What do we need to “live happily ever after”? And what is your journey between “Once upon a time” and “Happily ever after”?  Some relationships start with “Can we talk?” and end with “We need to talk.” You don’t want to be one of those. If you bring tons of baggage into your friendship or love relationship, it may end up being a very short trip. Are you headed for troubled waters?

What would you say is the key to a lasting, healthy relationship? Did you say “trust” above all? There are two reasons we don’t trust people. First, we don’t know them. Second, we know them. All it takes is one person to make you never trust anyone. Heck, my trust issues began when there was no “donkey” in “Donkey Kong.” So how can you build that assurance? Be dependable and reliable and always follow through. If your actions do not live up to your words, you don’t have much to say.

Look at it this way. You trust the bank with all your money; they attach chains, and don’t even trust you with their pens. Don’t you wish your bank account refilled as fast as your laundry basket? But truly, please be there when you say you will. Be someone she can count on. Then again, if you gain a reputation for being unreliable, you’ll never be asked to do a thing. But seriously, always look for a way, not a way out.

If you find yourself constantly trying to change or control him, it will inevitably become a source of dissention and disharmony. Talk to her about how her behavior affects you. No, we humans are not mind readers. I’m working on a device that can read minds.  Would love to know your thoughts.  If two mind readers read each other’s minds, would they just be reading their own minds? But seriously, if you want someone you care about to change something, ask gently, without criticism and condemnation.

Is it always “me versus you” when you disagree? Do you fight fair with your friends and loved ones? Or are you overly critical, discourteous, or even disparaging? If you disagree, step outside of yourself and try to see the issue as a casual participant. Become a spectator, an observer, the proverbial fly on the wall. Don’t personalize the behavior; see the matter from his point of view. Remind yourself that you are not doing battle with an enemy. Attack the problem, not the person you love. Look for a solution and say things like: “I felt hurt by…”; “What if we…”; and, “What do you think would help?”

Be vulnerable with those you trust. Sharing personal, even painful things is what creates intimacy and a real bond with others. Never trade your authenticity for someone’s approval. Always show her that you that value how she feels. I know. Some days you can conquer the world. Other days, it takes you three hours to convince yourself to shower. We have all been there.

Don’t forget to express warm feelings and show affection.  Be real with each other. Stop pretending to be something or someone else. With people who are two-faced, the only thing you know for sure is that you can’t trust either of them.

Sure, you have educational and career goals. But what are your relationship goals? Do you even have any? Please do not use the following terms. If he asks if you’re okay and you are not, do not say, “Fine.” If he asks, “What’s wrong?” don’t say, “Nothing.” If she says, “If you want to leave, go ahead” during a fight, it may be a dare, not permission to do it. Unless you truly need to cool down, do not go. Whatever you do: Please do not say “Whatever” - ever.

Don’t take friends or loved ones for granted.  Things you take for granted get taken. Do you showcase your love? What rituals have you created to demonstrate that love? Trust me, it’s the little things. Nourish and nurse your relationship if you expect it to grow and thrive. Be your friend’s biggest fan.

Do you even know what makes your friend, husband, or wife feel loved? Go ahead and ask them. Taking care of his everyday needs is showing love. Yes, it’s practical and not particularly romantic. But maybe that’s what makes him feel appreciated. Do all the things you did for her the first year you met.

When was the last time you had an imaginative and innovative experience? Flood your brain with the feel-good hormone dopamine by trying new and novel things with your friends and loved ones. Boost your bonding and happiness quotient at the same time.

Let’s be honest: We tend to be self-minded most of the time. You see that bright thing in the sky? It’s called the sun. The Earth revolves around it - not you. Uh oh. Need that reminder? If you’re all wrapped up in yourself, you make a very small bundle. Please remember to put her needs first - at least some of the time. Stop looking at his faults and highlight his strengths.

You know what they say: Love is what’s left in a relationship when all the selfishness is taken out.

So what is the definition of a perfect man? An unknown creature, only available in books and the movies. Heck, I’m a perfectionist with a procrastinator complex. Someday I’m going to be awesome. By all means, strive for excellence, but not perfection. Oh, and by the way: “Happily ever after” is not a fairy-tale, sweet friends. It’s a choice.

Caroline is a licensed psychotherapist, crisis counselor, and writer with an office in Queens.  She works with individuals, couples, and families.  Appointments are available throughout the week and weekends.  She can be reached at 917-717-1775 or at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or at facebook.com/pages/Safe-Haven-Healing.