It’s hard to believe that John Lennon’s life ended 37 years ago, on December 8, 1980. As brilliant and creative as he was, he was wrong about one thing: Love is not all you need.

If you want to have a successful relationship, you need empathy, willingness, acceptance, mindfulness, flexibility, understanding, humility, respect, fondness, commitment, and friendship. You can develop effective partnership skills, but trying to change your partner is disrespectful. Skillful partnering is more useful than holding onto selfish notions of an ideal mate.

Love is not all you need. Insisting on unconditional love from your partner is unreasonable. There are important conditions in a skillful partnership, like honesty and respect. They are building blocks for the “house” you are constructing. The more competent you are in building your house, the more content you will be in it.

Love is not all you need. Knowing how to navigate conflicts is essential. Conflicts are normal, but trying to win an argument is harmful. Winning an argument creates a loser, and a sound relationship does not have a loser. What you fight about is less important than how you treat your partner, and trying to be understood is less effective than trying to understand.

Love is not all you need. You need to stop doing harm with your avoidance of conflict. Ignoring your partner’s complaint conveys to her that her needs are unimportant to you. Extinguish all harsh criticism and expressions of contempt. Criticism and name-calling only separate you from your partner. Criticism points the finger of blame, whereas presenting a complaint points toward your own emotional experience and is less likely to provoke your partner.

John Lennon sang, “It’s easy…all you need is love.” Becoming a competent partner is not easy, and love is not enough.

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