Welcome to Format Free Fridays, the one day a week when I break the format of answering your questions and I dispense that which we rarely welcome in life: Unsolicited advice.

Today I’m talking about relationships since, in the final analysis, the extent to which we have fulfilling relationships is the greatest indicator of happiness and well-being.

Not surprisingly, the unhappiest people I know are those who have been deeply hurt in relationships and who have failed to take any or enough responsibility for the demise of those relationships.  None of us are without blame.  All of us participate in the success of our relationships.  And why are there so few good examples of relationships?  I’ll tell you:  Because most of us spend our lives thinking that all we need to do is to collide with the right person, meet our soul mate, and we’ll live happily ever after.  And I’m sorry to report that that’s bullshit.

If you think that the key to a good relationship is selecting the correct partner, you are mistaken.  The key to a successful relationship is being the right partner. There’s no hidden magic.  If you behave today the way you did when you first met your partner, the spark will reemerge.  If, on the other hand, you went from the honeymoon stage to the comfort stage and a year later found yourself wondering what happened to the sparkle in your relationship, the answer is simple:  The sparkle occurred because you invested time, energy and thought into making the sparkle sparkle.   When you stopped, the spark dimmed, your partner’s behaviors became as predictable as yours, and the only thing left illuminated were each of your shortcomings.  Left with the raw reality of who each of you were partnered to, you became disillusioned.  Stay disillusioned for long enough and you’ll have a miserable relationship.  It’s that simple.

You want a quick fix?  There isn’t one.  Only you know what you did in the beginning of your relationship that turned your partner on and that held their attention long enough for them to fall in love with you.  Go back to those days and repeat those behaviors.  If you’re single, reflect on the last relationship that you had and make a list of the things you did wrong (none of which includes the selection of your partner) so that you can make new mistakes in your next relationship.  Your life is your classroom.  The homework can be painful, but when you avoid doing it, you’re bound to repeat your grade.