The 2 Most Huge-est Factors That Determine Relationship Success (And Why No One’s Talking About Them) |


Very real question: What does it actually take to create and sustain long-term love?

“I’m sure like, attraction and stuff. Um…chemistry? Yeah. We have to like the same things. And he needs to be 5’10” or taller.”

Hmm…not a very comprehensive list of ingredients.

Most of us don’t have a clue as to how we should answer that question. When it comes to relationship-building, the vast majority don’t know what they’re looking for (big boo-boo #1), and don’t realize what it actually takes to make something work long-term (big boo-boo #2).

It’s not their fault. They’ve been looking for love with a list of ingredients authored by DISNEY MOVIES and HOLLYWOOD ROMANCE and TAYLOR SWIFT SONGS. Good luck making sense of any adult relationship with all of that noise gunking up the works.

Cause here’s what’s on mainstream media’s list of relationship ingredients:

  • The elusive spark.
  • Sizzling connection.
  • Sex that would blow your Grandma’s face off.
  • Insta-intimacy. Y’know, the radical, inexplicable kind.
  • Rapturous obsession, aka, “I CAN’T BREATHE WITHOUT YOU, ISN’T THAT GREAT?”
  • Talking for hours on end about everything and nothing at the same time cause ohmigahd it’s magic.
  • And oh yeah, he makes me laugh! Hyuk hyuk hyuk.

Keep in mind these are the basic needs of “Hollywood Romance”, which unfortunately, many of us seem to mistake for the real thing.

But if you eventually face reality, and look at what’s really required to make a relationship work, you have to move past steamy surface-level sizzle and realize, “Oh shit, this is real life, maybe there’s more to relationships than great sex and laughing about nothing at three o’clock in the morning.” (I’m just as disappointed as you are.)

So you might add some of the following ingredients to your list of real-world-long-lasting-relationship essentials:

  • Shared values.
  • Trust. Heaps of it.
  • Thoughtful, honest, adult communication.
  • Understanding and compromise.
  • Emotional intelligence.
  • Healthy selfishness.
  • Healthy selflessness.

Oh man, I bet those ingredients sound more complex and un-fun than last week's episode of "The Bachelor". What happen to all the sparks and can’t-breathing? Sad face.

But we can all agree - if that stuff is present, plus a moderate pinch or two of "Hollywood Romance", your relationship could really get rockin’ and rollin’.


If you look back at any relationship that ended poorly (or one that never got off the ground) I bet it’s your first instinct to try and place blame.

It must be one or both of your faults, right?

Maybe you were actually incompatible from the start, or you both changed over the course of your time together.

But the truth is that almost always, there are two huge contributing factors working against you.

These two huge contributing factors just weren’t on your side. And these two huge contributing factors are all too often not considered in the budding or breakdown of romantic possibility.

These two huge and grossly under-examined factors are…(massive drumroll please?):



Womp to the womp.

Yup, good old fashioned timing and circumstances will ultimately determine whether or not your relationship will get off the ground, stay in motion, or crash and burn.

Of course, we hate this idea. We’re led to believe that love should be more than enough. That if you really like and/or love each other, anything can work! If those feelings are there, it should work! If he really cared, or the connection was strong enough, it would work! This is what we all want to believe; that true love moves mountains.

And it does. But timing and circumstances will determine the degree of mountain-moving both parties are capable of.

Meaning sure, you can have that initial spark, you can share every deep secret and swear that you’ve known one another in past lives, meet the parents, backpack through Europe together two weeks in, 69 for forty-eight hours straight the first time you get each other’s clothes off, but if the two of you are not in a place where you want (and are capable of) the same things at the same time, none of that matters.

I dated a stunning male model while I was living in New York who was part of an up-and-coming acoustic folk duo (fuckin’ swoon, you guys). He was good-looking and kind-hearted. Thoughtful. Intelligent. Caring. Fun.

We would go on epic dates uptown taking in pre-Raphaelites at the Met and then head to Chinatown for cheap pints and dim sum, making out under street lamps and karaoke-ing in the Village to finish the night off. Movie. Effing. Romance.

But he had just moved to the city. He was torn between modeling (making mucho de nero) and his musical pursuits (making not mucho de nero). His parents wanted him to get “a real job”. He was confused.

Did I mention he was a gorgeous, talented 25-year-old dude who had just moved to New York City? He wanted to explore and adventure, to find himself and probably bang some chicks. Can you blame him? Could I??

Timing. Circumstances.

I was in a long-term relationship with a do-good Ivy League-er who was crazy committed to improving childhood education on a global level. He was also crazy committed to me, and we really connected. We truly loved and supported one another.

But he traveled non-stop for his job, was in very high demand in his field, and struggled to prioritize our relationship because he was too busy writing books and saving the world. We came to an impasse. It was hard. The kids won (rightly so).

Timing and circumstances, you guys. Those two gnarly misfits.

We have to come to terms with the fact that face-melting true love is splendid but grossly impractical.

Real life, however, is monumentally practical. And real life is 100% comprised of timing and circumstances. It’s the stuff you can’t control. It’s where you both are, what you’re doing, what really matters to you at that point in time.

Timing and circumstances determine priorities, commitment level, desire, willingness to try, flexibility, and ultimately, relationship outcome.

These two factors beg the question: at this point in time, with these individual lives we’re leading, does enough stuff line up that we can actually do this together?

And all too often, enough stuff simply doesn’t line up.

That doesn’t mean you don’t have a mind-blowing connection. It doesn’t mean you don’t genuinely like or love one another. It just means you're two humans who are navigating a shit-ton of variables, and sometimes the cookie crumbles in painful, unfair ways.

So before you go digging through your past relationships for more evidence in support of who was right and who was wrong, or who’s to blame, or what you could have done differently, consider that timing and circumstances may have played a much larger role than either of you did. Timing and circumstances might take all the blame, when you really think about it.

And the next time you’re facing a shiny new romantic possibility, don’t ignore the timing and circumstances of both of your lives. What are you going through as individuals? What have you already been through up until that point? Do your storylines intersect in a way that makes sense? In a way that facilitates your growth (and his), and supports a new relationship? If the answer is no, don't leave that out of the equation in favor of rapturous, obsessive connection.

Let’s take some of the pressure off of ourselves (and them) to be the perfect person, and recognize that often what we can’t control ultimately controls us. Timing and circumstances might not want you to be with that person at that time. It could be too hard, too trying, too near-impossible. It's okay; you're still good. Your love still counts.

There is no need to place singular blame anymore; you've been having a foursome with timing and circumstances this whole time. Embrace it. You weren't wrong, or crazy, or doomed from the start. Timing and circumstances had the final say. Release the reins. Let their input influence you. Cause when it's right? You, him, T & C will all work together in harmony. And oh what a joyous, easy, fun-fueled ride.

Look out Hollywood Romance, cause we're on our way to something even better (and much more highly-evolved). ;)

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