Little Things That Can Help a Good Relationship Stay That Way

By Bill Cottringer

“A man's sense of self is defined through his ability to achieve results; a woman's sense of self is defined through her feelings and the quality of her relationships.” ~John Gray.

...but John Gray’s above two insights are not opposing at all. They can work together as two halves of the same coin to help a couple double their joys and half their sorrows, as another quote goes. If you are lucky enough to already be in a good relationship, don’t take these feelings or results for granted because with today’s stressors, even good relationships can easily go south on you if you don’t make the effort to do the following little things that can prevent that from happening:


At the top of the list of little things that can help a good relationship stay that way and even get better, and that can be avoided, which need to be avoided is: Only speaking the speak-able and not speaking the unspeakable. Things that need to be said need to be said and things that don’t, don’t. Legitimate “complaints” about the other person’s behaviors that are overly intrusive into your rights and space should be addressed promptly, sensitively and assertively, with empathy but without blame or trying to make the other person feel needlessly bad. These things should not remain in abeyance for dumping all at once collectively. That is not smart, fair or helpful in anyway.

And when you know you are right and the other person is wrong, not speaking your reality has more influence in convincing the other person to question the truth of their own rightness and your wrongness, on their own and usually for the better. Speaking it just reinforces the other person’s resistance to such change. However, no matter how frustrated you may be from general stress in your life or annoyance from the other person—expressing things like contempt (even privately), making public criticisms, name-calling, belittling or pointing out impervious conditions of the other person—are all critical no-no’s. If you want your good relationship to stay good and even get better, instead of slipping southward, then think about how you can avoid the avoidable by controlling the controllable and doing the doable.


My personal all-time witty little aphorism is, “It is not the things in life that bother us, but rather our opinions about these things.” (Epictetus, the early Greek Philosopher). We really only begin to take charge of our life and destiny when we learn to separate those things that really aren’t under our control (most), from those few that are under our control (least). In a relationship, we really don’t have much say in how the other person thinks or behaves and if we don’t like it too much, then shame on us for getting into a relationship with such a person! However, like the saying above goes, we can and should try to control our mouth from expressing an opinion that doesn’t really help the situation or better yet, seeing that it is our approach to the other person that needs changing, which may be the real problem at hand. And this approach is always controllable.

Today’s stressful living confronts us with a ton of unpleasant things we wish we could control—financial difficulties of having to spend more than we make just to tread water; devastating natural disaster tragedies or accidents; losing loved ones; prolonged unemployment or physical or emotional pain; kids who get bullied at school or get in trouble with drugs, alcohol or unsafe sex; illicit adultery; being unhappy in your job and not being able to do anything about it…and a litany of other bothersome burdens that seem too heavy and unfair. But, the older we get, we begin to realize these uncontrollable burdens that seem to have our name on them, are personal tests to help build our character in order to grow the one thing we most need to give and get—our ability to receive unconditional love and to love unconditionally, just like life really loves us. Seeing this, makes any burden a little lighter and that seeing is controllable.


Good relationships usually start out with much fun, romance, spontaneity, respect, peace and happiness. But those things can fade quickly like a fire that isn’t purposely stoked now and then to avoid the avoidable by doing the doable. Yes, the high cost of living today infringes upon our ability to keep doing these things that keep a relationship alive, but that doesn’t mean we can’t find inexpensive things to do. We can just sit and talk alone or with friends at a party, read in bed together, take local walks in the rain, garden together in the sun, and watch $1.00 Redbox videos together during a free early morning. Or we can help each other with weekend work projects, volunteer together in community or religious services, or celebrate special occasions with cards from the Dollar Store instead of Hallmark. And sitting an atmosphere of intimacy and passion doesn’t cost much at all.

Real wealth in life is finding the free fun that is there for all our viewing and doing—spectacular sunsets, serene foggy, misty river scenes, pretty neighborhood flowers, distant snowcapped mountains, and bizarre zoo animals and playful backyard critters—whether in magazines the theatre or real life. In the end, we all come to the inevitable conclusion you really can’t buy the most important things in life like, fun, happiness, peace, belonging, appreciation or meaning. These things are what we get more of together in a good relationship growing into a better one.

"If you have love in your life, it can make up for a great many things you lack. If you do not have it, no matter what else there is, it is not enough." ~Anonymous.

Author's Bio: 

William Cottringer, Ph.D. is Executive Vice-President for Employee Relations for Puget Sound Security, Inc. in Bellevue, WA, along with his hobbies in being a Sport Psychologist, Business Success Coach, Photographer and Writer living in the peaceful but invigorating mountains and rivers of North Bend. He is author of several business and self-development books, including, “You Can Have Your Cheese & Eat It Too” (Executive Excellence), “The Bow-Wow Secrets” (Wisdom Tree), “Do What Matters Most” and “P” Point Management” (Atlantic Book Publishers), “Reality Repair” (Global Vision Press), Reality Repair Rx (Authorsden), and “If Pictures Could Talk,” coming soon. Bill can be reached for comments or questions at (425) 454-5011 or