The Simplest and Fastest Way to Build Your Relationship
Don’t waste your time trying to learn everything. Focus on this one thing to start building your relationship today
On the Reconciling Marriages with Coach Jack podcast, Christian psychologist, author, and relationship coach, Dr. Jack Ito, will help you to build and restore your marriage. By learning just a few relationship skills, you can help your spouse enjoy your relationship more, while getting more love and affection from your spouse. Listen to Coach Jack as he helps you with one more step toward a marriage both you and your spouse will love.
In today’s podcast, Coach Jack will teach you why focusing on connection rather than problems, attraction, or boundaries is the fastest route to relationship growth. He also discusses the relationship between connection and validation.
After listening to today’s podcast, you may want to:
The Simplest and Fastest Way to Build Your Relationship
[Introduction to the podcast]
Announcer: On the Reconciling Marriages with Coach Jack podcast, Christian psychologist, author, and relationship coach, Dr. Jack Ito, will help you to build and restore your marriage. By learning just a few relationship skills, you can help your spouse enjoy your relationship more, while getting more love and affection from your spouse. Listen to Coach Jack as he helps you with one more step toward a marriage both you and your spouse will love.
[Coach Jack’s Presentation]
Jack Ito PhD: Are you spending a lot of time looking for solutions to your relationship problems? Today, I will teach you the underlying principle for relationship building so that you don’t have to keep looking for answers and instead can start taking action.
While looking for more solutions to your problems may feel productive, it actually may be distracting you away from working on the basic reason that your marriage is struggling. For many people, continuing to look for more and more ways to accomplish something is just a way to avoid working on that thing. It’s an intellectual defense mechanism that keeps people from doing things that might fail. So, looking for more and more information, protects people from experiencing failure.
If you have a lot of relationship books, but have taken very few actions from those books, you are an action avoider. If you want to have good relationships, you need to realize this, choose one book you already have, and get to work. I refer you to my podcast on getting maximum benefit from self help books for a good, systematic way to put a self help book to use. The same principle applies if you are constantly seeking out videos, coaches, counselors, and so forth. Accumulating information and understanding will not change anything in your relationship or any other part of your life. Only action can do that, and the sooner you take that action, the sooner you can experience success.
While people are complex, the principles for improving relationships are not. Going to counseling typically takes at least a few months and sometimes years because of the emphasis on focusing on understanding rather than action. This is only necessary in very unusual circumstances. Most of the time, the actions required for improvement are the same actions that have helped countless other people. Only when those actions fail or people are not able to take those actions, for psychological reasons, is counseling necessary.
What is the most important principle for relationship improvement? It is this:
Taking care of the emotional connection in your relationship will make the specific issues go away or easy to manage.
Even though there are many situations in which attraction and boundaries are also needed, those things will not work without emotional connection. It is emotional connection that makes people care about our boundaries. And, being attractive without emotional connection will only give you a short term relationship at best. Relationships are governed by principles of emotion and not principles of logic. We can’t restore relationships by reasoning, no matter how logical we are. For this reason, very logical people struggle with relationships the most. Logical, intelligent people often waste time trying to figure out men or women instead of just doing what is necessary to have a good relationship with a man or a woman.
People with severe problems often think that they need to seek some kind of help that is entirely different from people with small problems. So, a person with constant daily conflict in their relationship may think that they need a different approach from people who have occasional conflict. However, the principle or mechanism for improving the relationship remains the same.
Let’s take an analogy to make this more understandable. Many people want to lose weight. Some of these people are a little overweight and some are very overweight. How overweight they are does not determine the type of action they need to take. That is, the mechanism for losing a lot of weight is no different from losing a little weight–it just takes longer. If someone can lose a little weight, all they need to do is to keep applying that principle until they achieved their desired weight. So it is with relationships.
People with severe relationship problems need to apply the same strategies for relationship building as those who have only minor relationship problems. However, they will need to apply them longer in order to get to the place where they are both enjoying the relationship. The search for a solution that will create change overnight will cause as much frustration and failure as it does for the person who searches for an overnight solution to their obesity. Building your relationship slowly and steadily will, just like losing weight, help you to reach your intimacy goals. Looking for big fixes only deprives you of valuable time that you could be using for creating a steadily growing relationship. Some people will not try a solution that will take a few months to work because they are desperate to fix things quickly. What happens to them is they spend many months or years looking for a quick fix and in the end have to use the solution they passed up in the first place. Often, they have searched so long for answers instead of taking actions, that they lose the window of opportunity for building their relationships. They may spend years, for example, trying to get their spouse to change or work on the relationship with them instead of taking actions that they can do on their own to improve their relationship.
As a relationship coach, I mainly work with people whose relationships are in severe distress. In almost every case, this distress could have been avoided. What was needed was for people to be applying relationship building principles from their first contact with their partner—when they first met—and for as long as they wanted their relationship to last. Maintaining proper relationship building actions creates relationships that people never want to end. This then makes it much easier to deal with any problems that come along.
For example, a person will not risk losing a good relationship for the sake of an affair partner, but they will risk losing a relationship which was not maintained. In my book, “A Christian Guide to Preventing and Ending Men’s Affairs,” I lay out important principles that will virtually affair proof a relationship. They are the same principles that must be followed after successfully working to end a spouse’s affair—something I regularly help my clients to do.
The most important thing we must do to start and maintain relationships is to be similar to the other person. Similarity is the basis of all connection. While opposites may attract, it is only similarity which can connect. This means that people who initially came together based on the excitement of their differences must transition to being more similar if their relationship is to last. There is no way to connect with anyone based on differences. Couples can become more and more different for a few reasons. It may be that they never were that similar to begin with. I see this commonly with couples who got married too soon after beginning their relationships. It is also very common with single needy people who will cling on to a bad relationship rather than let it go for a better one. Once they marry, they often find they are very different.
Another reason couples become different and lose their connection is because of a shift in focus from enjoying their relationship to more of a business partner relationship. Because of work or children, they may stop dating and spending daily time together in non-business ways. Another common way that people become different is that one of the partners becomes overly focused in individual activities such as their career, social media, or solo interests. The most devastating way that people become different and disconnected is by arguing, intentional distancing, and by not showing empathy. It is quite possible for a spouse to be very helpful for practical things, but still not be agreeable or empathetic. Such partners will get their spouse’s appreciation, but will ultimately lose their relationship to their partner due to the loss of connection which can only be built through similarity. If you are in a roommate or business partner relationship, you can work on connection to transform your relationship to a closer one.
You can get a very good approximation of how connected you and your spouse are by considering one question. Imagine someone asked your husband or wife how similar they felt the two of you are. The more similar your spouse feels he or she is to you, the more emotionally connected your relationship is. The more different your spouse feels the two of you are, the worse your emotional connection. Understanding why you are different will not help you connect with your spouse in any way. But, taking action to become more similar to your spouse will help you to connect better with your spouse in a very short period of time.
Consider the various relationships you have in your life and the people you are connected to. You will notice that in every case the connection does not have to do with how much you help that person, but how much you two have in common and how similar you are in the way you think and feel. We can’t start new relationships by convincing people they are wrong, and we can’t maintain old relationships that way either. We start and maintain relationships only by validating others.
Validating someone means making them feel they are right about what they think, feel, and do. Invalidating people means making them feel they are wrong about what they think, feel, or do. The more you validate, closer you will become; the more you invalidate, the more distant you will become.
Learning to validate others, especially your spouse, will keep them feeling similar to you. Does your spouse get more validation from friends, social media, or other family members than from you? If so, he or she probably spends a lot more time with them than you. You will need to work to validate and become more similar to your spouse to increase his or her desire to be with you.
Depending on how distant your relationship has become, this will take more or less time. In a distant relationship we can’t help someone feel similar to us in one day any more than an obese person could reach their desired weight with one day of dieting. For both situations, slow and steady are the only way to make progress. If you do try to become similar overnight, you will come across as insincere—the changes you make will not be credible.
If you need to make a lot of changes because your relationship is almost to the point of breaking, you will feel desperate to make changes quickly. When you make the changes quickly, however, you will be rejected because of them and feel that you are in a no win situation. In this situation you may need extra help to learn other strategies for building your relationship and repairing damage. If your relationship is not to the point of breaking, you can learn from a resource such as my book, “Connecting through Yes!“ which focuses on learning how to validate and create connection by agreeing, even when discussing conflict issues.
The principle of similarity is as basic to building relationships as reducing calories is to losing weight. Don’t keep looking for more complicated solutions if you are not using this basic principle. If you are struggling to make friends, the same principle applies. Birds of a feather flock together. Either find people who are similar to you already, or become similar to them. Minimize any points of difference until your relationship becomes close, and even then, regularly validate in order to maintain your emotional connection.
Announcer: Thank you for listening to Reconciling Marriages with Coach Jack. Visit coachjackito.com to learn more skills for reconnecting with your spouse and restoring your marriage.