds until they’re firmly wired in. Ideas like: I’m not pretty enough … I’m not good enough … The guys I want will never want me back … I always screw things up … I’m worthless … I’m going to end up alone… etc.
Look, nothing is going to work out until something does. That’s just how it goes. More than leading to a lifelong commitment, love leads to heartbreak. When you internalize all that hurt, then you set yourself up to fail. When you use it as an opportunity to grow, then you come out even better in the end.
5. People who are good at relationships respond instead of reacting
This is probably the most essential relationship skill. People who are good at relationships don’t get triggered by every little thing, making proverbial mountains out of molehills. This is mostly because they’ve worked on themselves, another key component to being good at relationships.
When something upsetting happens, or when a conflict arises, they don’t become slaves to their emotions and immediately react. They are able to take a few minutes, think about it, and then respond.
When you respond, you have a choice. You see the situation and can decide how you want to handle it. When you react, you have no choice. Things fly out of your mouth and before you know it you’ve said things you deeply regret and can’t take back.
People who are good at relationships don’t constantly feel under attack so they aren’t always on the defensive. They can hear the other person without letting their ego and old wounds get in the way and take the driver’s seat.
6. People who are good at relationships are loving and affectionate without being needy
The needy mindset is one that says, “I need you to respond to me in a certain way in order to feel OK.” If a guy doesn’t show affection or takes too long to text back or is less attentive, the needy person panics and gets demanding and clingy. They need that attention for their livelihood.
A needy person gives in order to get. She is nice to him so he will shower her with affection. If she doesn’t get the affection she wants, she punishes him by going cold or she kills his attraction for her by acting desperate and needy. Suffice to say needy people are bad at relationships.
People who are good at relationships are able to give freely. They don’t show affection to stake a claim or get something back. They do it because it’s a genuine expression of how they feel. They don’t need the other person’s approval in order to feel OK. Essentially, they can give and receive love freely and without agenda.
7. People who are good at relationships have worked on themselves
Honestly, this one encompasses them all. People who are good at relationships have worked on themselves and have dealt with their issues. None of us makes it out of childhood or adolescence unscathed. And then as we start having romantic relationships and they don’t work out, we add to the pile of damage.
Feelings don’t just evaporate because they go unacknowledged. If you don’t deal with your issues they will stay firmly planted where they are, until something pokes them just so and then all hell breaks loose. Have you ever gotten irrationally angry over something relatively minor? Those are your subconscious issues talking! You may not even know what they are or where they came from, but they’re in there.
You have to deal with your damage. That’s the only way to get rid of it and not let it spill into our future and ruin it.
Whether it’s a rough childhood or one too many heartbreaks, deal with the pain of your past. For some this will be relatively simple, maybe a good book about relationships and journaling will lead to the breakthrough. Others might need a good therapist. Whatever it is that’s holding you back, find it, face it, and clear it out of your life.