Last month, I had the opportunity to listen to the renown marriage and family expert Jim Burns. He shared some simple but profound ingredients to effective relationships that inspired me to think differently about my relationships. Since then, I’ve spent some time thinking about the issue.

Below I share what he said.

There are three key ingredients to making a good relationship.

-1) Be Adaptable.  American clinical psychologist and co-founder of eHarmony, Dr. Neil Clark Waren, was once asked, “What is the single most important trait of a healthy vibrant relationship?”. Without hesitation, he replied “Adaptability.”

-2) Be positive. Try to be positive. Learned optimism is a thing. There is a book titled, Learned Optimism: How to Change Your Mind and Your Life, on Amazon. You can learn to be positive.
Negativity kills relationships. Ask yourself, 1) what is your negativity pattern? And, 2) What’s your negativity blindspot? Then work to correct both.

-3) Be kind. Kindness is an expression or fruit of love. You cannot say you are showing someone love when you are being unkind to them. You may love them, but if you are being unkind to them, you are not showing it.
Dr. Burns discussed three elements to the kindness challenge. 1) Nix the negatives (Don’t say anything negative). 2) Practice praise on a daily basis. Find something to praise about your partner. 3) Carry out kindness daily to that person. There is a book by that title that has helped many people learn these concepts. The kindness challenge.

Finally, Burns talked about research that showed that to have a good steady relationship, the ratio of positive interactions to negative interactions should be,
5 positive interactions to 1 negative interaction. If you have more negative interactions than that, it will negatively impact the relationship.

The same day, by coincidence, I watched a video of a marriage talk by another popular speaker, Dr. Michael Youssef. He talked about the same 3 keys but in different words. He called them: 1) Malleability, 2) Magnanimity, and 3) Maturity. He wanted words that all start with an M.

Here are some key reminders from both talks:

  • Real relationships are built on the freedom to disagree.
  • In a conflict ask, “Does it really matter“?
  • Life is more about perspective than it is about circumstances.
  • Do you want to prove you are right or improve your relationship?
  • You will never reach your destination if you stop and throw a stone at every dog that barks.
  • Be kind and understanding in your relationships.
  • Say, “thank you” even if it’s for something that is expected.
  • Give respect even when they don’t deserve it.
  • Be generous in your relationships.

How to be a great PAL

I learn well with mnemonics, so, I created a mnemonic for remembering these three keys. It’s called PAL. PAL stands for Positive, Adaptable, and Loving-kindness.

Be Positive
Be Adaptable (most important)
Show Loving-kindness.