Sunday, March 05, 2023

The Most Important Factor in Successful Relationships


As I emphasized in the Trading Psychology 2.0 book, research in psychology is clear that we are most productive, creative, and successful when we experience high levels of happiness, fulfillment, energy, and closeness to others.  This is an important reason why burnout is such a risk in high performance fields.  Once we prioritize tasks over our well-being, we drain ourselves of the very things that we need to be at our best.  Imagine if someone cared about you and said, "I want to spend more time with you" and you responded, "I don't have time for you!"  That would never happen in a truly loving relationship, but it's basically how many of us relate to ourselves.  

Abraham Maslow, the well-known psychologist, made the distinction between deficit needs and being needs.  A deficit need is one in which I try to fill something missing in myself.  For example, if I don't feel that I am lovable as I am, I may seek a partner who is so needy that they will stay with me.  I am filling a gap in my life--and in my self-esteem.  If I am secure and want to maximize my life, I will seek a partner for their values, strengths, and achievements.  Indeed, in a good relationship, a partner typically possesses strengths that we lack.  That is how relationships make us better:  we absorb the positive qualities of who we are with.  If, however, I'm threatened by the strengths of the other person, I will respond to them with insecurity and defensiveness and, eventually, the relationship will fail.

Good relationships are built on a foundation of positives.  Unsuccessful relationships are fundamentally self-focused, using other people to (vainly) fill our gaps.  When we seek out people based on their needs, their growth and development become threats to us.  That is how many marriages end.

This is as true in work relationships as personal ones.  A great hire for a team is someone who makes everyone else better with unique skills and experience.  A secure manager looks for people who make them better; an insecure manager looks for people who won't leave them.  A secure leader celebrates the successes of others; an insecure manager responds with envy.

The most important factor in successful relationships is the desire to find people who are better than us in some areas of life.  We become who we surround ourselves by.  Our approach to relationships can either become an engine of growth or a prison of insecurity.

Further Reading:

Our Relationships Shape Our Relationship With Ourselves