How to Have a Happier Relationship

Leo at Zen Habits offers Eight Keys to a Happier Marriage and they’re really good (and applicable to any romantic relationship, not just marriage). A lot of the advice seems like common sense — communicate, be prepared to put work into your relationship, that sort of thing — but it’s surprising how many people I see that need to be reminded or maybe even informed) about these simple principles. Take his third tip, “Speak Plainly”, which is about playing mind games:

The very worst thing you can do in a relationship is play games with each other. No, not the twister or monopoly varieties, I mean mind games. It’s tempting when you are in a bad mood or when you don’t want to be hurt to be passive aggressive, to not say what you mean, to make veiled hints in order to test the other person and so on. Tempting, but it doesn’t go anywhere except sour.

In every relationship I’ve seen that was in trouble, mind games were common — even my own. In my last failed relationship, it was at the first sign of mind game playing that I knew the relationship was doomed, even if it took several months for that to happen. Let me give an example: if housecleaning is an issue, and one partner purposely leaves a mess to see if the other partner cleans it up, that’s trouble. Especially if the other partner sees the mess, relaizes he or she is being messed with and leaves it just to prove a point. That’s double trouble!

Mind games are a betrayal of trust. They say “I don’t trust my partner enough to air my grievances without them throwing a fit” or worse, “I’m afraid to talk to them because they might not love me anymore”. I see relationships — if you can even call them that — where the entire focus of the partner’s lives has become to “win”, to not let the other one “score points” on them, and so on. At this point, you’re no longer in a relationship, you’re in a cage match — no matter how good the sex still is. You might get some sort of twisted satisfaction out of a situation like this, but not happiness. And if there’s no happiness in your relationship, why bother?

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