What is the “one thing” experts say a good relationship must have?
Dr. Neil Clark Warren has been a widely recognized clinical psychologist for 30+ years, is acknowledged as one of the nation’s leading relationship experts, and is perhaps most known as the founder of eHarmony. When asked about the “one thing” absolutely necessary for a good relationship, this is what Dr. Warren had to say . . .
“I was talking with my good friend and colleague Les Parrott about the qualities of a good relationship when Les asked me, ‘Neil, if you could offer one word of advice to someone who is about to be married, what would it be?’
Without a moment’s hesitation, I replied, ‘Get yourself healthy before you get yourself married.’ The health I see as crucial for your relationship to survive and thrive is emotional health.
If you want to build intimacy with another person before you have done the hard work of getting yourself whole and healthy, all your relationships will become attempts to complete yourself. Moreover, if you are not healthy yourself, you will almost always attach yourself to another person in hopes of validating your self-worth. It’s as if you are saying, ‘He (or she) seems to have it all together, so if I attach myself to him, I can be healthy because he makes up for all the things I am lacking in my emotional stability.’
That’s why [an] essential dimension of a great relationship has to do with the quality of your self-conception and that of your partner. A person who has a good self-conception doesn’t depend on anyone else to provide validation and meaning for life. He or she is strong enough to face life alone if necessary. He is prepared to deal with the ups and the downs, the good and the bad, the joys and the sorrows, and the harsh realities of life.
Over the years, I’ve counseled with thousands of individuals and couples, and I have discovered a provocative truth. Most of those couples did not first and foremost have marriage problems; in almost every case, one or both of the partners had emotional problems that were magnified under the intense friction and heat that marriage produces.
The relationship between two people can be no healthier than the emotional health of the least healthy person.”
– excerpted from “Falling in Love for All the Right Reasons” (Center Street, 2005) by Dr. Neil Clark Warren