Good Will:  The Ingredient that Helps Love Thrive

The following essay is a guest post by author, Susan Page.

In the extensive interviews with thriving couples that I conducted for my second book, The Eight Essential Traits of Couples Who Thrive (Jossey-Bass), I found over and over one outstanding quality that separated couples who thrive from couples who don’t.

It wasn’t that happy couples all came from stable, loving homes. It wasn’t that happy couples all had excellent communication skills. What happy couples had that set them apart was a spirit of good will.

What is Good Will in Your Relationship?

Good will is an overall feeling of generosity toward your partner. It is the attitude, “I am on your side, no matter what. I am your ally, not your adversary.” When you approach a situation with a spirit of good will, it means you value your relationship far more than whatever problems were caused by this one small incident. You are willing to acknowledge that your partner’s annoying habit or point of view, even when you don’t agree with it, might have some validity for him or her. You realize that positive, spontaneous acts of thoughtfulness are important expressions of love. You understand that love has nothing to do with fairness. Love is love. The more you give it away, the more you receive.

What is the Purpose of your Relationship?

Ask yourself, “What is the purpose of this relationship? What are my goals for this relationship?”

Is your purpose to get your partner to be more considerate or less controlling?
Is your purpose to get the living room painted light green when your partner wants to leave it white?
Is your purpose to be sure your partner takes fair responsibility around the house?

Probably not. Most likely, your overall, guiding purpose is to create a relationship that supports you both, that makes your burdens lighter because you don’t have to carry them by yourself. It is to enjoy your lives together, to keep alive the love and excitement that brought you together in the first place. Your purpose may be to nurture your love so that it overflows beyond the two of you, enabling you to champion those who need you, your children, your other passions in the world.

To operate on a foundation of good will is to keep the true purpose of your relationship in mind, especially in times of stress or conflict. It means keeping the difficulties you encounter in perspective. In the grand scheme of things, how important are they really? It means believing you can work through even the most difficult challenge. When the current stress or obstacle is long behind you, will your love have been strengthened of diminished by it?

The answers depend on your ability to maintain a spirit of good will toward your partner, instead of a spirit of “Am I going to get my needs met? Am I going to get my fair share?” (Of course you have to pay attention to those needs also, as we shall see in more detail, but only in a general atmosphere of good will.)

Excerpted Why Talking Is Not Enough: Eight Loving Actions That Will Transform Your Marriage by Susan Page. Susan is a leading expert on Relationships and the author of four books on this subject. She will be a special guest in the upcoming Renewing Your Relationship distance learning program, sponsored by the ToDo Institute.