Mike Iamele sees a lot of relationship advice out there and isn’t planning to jump into the fray.
Relationship advice. Scan any mainstream men’s magazine today, including this one, and that’s a good chunk of what you’ll see.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not a relationship-hater. I’m in one. A serious one, at that. A soul mate, this-is-real, let’s-grow-old-together kind of relationship. And I’m no stranger to relationship advice. Being in a healthy relationship, along with the fact that I’m a success coach, brings a lot of relationship questions my way.
And I usually give it to people straight up—that I don’t know what you should do because I’m not in your relationship. That advice that works in my relationship might not work in yours. That “communicate” and “compromise” might mean squat if the relationship’s not supporting you from the get-go. That you have to know who you are and what you want. And, that no matter what kind of relationship it is, the only two people who really get it are the two people involved.
Blanket statements are dangerous. Catch-all advice to text the right messages or make your partner eat out of the palm of you hand is cute and catchy, but it never applies to everyone. People are complex. Relationships are even worse. And there’s not much advice that’s going to satisfy us all.
But there is one thing that I’ve found works time and time again. Every healthy relationship I know used this technique. It’s powerful. It works. It’s the only thing I’ve ever heard that can be applied to every single person in the world, no matter who you are. Hell, it’s how I found the love of my life—in the most unexpected of ways.
Do the self-work. That’s it. That’s the magic formula.
Know who you are. Know your insecurities, your weak points, your faults. Know your fears and worries. Know how you act when you feel threatened. Know your secret desires and ambitions. Know how to catch yourself when you’re spiraling out of control. Know what makes you feel good and bad, and how to communicate that. And, most of all, know exactly how much you’re worth – and exactly how much you’re willing to tolerate.
Self-awareness is the most important attribute I’ve noticed in any people who are in a healthy relationship. They communicate not because Men’s Health told them to, but because they know that they can interpret nagging as one thing, when their partner never meant that. They compromise because they know how important the other person is to them. And they also know when to walk away because they always know that they still have to love themselves most.
If we believe that all relationships are just containers for our own self-growth (hint: this is my article, and we do), then we acknowledge that we don’t really have control over our partners’ actions ever. We can pretend that we’ve learned how to manipulate hot girls into liking us or how to trick our partners into seeing our point of view, but the truth is that real, honest, authentic relationships aren’t about getting the other person to do anything. They’re about getting us to grow, evolve, change, develop. They’re about expanding with the support of our loved ones. And hoping that we continue growing aligned with one another.
There’s this myth being purported in society that you can learn how to be a good partner. Like there’s a certain skillset that makes you a better boyfriend. And you need to read and study and learn these skills.
But I’ve been in some relationships where I rocked house. I was the best boyfriend in the world. And other relationships where I totally sucked. And the difference had more to do with me, my self-awareness, my honesty with myself, and how much of a right fit my partner was. That’s all that really mattered.
In every interaction we have, we’re always learning and changing and growing. From that chat with our boss to the random lady at the grocery store, we encounter so many relationships on a daily basis. And those relationships are tools we use to learn more about ourselves.
So our primary relationships really are just containers for rapid self-growth. They’re the places where we feel safe to figure out how to become the best person we can be. They’re where we experiment and learn and change and evolve.
They may be with another person, but the relationship we’re really working on is the one we have with ourselves. After all, our behavior is the only one we can control anyway.
And I’ve got to tell you, the fastest way to make your own relationship with your girlfriend, boyfriend, or spouse better is simply to become happier yourself. To know yourself more. To know what you want. And to be able to communicate that openly.
And that stuff—well, I’ve got to be honest: that’s kind of personal. That’s up to you to figure out. No advice in the world will help you there.
Photo: Brendan Riley/Flickr