Relationships: What it Takes to Succeed in Them

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Whatever we want in life — to be in a relationship or be a chocolatier in Madrid —
will always require one thing:  we got to work on ourselves.


by Chris Brady

Les Brown

“Living is difficult,” as Les Brown, the great motivational speaker of our time, once said: “Life is very challenging.” But whoever said life, or achieving what we want, would be easy? Well, it isn’t, and neither is forming and maintaining a fulfilling relationship.

The difficulty with many couples sustaining marriages today is expressed through the global rise in divorce rates. In 2016, the European Union alone had 2.2 million marriages, roughly 1 million of which ended up in divorce. In Spain, using data from Madrid’s very own National Statistics Institute, the divorce rate has risen from 27,224 in 1991 to 119,554 in 2010–scoring among the top five countries in the EU with a divorce rate of 61.4 percent.

Perhaps the global rise in divorce rate reveals our underestimation of what it takes to achieve a healthy, fulfilling and lasting relationship, whether it’s marriage or something else.

Leo Gura

A couple is a like a duo in a ballet dance who have to collaborate and stay in synch with one another. “The longer that ballet dance lasts,” says Leo Gura, a life coach and founder of, “the more opportunity there is to get out of synch.” He adds: “To get them into synch in the first place already requires that they understand each other at a certain level, they have a certain level of development, and they have to have a certain level of training.”

Gura suggests people tend to take relationships for granted, assuming that they don’t need to work at or study them and that the relationship will naturally and spontaneously work itself out. To those who labor under this misconception, who believe that a sustainable, healthy and lasting relationship or even marriage could be achieved with some kind of magic, Gura responds, “No way in Hell.” He explains, “That is why more than half of the world is divorced.”

Spain is one of the “divorciest” countries in the EU

After I arrived in Madrid in early January, I shared an Italian dinner with my Spanish “brother”– brother ever since our family hosted him as an exchange student nearly 10 years ago. On that night, he surprised me with the upsetting news that his parents are divorcing. While saddened, I noted his nonchalance about the whole thing–not that I expected a man past his mid-20s to cry in front of me. He softly explained that divorce is common in Spain. At least for his parents, the separation process has been moving amicably.

“More than half of the world is divorced”

This got me thinking about the frequency of divorce today. While my parents have remained married for over 33 years, divorce has affected those around me: our neighbor, a divorcee, dates a divorced man; my great friend grew up with his parents separated; and a family friend is going through a stressful court process.

I won’t go into a socio-psychological analysis of the effects of divorce (for which I’m not prepared, professionally, anyway), but the Italian dinner with my Iberian brother gave me pause for thought: Are we really equipped with the education to form and sustain a fulfilling relationship? Do we even see the importance of such an education? Who should learn and who should teach? Have we been serious enough about finding out what it takes to build a successful and lasting relationship? And for the eager students among us, what are the array of subjects we must study and master in order to achieve such a relationship?

Gura suggests that successful relationships involve an understanding of the psychology of relationships, of attraction, of love, of sex, and of masculinity and femininity. And when dealing with the divorce crisis, we first have to think about what we each want. If that includes a relationship, then great, but whatever it is, we should expect our goals to be hard to achieve – or least hard enough to inspire a serious effort and respect for the goal before undertaking it.

When you want something you have to realize what it will take in order to get it. Fortunately, in the age of the Internet, there is a surfeit of personal development coaches and motivational speakers,  such as Leo Gura and Les Brown, who offer free teaching material in the domain of relationships. Whether we want to be in a relationship or to become a chocolatier in Madrid, as Les Brown would say, getting the things that you want in life will always require one thing: you got to work on yourself.


Featured image/Wesley Balten on Unsplash
Les Brown/Dominick Brady, CC BY2.0
Gura, Fair use
Collage by Guidepost: Flamenco/Viaggio Reutard, CC BY2.0; Broken heart/Nicolas Raymond, CC BY2.0
Divorce vector/Tony Guyton, CC BY2.0