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Dr. Bob Wright | March 2, 2016

Love Is Messy:
Learn the Secret to
Awesome Relationships

Life is messy. Love is messier. Why? Because life and love are full of conflict. Conflict is the very basis for life as we know it; we are born of struggle and growth.


Whether you tend to embrace it or shy away from it, successful, happy relationships require conflict. When we don’t develop our engagement and conflict skills, we end up as bullies or wimps: either we avoid everything or we plow over everyone in our path. That’s no way to live.

Time and time again, I hear people say they want intimacy, but they don’t want the mess. To have real intimacy, there must be conflict and vulnerability. Intimacy involves putting yourself out there, engaging, and letting yourself be seen in the truth of who you are.


“If you want true love, you will need to feel everything: the fear, hurt, anger, and sadness, as well as joy and bliss.”

–from The Heart of the Fight


Getting Real and Fighting Fair

Here are a couple of the common relationship myths we bust in The Heart of the Fight:

That’s why conflict is so important. It’s the root of lasting satisfaction. Conflict isn’t just about being right or wrong. It’s not about agreeing or disagreeing, either. It’s about letting out the truth and making your truth known.

When we avoid fights and stop engaging with each other, we become passive aggressive. When this happens, we try to act like we’re being nicey-nice toward our partner, when we’re actually holding back and bottling up our feelings. Those feelings have to come out somewhere, so we end up doing all kinds of little things just to “show them” how we feel—without actually showing them anything. We call it the “hidden middle finger”—we get silent, we do things to purposely piss off our partner. We pout around expecting they’ll get the hint.

These actions don’t help the relationship grow. Instead, when we’re being honest and agreeing with the truth—always (one of our rules of engagement), there’s no room for passive aggressive actions.

Here’s another great rule of engagement: we must fight FOR the relationship, not against it. That means sometimes you have to outright declare what it is you’re truly fighting for. Maybe you’re fighting for acknowledgement. Maybe you’re fighting to meet a yearning, like to be seen and heard, or to be valued. Whatever you’re fighting for, you have to embrace the messiness. Fight hard for the things you want, and get your partner to fight alongside you. If you’re both fighting for, rather than against the relationship, you’ll be able to resolve conflict in much more satisfying and growth-focused ways.

Really Going At It? Anger is OK!

Ever since we were little kids, we’ve been told to get along, not to fight, and to agree with things as much as possible. We’re told to listen to each other and not to interrupt. Unfortunately, this can lead to conflict-avoidant behavior, which becomes the complete opposite of intimacy.

When you need to be heard, it’s okay to yell. It’s okay to be angry and let it all out. Your partner has the right to express their feelings as well—as long as you each take 100% responsibility for your own emotions and feelings and you’re not placing more than 50% of the blame on one side (two more rules of engagement from our book). Too often, we find ourselves bitching and moaning about our partner, “venting” about the things they aren’t doing. The essence of complaining is to punish someone for something we want that’s not happening.

Complaining doesn’t get us anywhere.

Instead, we should be expressing our yearnings to our partner. We should be telling them what we want and how we feel. We should both be engaged and fired up, because our relationship is so important to us that we’re willing to take the gloves off and go all out to improve and grow within our relationship.

The Real Secret to Awesome Relationships

Healthy relationships are dynamic, alive, and engaged. Everyone in the relationship is expressing themselves and saying what they want. They’re putting their yearnings out there and taking responsibility for their satisfaction. They aren’t blaming someone else for the way they feel and no one is playing the victim.

In healthy relationships, we’re always caring about our partner’s needs as well as our own. We assume goodwill in the relationship. We want to help our partner meet their yearnings. We’re both fighting toward the health and evolution of the relationship. We are honest and we’re being seen for who we really are.

Love is a complex and messy dance. It’s revealing ourselves, shifting, and learning how to get closer and gain a deeper understanding of our partner. It’s exciting as we develop increasing trust. We can be vulnerable and honest about who we are, and we grow to let our guard down and be truly intimate with each other. We evolve with our partner and move towards a deeper and greater understanding—and that is a beautiful thing.

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About the Author

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Dr. Bob Wright is an internationally recognized visionary, educator, program developer, leadership and sales executive, best-selling author and speaker. He is a co-founder of Wright and the Wright Graduate University.


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Wright Living is a division of the Wright Foundation for the Realization of Human Potential, a leadership institute located in Chicago, Illinois. Wright Living performative learning programs are integrated into the curriculum at Wright Graduate University.

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