The #1 Trait That Defines A Truly Great Relationship

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happy couple lighting sparklers at beach during sunset

Over the years, I've worked with countless clients who looked like they “had it all” from the outside: fulfilling careers, comfortable lives, and beautiful families. Yet after just a few minutes of speaking with them, they'd often confess that something big was missing from their lives. Despite their success, they found themselves struggling to connect with their long-term partners.

And every time I meet someone who's run into this kind of roadblock in their relationship, I think back to something that happened to me many years ago.

I was flying back from a conference when the man sitting next to me struck up a conversation. At first, we exchanged the kind of small talk you'd normally expect from a stranger on a plane.

But when he asked me what I did for a living, and I mentioned that I was a speaker, consultant, and teacher, something changed. He began to tell me his life story. He didn't hold anything back. He shared his challenges with me, and the one that seemed to trouble him the most was his struggle to connect with his wife.

“My wife and I have been married thirteen years,” the man said, “and my wife and I seem to only ever talk about the bills, the kids, and where we’re going on our next vacation. I'm afraid that once my kids are out of the house my wife and I will look at each other and feel like strangers.”



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From an outsider's perspective, this would have seemed crazy.

Here was a highly successful executive at a multi-billion dollar company who had confessed how deeply unhappy he was in his relationship. Bob was one of those people who worked his way to the top of his field at a very young age. In other words, nothing about his success was an accident.

He was clearly a man with an unusual amount of commitment and focus. So why weren't those traits, that served him so well in the professional world, translating into relationship success?

“You’ve done so well directing your creativity at work,” I said. “Did you realize that you could have the same opportunity at home?”

He couldn’t have looked more confused if I'd suddenly sprouted a second head!

So I explained to him that everyone is born creative. The most successful among us use this creativity to reach our professional goals and create material success but to have a successful relationship, we need to direct that creativity back to our significant other, too.



Although he made a few notes and seemed interested, I could tell he felt deflated by the time the plane arrived at our destination.

Maybe it was because of the effort he felt he’d need to put into his relationship. He told me, “Our marriage isn’t that great, but I’m sure we’re not that different from most people.”

I’d hoped that, after our talk, his perspective had shifted.

No one should have to settle for a mediocre marriage not when it can be such a source of immense inspiration and joy in our lives

Like the man on the plane, all of us are born with the God-given gift of creativity. What we do with it, whether or not we even perceive our own creative ability, is another matter altogether.

We can choose to use that gift to succeed in business, to build better relationships, or to create pieces of art and write imaginative novels. Our creative powers have no limits!!

There's so much more to life than struggling endlessly or sitting idly by while we watch our marriage or relationships deteriorate.

practice to spice up a stale relationshipPhoto: Creativa Images via Canva

We really do have the ability to make our relationships strong and long-lasting.

But, how do we define a great relationship?

Forget what you've seen in movies or read in books. A great relationship isn't necessarily about always agreeing with your partner, nor is it about being able to perfectly read your partner's mind.

Instead, consider that what makes a relationship great is the feeling of aliveness when your partner is near:

  • Does your heart beat faster when you see their face? Does the sound of their voice fill you with joy?
  • Do you marvel at your luck at finding this person … even after being together for several years?
  • And when things are at their worst, do you still feel blessed to have the opportunity to stand by and support your partner?

When you have a truly connected relationship with another person, the sense of well-being you've cultivated spills out into every other connection in your lives — your extended family, your children, and your circle of friends.

Sound impossible? I promise it's not. There is a way to use our creative powers to make this a reality, starting today!

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A Powerful Practice for Spicing Up A Stale Relationship: Recognizing Patterns And Taking Action

You can start creating a great relationship through communication.

Begin by asking your partner to be candid. Ask them to tell you about any pattern or behavior in your relationship that might be creating a feeling of distance between you.

For example, are you glued to your phone? Are most of your hours together spent planted in front of the television? What could you be doing that's diluting your time together, without even consciously realizing it? Or maybe your partner doesn't feel like they can talk to you. Do you keep finishing their sentences or fight to gain control of the conversation?

Whatever the distancing behavior happens to be, being able to identify it is the first step.

Then, when you catch yourself engaging in it, make some kind of note to yourself. Writing it down in a notebook is the best way to do this. Make note of the details surrounding the behavior: the date and time, perhaps even what was going on at the time.

Then, you can go back later and try to identify why and how this pattern is creeping into your life. Get ready … you'll probably be shocked at how often it appears at first!

Once you take this step, you'll start to notice the ways this behavior affects your life together, and you may even realize that the distancing behaviors are affecting relationships outside of the one you share with your spouse. Are you interacting with friends or coworkers the same way?

When you've thoroughly recognized the patterns that are creating distance between you and your partner, you can seek to change the patterns. This is where the crucial element of creativity comes in.

Whenever you want to stop engaging in a negative behavior, it helps to have a new pattern you can use to replace it: one that’s considerate and mindful.

An example of this might be, instead of checking a cell phone at lunch or dinner, finding a way to check in with a partner or loved one.

By doing this, we are not only removing an obstacle to our relationship happiness, we are actually opening up to that which we might have taken for granted up until now.

If your relationship has hit a slump and you can't seem to find a way out, it may mean you simply haven't used your creativity to explore new approaches.



Remember, when we focus our attention, we are engaging in a conscious act of creation.

We can create deep and meaningful connections with others, relationships that are fulfilling and nurturing … or we can create confusion, excuses, and more of the same unsatisfying patterns.

It’s always our choice.

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Mary Morrissey is an international speaker and best-selling author. She is the founder and owner of Life Mastery Institute, the premier training center for transformational coaching.