Nine Rules to Dramatically Improve Your Relationships

Issue 15. March 10, 2023 ✨ Higher Power Coaching & Consulting

Photo credit: Justin Follis

One of the most amazing benefits of my recovery is the drastic improvement of my relationships. My romantic relationship is a perfect example of that – for the first time in my life I’m in a healthy loving, committed a relationship. I learned a lot about how to be in relationships through recovery, and much of what I learned is captured well in David J. Lieberman’s 9 rules from Make Peace with Anyone.

I’ll use his rules as a framework, then elaborate on each of them using examples from my relationship so you can see what these could look like in real life.

Rule 1. We show genuine enthusiasm when we greet each other, most frequently by calling out “Romeo!” or “Juliet!” as we enter each other’s homes. We don’t let ourselves forget how important we are to each other, and that we’re lovers and we’re excited to see each other. We also smile when we first come together.

Rule 2. We show respect of each other by (among other things) by giving each other our full attention. When we can’t at the moment, we say things like, “I don’t have the bandwidth right now” or “I’m feeling distracted right now” and ask for another chance to listen.

Rule 3. We are supportive of each other, especially when one of us is feeling down or has made a mistake. My sweetheart and I make a really good team and we say this to each other from time to time. He does things for me and I do things for him.

Rule 4. Give them the benefit of the doubt. This is sometimes still hard for me because I have the kind of mind that wants to blame others for things, and wants to make their behavior about me. However, I have tons of evidence in my relationship that shows this is not the case. And – I ASK, “I’m not sure what to make of this, can you tell me what happened there?” Every single time it turns out to have nothing to do with me.

Rule 5. Let them know that you appreciate them. This reminds me of a Japanese proverb, “One kind word can warm three winters.” My sweetheart he does all kinds of little things for me. When he does, I frequently say to him, “Oh my God you’re so good to me.” Reinforcing someone for doing something nice is infinitely more powerful than criticizing someone for doing something wrong.

Rule 6. Give them a chance to contribute to your life, let them invest in you. I ask my sweetheart for advice or input. This lets him know that he matters to me. It doesn’t mean I’m going to follow his advice, but I do seek his input on things, especially if they affect him or our relationship. This is something I just wasn’t capable of doing before recovery and it’s really changed things.

Rule 7. Wait 24 hours when you’re angered by them (i.e., pause when agitated). If I’m remembering Rule 4 “given them the benefit of the doubt” it’s a lot easier to pause before responding. Waiting 24 hours changes your perspective. I find that if I wait 24 hours, I often don’t feel the need to say anything at all because the matter fades in importance.

Rule 8. Talk about what’s bothering you. In my previous relationships, I didn’t talk about what was bothering me. I’d bury it and it would be like I was putting something in between me and the other person. Now, I talk about something right when it happens, or as soon as possible afterward. When I do this, matters don’t fester. He knows if something bothers me I’ll bring it up and I know the same about him.

Rule 9. Share yourself and open up. Becoming vulnerable and letting people in is required for intimacy. If you never let them in, they’re not going to stick around – at least not in a meaningful way. I let him know when I’m scared or sad, or sometimes I even say, “Hey, I need to brag about something!)

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