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  • Dr. Dane Donohue

What Makes or Breaks a Relationship

I am a huge fan of Stephen Covey; I read all his books and listened to many of his lectures and interviews. His teachings have made a profound impact on my life and I regret never getting to meet him, shake his hand, and thank him for what he taught me. I subscribed to a series of interviews, called "Power Talk", that Tony Robbins did a while back with some important people. I would get one interview a month, on audiotape (so you know I'm talking a LONG time ago) and the one interview was with the late Stephen Covey.

Mr. Covey said something in that interview about relationships that stopped me in my tracks because, at the time, I was having problems in my own relationship. I was very young, new to marriage, and I was struggling to understand why it wasn’t going “smoother”. During the interview with Tony Robbins, Stephen Covey said something that made more sense to me about marriage or any other relationship:

“What’s important to another must be as important to you as the other person is to you.”

You should read that about 5-10 times in a row and truly understand its meaning. This one simple statement could save A LOT of relationships. I think “animal instincts” are about survival and putting ourselves and our own needs first. These are characteristics that are baked into our evolutionary DNA. However, what truly makes us human is the ability to think about our decisions BEFORE we make them and to learn from decisions that we have already made.

To consider what’s important to another, especially when it’s not important to you at the time is very difficult. Men especially struggle with this because as men we want to do what we want to do without any explanation. "I’m going golfing (or hunting) and that’s just the way it is. It doesn’t matter if today is our anniversary; we’ll have plenty of those to celebrate in the future." Trust me, it’s happened. What I wish I would have learned when I was young was empathy and understanding other’s needs, especially those closest to me. Putting the needs and/or wants of someone else before your own is something that must be learned. It comes with age and/or wisdom. However, I believe it is one of the most important “deposits” you can make into the happiness account of another.

If you're not familiar with "Love Languages" they are words of affirmation, physical touch, receiving gifts, quality time, and acts of service. My wife’s “love languages” are receiving gifts and quality time. These values are not nearly as important to me. My love languages are words of affirmation and physical touch. Knowing what’s important to Jill must be as important to me as Jill is to me. I’ve come to learn that to make her happy, I need to give her what she needs, NOT what I need. I’ll buy her a surprise gift from time to time or schedule a day to spend together just the two of us. Seeing how happy and appreciative this makes her helps to feed my needs, words of affirmation, and physical touch. You see how "givers get"?

This lesson in empathy and understanding applies not only to your spouse or significant other but to ALL relationships. Take time to listen to the needs and desires of the important people in your life. Maybe it’s a parent, maybe it’s a friend, maybe it’s an employee or important co-worker. You may be surprised when you learn what’s important to them because it’s possibly something that wouldn’t even cross your radar.

If you want to strengthen a relationship, ask yourself, “What’s important to this person?”. What do they love? Then, help give them more of what they love. Obviously, if they love cocaine, don’t support a bad habit or their own self-destruction. That’s not what I’m talking about here. But if they love being in nature, suggest going on a hike with them. If they love shopping, suggest a day of shopping at their favorite places (I know; I hate it too). If they love just spending time together, suggest a weekend away, just the 2 of you. If they love talking about their grandchildren, ask them about their grandchildren or ask to see pictures.

The most important takeaway here is that people matter and relationships matter. Especially, those people who are closest to you. Life is SO much better when your treasured relationships are healthy as opposed to sick. Sick relationships have something in common, people who don’t take the time to understand one another's needs or desires. Healthy relationships have at their core “simple”, yet “difficult to do” traits. At the top of that list is understanding what’s important to another person and how you can make what’s important to them just as important to YOU.

Best in Health,

Dr. Dane

Dr. Dane Donohue is a Chiropractor in Newtown PA and has been serving his community for over 25 years. Wellness Solution Centers provides all the services you need for a healthy life.

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