A year ago, I set out on a quest to discover what true love looked like. My journey has taken me from coast to coast, and placed me at the feet of some of the world’s foremost experts on love, both in study and in practice. The more amazing couples I sat down with, the more I saw an obvious overlap between their stories and the studies found in Dr. Gottman’s research, and in his book, The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work.
Several months ago, I found myself sitting with my podcast co-host, Melissa Joy Kong, in the home of MeiMei and Kiran. I will never forget the conversation we had with them, because it opened up a whole new world of possibilities for me.
After spending only a few minutes with MeiMei and Kiran, I was left with the desire to be more compassionate, understanding, engaging, and loving towards other people in my life. The way they speak to each other, treat each other, and even look at each other is inspiring and contagious.
They know that the things found in Dr. Gottman’s research — like a deep friendship, honesty, being gentle with one another, accepting influence from one another, and mutual fondness and admiration — are key to a thriving relationship. Yet there are so many people who know these things, but don’t have a relationship like MeiMei and Kiran’s.
So, what’s the difference?
I believe it’s one word: integrity.
Simply put, integrity is doing what you say you will do.
Most relationships suffer because of a lack of integrity. We make commitments to ourselves and others, we break them, then make excuses to avoid taking responsibility.
We promise to be patient, kind, understanding, and loving. We promise to be faithful, to be loyal in word and deed, to remain committed for better or for worse, in sickness and health, in good times and bad. We promise to put the needs of others before our own, and love each other until death.
It is important to note that at some point or another, we all falter on these commitments. Pride gets in the way. We act selfishly. We come up short, and fall out of integrity with ourselves and those we love.
There is a difference, however, between the couples who recover and thrive when these circumstances arise, and those who allow these situations erode and destroy their love.
Couples who turn to excuses for their lack of integrity quickly find the trust and passion they once shared eroding beneath their feet. They find reasons for their shortcomings, infidelities, unkind words, impatience, and their selfishness. They can provide lists of explanations for their lack of integrity. They seek validation for our reasons. They get their friends to support them, justify them and cheer them on as they avoid accountability, and preserve their sense of pride, and rightness.
A lack of integrity eats away at every good thing that is necessary for building a happy, healthy, long-lasting relationship.
But there is another way.
When MeiMei or Kiran say something, they do it.
When Kiran commits to MeiMei to make her the most important thing in his life, his actions back it up.
When MeiMei commits to helping Kiran fulfill one of his dream projects, it’s not just lip service, she fights beside him to make it happen.
And when couples like MeiMei and Kiran come face-to-face with a lack of integrity (as all of us do), they own it. They look each other in the eyes, and with honesty they admit to their shortcomings and recommit to each other with a renewed sense of love.
They don’t make excuses. They don’t come up with reasons. They don’t place the blame on each other, or anything else. They recognize that the only person responsible for their personal integrity is themselves.
What truly separates the average couples from the most amazing couples is not knowledge. It’s integrous action.
Think about the commitments you’ve made to yourself and to others. In which areas of your life are you lacking integrity? Make the decision to fix that now by first, taking ownership of how you’ve lacked integrity, then making the commitment to do better and be better.
This is the true source of deep love, adventure, and even self-confidence.
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