By Alex Allman, author of Revolutionary Sex
In countless studies it’s been shown that people in relationships are healthier, more satisfied with their lives, and live longer.
Probably because they are happier… Except, of course, when they’re not.
Few things are more painful than a marriage that is not working. I remember a comedian who once said that marriage is the formalized act of choosing to be annoyed over lonely.
It doesn’t have to be.
Marriage and committed relationship can be the most blissful, enjoyably challenging, self-realizing, and spiritually fulfilling part of your lifetime. The truth is in the Nat King Cole song, “the greatest thing you’ll ever learn is just to love, and be loved in return.”
It turns out that whether or not your marriage is blissful and the greatest thing you’ll ever learn… is largely up to you.
Here are 10 practices that will create that kind of marriage for you. Every one of them is good enough to tattoo on your body.
You will construct a powerful, purposeful life of fulfillment and sweetness if you commit yourself to creating daily, meaningful practice of this list.
1. Prioritize Sex
Of course many couples have what they consider a wonderful and functional marriage as pals, without any sex.
And while I see nothing wrong with that, a friendship like that does not get the benefit of the intimacy-opening truths that are deeper than words can communicate. Physical touch is the most primal sense, and sharing sexual pleasure with the one you love is a unique and essential experience of aliveness.
Of course for elderly or physically disabled couples, sexuality might become challenging or infrequent, but touch can (and I believe must) remain an important component of marriage.
For younger couples, many of whom simply give up on sex as soon as the easy novelty wears off, they are missing out on one of the most important gifts of being human.
Spontaneity is great, but in our culture, the elevation of spontaneity as an important principle of sexual attraction is dysfunctionally overblown. Sex is too important to relegate it beneath spontaneity.
Schedule love making if necessary. Show up for sexuality in your life. Prioritize, practice it and play at it the way you would any other pleasurable priority in your life, and you will see love open, and relating become easier and easier in your marriage.
2. Never Forget That It’s A Romance, Not A Friendship
Your wife isn’t your drinking buddy and your husband isn’t your gossip girl-friend.
Of course, friendship is great and can happily co-exist inside of your marriage, but first and foremost, your partner is your lover.
You don’t spontaneously buy flowers for your buddy or light candles in the bedroom when your girlfriend is in the shower before bed.
Never stop courting each other. Treat your lover like a precious gift in your life. Treat them like what they are: The object of your love.
You will be amazed at how they will grow and rise to this expectation of being special.
3. Don’t Fear Emotions
Emotions are a part of being human. Suppressing them is a loss, and obeying them is foolish.
Cultivate the maturity to enjoy your emotions and feel them fully (even the difficult ones). Know that no matter how you play out your life, there will be both intense pleasure and ineffable pain. It’s a guarantee of being human.
Allow yourself to experience and honor your emotions and express them and share them to the best of your ability, while also understanding what they are.
Inquire into your emotions to find their source and gain greater understanding of your self and your lover, and remember that they are changeable, temporal, and most-often exist outside of the rational world.
4. Never Stop Discovering Each Other
One of the biggest mistakes that couples make with each other is the assumption that they know everything about each other. It turns out that believing you know someone is a cruelty to you both.
As the old adage goes, you never step into the same river twice – the river has changed and you have changed.
When you think you KNOW someone it makes them feel boxed in whenever they are around you. It stifles growth and it breed resentment.
Unfortunately, we are hard-wired as a mental efficiency to learn something and then believe it is true. We see a behavior from our lover a few times and that becomes who they are to us.
The bigger truth is that that is not who they are. It’s who they were in that circumstance, on that day, in that mood, and in the past. Humans are dynamic, and what we like now might be very different from what we want in 20 minutes.
The practice of seeing your lover with fresh eyes, of discovering them as if they were a stranger, every morning at breakfast and every evening when you make love, is one of the deep secrets to sexual, emotional, romantic, and spiritual fulfillment in your marriage.
5. Your Entire Universe Is Whatever You Pay Attention To
Be mindful of your attention and focus on what you love.
My friend and mentor, Nathan Otto said to me many times, “Attention is the most valuable resource in the Universe.”
What he means by this is that your attention IS your Universe. If you give it to television, then your life will pass as television. If you give it to solving the world’s problems, then that will have been your life. There really is nothing outside of your attention for you in this lifetime.
Anthony Robbins talks about people at a party… The next morning one person says it was great, and another says it was boring. What was the difference? What their attention was on.
Here’s the thing you must never forget: Where you focus your attention is a choice.
It turns out that your spouse is like that party. Choose to focus on their short-comings and very quickly that is what they will become for you in your life.
Make a practice of finding their most beautiful, attractive, and powerful qualities and focus on those. Those qualities will continue grow under your appreciation, and you will look back on a life shared with someone wonderful.
6. Honor Disagreement
My father once told me that when two business partners agree all the time, one of them is unnecessary.
Many couples find disagreement threatening. They are afraid that if they disagree then they will have to argue, compromise, lie, placate, or do SOMETHING so that they can back into agreement.
This feeling is driven by the disempowering and unrealistic belief that it’s important for a couple to agree.
When your spouse holds a different opinion from you, even when it’s frustrating for you, acknowledge to yourself that it’s an important part of attraction that you are not the same person, (and then congratulate yourself for being wise and mature enough to let your partner be the person that they are).
There is a poisonous belief that work is more important than play.
In fact, they are both essential parts of life and both deserve the respect and concentrated focus and effort of your time.
Give play your attention and your life will be more fun. Play with your partner and your relationship will be fun.
Life is already full of seriousness and it does not need your help in being more soberly attendant to difficulty.
Never stop having fun with each other. Give each other permission every single day to be silly, to laugh, and to feel joy.
8. Give The Gift Of Your Presence
If your attention is the most valuable resource in the Universe, it is also the most precious gift.
Your presence has never been more rare, more difficult to give, and more appreciated than in todays world of infinite electronic, entertainment, business, and communication distraction.
Every time the cell phone rings or a Facebook update pings into your phone you have a choice to let it interrupt your time with your spouse, and declare it more important than your presence with each other.
You also have the choice to turn it off, even if only for a few minutes, and to be fully, undistractedly present with each other.
Even in small doses this is powerful medicine.
9. Strive to reveal your deepest Truth And Be A Safe Harbor For Your Partner’s Deepest Truth
Being vulnerable and truthful as a human requires enormous courage, effort, and intention. But it’s the best game in town for living in happiness and fulfillment.
Humans are, generally, incapable of being truthful all the time, and we are filled with crap that we are ashamed of. You may never get down to the very bottom of every truth inside of yourself with your lover, but you will benefit greatly if you make a practice of trying.
Reveal what you are able, and then practice every day at pushing that boundary deeper and farther.
Commit to yourself by all that you hold holy to be safe, accepting, and loving in the face of anything that your partner reveals to you in the name of vulnerability and truth.
10. Love The Perfection Of Imperfection
You have two choices: You can either love the imperfect or you can get out of the love game altogether.
There is no such thing as perfect, and that is radically true of humans. We are a hot mess!
If you get frustrated by your lover’s imperfections and try to improve them, you are behaving in a highly irrational manner and will suffer the consequences of clinging to your no-win game.
Instead, allow yourself to fall in love with the sweetness of the struggling animal that is your beloved. Practice a deep and loving acceptance of humans in general and your spouse in particular.
David Deida wrote, “Stop waiting for your woman to change.”
That sentence rocked my world when I first read and it changed me forever. It re-made me into the kind of lover that is capable of intense, lasting, and beautiful relationship.
11. Surrender 100% Of Your Heart
I know, I said 10, but I like to over-deliver. Plus, this last one is in a category of it’s own and is virtually impossible for most folks to do.
It is also the most sacred and powerful practice of relationship.
It turns out that if you surrender 60% of your heart, your relationship will be fairly easy to manage and relatively drama and pain free (though perhaps often annoying). As you increase your level of surrender, the relationship becomes more dangerous, more fiery, more naked and vulnerable. Fights become more painful.
At 90%, relationships are heart-breakingly difficult. The pleasure and pain are both threatening, even overwhelming in their magnitude.
Is it any wonder that 100% looks like something suicidally terrifying?
The thing is though, there is a magic trick that happens when you can make the ultimate leap of faith and surrender your heart 100% to your lover:
Everything suddenly become easy, and you learn the deepest lesson that life has to offer. The Universe, and God, and Love, and Truth all suddenly make sense in perfect clarity.
It turns out that nobody else can tell you what that lesson is. You have to go out and experience it for yourself.
Awesome, Alex….I’m tweeting this! Just fabulous….XOXOXOXO Nancy
High praise from one of my favorite relationship thought leaders! Thank you Nancy.
You can save a lot of people reading a lot of books and seeing a lot of counsellors with this post.
I have not read a more compelling list of tips to make a relationship work for a long, long time, if not forever. This is a must read for every person who has found the love of his or her life, and is willing to invest everything to make it work. Very well written and well thought of, Alex! Thank you.
Riveting commentary on our essential values concerning who we are and whom we love!
Although succinct, your thoughts were also profound and incredibly practical. Thank you for sharing your insights . . .
Well done, yes I know Im understating it.
Awesome awesome so perfectly written. Thank you
This is amazing Alex,
This is amazing Alex, I have to say I’ve heard some of these things already either from you in your programs or from other teachers but the way you summarized and structurized it is invaluable. I should make a poster out of it 🙂
I can say too that my lover knows many of these things like the one with the imperfections and has helped me learn a lot !!
Thanks a million!
waoh this is great it must have come froms hours of deep thought.
thanks for pitting it together.
Thanks Sam. Actually it only took about 2 minutes to put the list together and about 30 minutes to write… after 8 years of deep thought 🙂
really liked the list…I will share…thanks
Alex, I always read your mails, since they are of value and quite different from the usual pick up nonsense. In the beginning of my new relationship I took a leap of faith in your tip no 11 and it changed my life (apart from the fact that I am 66 and she is 18, of course)
Thanks a lot for your insights!
Excellent Alex. Most insightful. This post alone is worth the price of admission. Keep up the good work.
Powerful! Thank you:)
thanks alot alex for the words you are giving
Thanks so much to all of you who have left kind comments.
We as human beings struggle with our past and it can often destroy our present, no matter how good it may appear externally. Easy to read and apply advice is priceless. Sex, play and kindness are often forgotten to the rigours of modern living and paying the bills. Prioritising your relationship over everything else takes conscious thought and this list is terrifically helpful to start that process. I’m sending this on to all with a directive to print and stick somewhere so that it can be read regularly until it becomes normal practice to think it on an unconscious level. I love it!
Thank you Alex! This is truly very deep.
Wow, you just taught me a lot about myself that I had never really thought about. Unbelievable advice that I am printing out and posting on my wall at my desk. I will read it, and start practicing it, every day. Thank you, Alex. I truly love receiving every one of your emails. Over the last few years you have given me the best advice anyone ever has. It is with the greatest of appreciation. Please, keep up the great work.
Thank you Jim, I feel humbled and honored to receive this kind of acknowledgement.
Alex I have bought a some of ur stuff!!! It is awesome!!! I get all ur emails also(very helpful) but, I have a question to c if u mite could help me with. What is the advantages of a clitoris ring? Maybe some of the followers could help? Thanks in advance.
what a phrase it is so enjoyable what a real man needs to observe in marriage is very much important
I especially appreciate #1 and #2 since being widowed.
I love that you said it takes 100% – most people say it is 50:50 but really both partners need to give 100%. Good ideas ant tips!
I love this list. Practical and easy. I have to ask..did you have a girl help you write this? Tell me true now! *smile*
Seriously, you sure touched on a lot of nerves and tip number 8 really resonated with me. Even at work right now, I have disagreements with coworkers and it is super uncomfortable. I want everyone to get along and yet, I need to speak what is on my mind.
I am clipping the article to read again not only for resources on my intimate relationships, I think the tips are good in all kinds of male/female relationships.
Thanks for a great read…
Great article Alex!! For me at the beginning of my relationship we had wild, wild, great sex. Then the house came, then the kids then more responsibilities which kind of bogs you down. This article helps you focus on your relationship and keeping that hot flame for each other going!!!!
I have been married twice now and have been in my second marriage for 17 years, I have been to all the marriage counselors and Catholic priests I can take, we have had many hard times and difficult situations that were out of our control, I believe that I have a very happy marriage, but now that I have read your information I believe I can see what went wrong in my first marriage and is affecting my second marriage, I can see where i can put it to good use, this is the best and effective information I have recieved and can understand! I agree with all of your readers out there, you have probably saved many marriages by sharing your knowledge. Thank you for giving us hope!
Very informative .we all need to be remide of what is important in are life’s and act as we should. Thanks
Thank you Alex! Insightful and practical. I feel inspired! Time for my husband to reap the benefits 🙂
Thank you for such clarity and comprehension.
Amazing insite thank you so much for writing this. I love it!
so full of shit
its just so overrated dont you think
Ouch. Sounds like someone who is the middle of some hurt. For what it’s worth, all of us get hurt sometimes. And yes, man, it can hurt really badly and the pain can last for a long while.
You want to play football, sometimes you get tackled. But, you know, you’ve got to play enough (and get hurt enough) to get good. Eventually, it’s possible to win.
And in this game, you can win something so big, that it makes your entire life worthwhile.
I like this article
I love this, fab article, great advice, am going to quote on my own blog this week thanks for sharing.
Thanks Gill! Glad that you are sharing 🙂
Simply beautiful. I’ve often considered a lifelong love to be akin to a garden in which one must tend, but whose beauty only increases with the passage of time.
This is very true. It also gets harder when you have a baby and you still want to be passionate with your spouse. You have make time.
Thank you Alex, for sharing your great advice. Number 8 really resonated with me. Time for my husband to reap the benefits.
Thank you for your advice.
Thank you. These words worked perfectly for me.
I really love this… I just wish my relationship was as what I’ve been reading.. I think waaaaay to much. I really need advice on what I should do with my man.. Things are happening with another woman (that he won’t admit to) which is causing MAGER problems.. I wanna leave.. But easier said than done
Hi Heather, I’m not going to kid you, it’s no easy thing to start off with a cheating husband who won’t admit what’s going on and get to the kind of relationship that I’m talking about– but it’s far from impossible, and sometimes it is only from rock bottom that you can burn the whole thing down and start again.
Even if I could spend hours hearing all of the details, I wouldn’t be able to tell you with certainty exactly what to do, but here a few things you might consider to begin:
1) In your mind and in your heart, let go of this relationship completely. Let it die. Realize that whatever you thought it was going to be… it’s not. Kill it off, recognize that you can live and thrive and perhaps even rebuild a better life once you move beyond it. From that place, you can walk around the wreckage and figure out if you can (or even should) try to rebuild it into something better and more intelligently designed.
2) If you want any hope of creating a beautiful relationship worth spending your life on, you’ll have to begin with the Truth. And the only way to get that from your husband is going to be through throwing away all guilt, blame, consequences, and finger-pointing, and allow him to tell you the truth without being punished for it.
It doesn’t matter if he deserves punishment. He’s a human, he screwed up, he may not be ready to own up to that, and he may have stories about why it was your fault and you drove him to it, or whatever. But until you can both lay down blame and accept each other as flawed humans (for your part, you must accept and love his humanity including his weakness and his oath-breaking and cheating). When he knows he’s safe, he can be be truthful, and then perhaps you’ve got a shot at remaining friends, or perhaps rebuilding a more robust partnership… or even the deep and true love that you’ve both always wanted but somehow lost track of along the way.
I do believe in growing and learning from each other. You put God first then your partner.
Thank you. At least someONE is being honest.
Beautifully written article! Thank you.
This was very beautifully written. If only my life would reflect it. We need lots of help at 56yo to start on a new note. Please help. Starving for passion
Hi Lynette, we all need help sometimes! I hope that you can find the help you need here in the pages of my blog. I do private skype/tele-sessions, but because of supply-and-demand my rates are quite high. Feel free to contact support if you want to pursue that possibility. But in the end, help can only go so far: You will need to do the heavy lifting yourselves. Passion does not come easily. It takes courage and commitment.
Interesting little read….
A powerful group of words collaborated to form a unique view that few people in the society that we live in can fully grasp! I’ve recently divorced my 15 year mate. The love of my life. There was such a fire when we met, we tried everything to make it work. But sometimes failed to see the bigger picture. As the years past and life got busy, our time together became more of a nuisance. And looking back, there’s things I could have done better. Done with more intensity. I will take these thoughts to my next relationship and pray that my new lady (hopefully wife) will have the same mindset! That is for the article, truly inspiring!
i dont wanna be with him anymore . . .
Life is what u make it
Have been with my wife for 36 years and don’t know her she has always made excuse to avoid to sex she only does out of gilt or obligation we only have good sex when she is drunk which was only about once every 2 years now she doesn’t drink hardly at all I don’t think she married me out of love I think she just wanted to marry me because I was good to her and she wanted to have children I have tried to tell her how I feel and she says oh poor me I don’t know what to do if I didn’t love her I would have left her years ago and we have 5 boys that are now grown we have no bond just a mediocre friendship I want to be loved
These tips are very helpful to couples. Being intimate with our partners give them comfort and security. Couples need to have an open communication with this topic and issue so that there is no misunderstanding.
Good night Sweet rule
Wow. Beautiful. Best. Article. Ever.