Seven Habits of Highly Effective Relationships


Great relationships just don’t happen, they are carefully nurtured…

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See the author’s TEDx Talk on Creating Extraordinary Intimacy in a Shut Down World

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I woke up this morning wrapped fully within the warmth of my partner’s embrace as she continued to sleep serenely. As I gazed at her beautiful countenance and wondered what I was going to write about for my weekly article, it hit me. We’ve been together now for almost four years. This is well beyond the honeymoon period. Yet, our relationship continues to grow, our emotional connection continues to deepen, our sex life continues to hit new heights we never thought possible and our spiritual connection continues to transport us to places unimagined. This caused me to wonder why our relationship is the way it is when our respective previous ones followed the same downhill course that so many other couples seem to experience.

I have made just about every kind of relationship blunder one can imagine.

It is from this pondering that I share seven habits we have adopted that seem to make all the difference between what most couples experience and a truly extraordinary one.

Out of the ashes of so many mistakes

Whatever relationship wisdom my partner and I have acquired to achieve what we currently have was born out of the ashes of many, many mistakes over the years. As a 64 year old adult male I have made just about every kind of relationship blunder one can imagine. During my previous marriage I was intensely driven, shut down, self-centered, acted like a victim, complained all the time, never fully appreciated my wife in the ways she deserved, never gave our kids the time and full attention they deserved and overall was a jerk most of the time. I wish I could say this is an over dramatization… unfortunately, it is not.

I finally got to such a low point that I just knew I was slowly killing myself and had to make a change.

I finally got to such a low point that I just knew I was slowly killing myself and had to make a change. And that meant considering two options: a) ending it quickly at my own hand or b) making a huge shift in how I showed up in life. Fortunately, I choose “b)” despite it being very painful, messy and throwing me into more uncertainty than I thought I could ever bear.
So it is from this perspective that I respectfully share the habits my partner and I have learned through the valley of pain and practice to achieve the level of relationship we now enjoy…

  1. Daily Gratitude – the first thing we do both upon waking (whether together or not) is give sincere, heartfelt gratitude for each other being in our lives and all the other gifts of this life. We have found gratitude to be an effective antidote to complaining and victimization.
  2. Meditation – this is another “first thing in the morning” practice we each do. Our world is very frenetic and has many distractions vying for our attention. This tends to put us in our heads which is not very fertile soil for relationships to flourish. So we each spend a few minutes in the morning quieting our monkey minds and re-centering. This helps prepare us for the next very important habit…
  3. Being Fully Present – this one is huge. We insist on being fully present for each other when together. Whether eating a meal, listening to music, having fun, walking on the beach, tenderly kissing, greeting or saying goodbye to each other or making love. We have found that Presence is the only space in which our relationship can continue to grow and stay fresh. And it seems to be the only state where true fulfillment blossoms.
  4. Authenticity – we insist on always showing up as our authentic selves and saying what is on our minds without pretense or fear of the other’s feelings being hurt. This gives us the confidence of knowing the other is not hiding or holding anything back. This is a fearless, deep knowing that includes the full range of ugly warts to indescribable beauty that reveals the endless new wonderment that we are for each other.
  5. Separating the Ego from the Heart – we each subscribe to the very powerful context that our Heart, not our ego, represents our true essence. This allows us to take any relationship pain (which of course is unavoidable) and make it not so personal. Within this context our Hearts can never be hurt or broken. Any pain we do feel is a reaction of our ego, our false self. This makes conflicts rare, and when they do happen, relatively easy to mend.
  6. Respecting Gender Differences – we are each acutely aware of our hard-wired gender-based emotional and sexual differences primarily due to our default Sexual Operating System. And with this knowledge we strive to adjust our respective behaviors so that these differences no longer have the power to rob the intimacy and fulfillment from our relationship.
  7. Maintaining Separate Lives – this is probably the most controversial of our seven habits. As much as we love each other, we make a point of not living together 24/7. Typically, we spend Friday through Sunday together and Skype every evening the rest of the week. Our plan is that when we do share a common residence it is with the proviso that we would each have our own separate bedrooms and living spaces. At this point you are probably wondering if our relationship is so great why can’t we live together like “normal” couples. We both sincerely believe that a big reason why our relationship is so good is because we do maintain separate lives. We recognize that we each need the space (figuratively and literally) to continue growing as individuals. This also means that when we are together, we are that much more excited and present for each other. And let’s face it, most “normal” couples typically don’t do so well in the long run.

Not a panacea

Okay, I’ll admit there really are more than seven essential habits that we practice but this way the title sounded better and frankly, you are more likely to take action with a smaller list.

Will incorporating these habits fix any broken relationship? Not likely, nor are they designed to. Ideally, you start practicing them before it gets that far. Will doing these faithfully guarantee your relationship will flourish and never fail? Not necessarily. However, I truly believe they will help build a firewall against relationship failure and establish a firm foundation upon which your sense of mutual fulfillment will continue to grow as long as you are together.

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About the Author

MichaelJRusser_TEDx_150x150Michael J. Russer is a prostate cancer survivor who was left completely impotent as a result of his treatments. Yet, it was because of his impotence that he and his partner discovered an entirely new approach to emotional, physical and spiritual intimacy that far exceeds anything either experienced prior to when things were working “correctly.” His mission is to help men, women and couples everywhere to achieve extraordinary intimacy on all levels.

He is an international speaker, author and thought leader on the issues of human connection and intimacy. He also speaks pro-bono to Cancer Support Centers and Gilda’s Clubs around the U.S. for cancer survivors and their partners about regaining intimacy in the face of cancer. Go to to explore the possibility of having Michael speak at your next event.

Michael is also a champion of the nonprofit men’s work being done by the ManKind Project ( He completed the New Warrior Training Adventure in 2012.

iTunes:             Creating Extraordinary Intimacy in a Disconnected World
TEDx Talk:




Author: Michael J. Russer

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