I have been reading a fascinating and well-written book, Good to Great by Jim Collins, about how good businesses move to being great businesses. As I am reading I cannot help but wonder if the author has not uncovered universal truths about greatness that may apply not only to business, but possibly to relationships as well. It may be more difficult to identify great relationships than it is to identify great businesses. The success of a relationship could be measured by longevity or by how well it meets the needs of each partner. The most frequently used measure is that of self-reported relationship satisfaction. No matter how we measure it, there are some relationships that are just obviously great.

Collins identifies humility and ferocious determination, as qualities possessed by leaders of companies that transition from good to great. These qualities could also describe great couples. Great couples tend to be humble and determined for their relationship to succeed; they are more concerned with what is best for the relationship than with their own self-interests. Great relationships have partners who give each other credit and compliments when things are going well. When there are problems, however, they are quick to consider how they themselves have contributed to the problem. They refrain from throwing blame on each other and instead spend time focusing on what they can control and change, which is their own behavior.

Jim Collins points out that great companies have great management teams, with people who debate vigorously in search of the best answers, yet who unify behind decisions. Great couples are not afraid to express their thoughts and opinions to each other and they do not view disagreements as a problem. They do not feel threatened when their partner disagrees with them. At the same time they are willing to work at it until they find solutions to solvable problems and they are willing to good humoredly agree to disagree about the unsolvable problems. Once they have made a decision they present a united front. Great couples have each other’s back.

According to Collins good to great companies are willing to confront the brutal facts. Great couples are willing to opening explore where they are now. Unless couples are willing to face up to the problems and issues in their relationship (and lets face it, every couple has problems), they remain stuck, rehashing and rehashing. Great couples create a safe place for each of them to be heard and respected. They understand the huge importance of being honest with each other. They are brutal with the fact, but not brutal with each other. The ostrich approach of sticking heads in the sand does not make for great relationships.

Collins discovered that good to great companies have a culture of self-discipline. Great couples are self-disciplined. They consciously choose to nurture their commitment, love and passion. They choose to think lovingly, to speak lovingly and to behave lovingly, especially when they least feel like it. They recognize that love is a verb and not merely a feeling.

The wise use of technology was another characteristic of good to great companies. Great couples use technology as an aid to, rather than an escape from their relationship. They take time to pause and think about the impact of technology on their relationship. They make sure that they unplug now and again so they can give their full attention to each other.

According to Collins, for the companies involved, the transition from good to great feels organic and cumulative. For successful couples it is the little things done consistently that in the end produce amazing results. Great couples probably do not even consider themselves great, they simply keep moving in the right direction.

Author's Bio: 

Susan Derry, B.Ed., M.S.Psy., R.P.C., C.P.C.
Professional Counselor & Life Coach

Co-author of Marriage Prep: Beginnings a downloadable marriage preparation course
Co-author of Intimate Sex: Manual for Lovemaking, a sex manual for couples
Offers a free Nurturing Marriage Ezine