Relationships Don’t Exist…or Do They?

When couples are in trouble they often talk about working on “the relationship”, as if it’s some objective thing that really exists and can be changed or fixed. But what if relationships are merely an illusion, and focusing on this illusion causes more problems than it solves?

In this video, we explore the reality of “relationships” and why it’s more important to focus on tangible skills in communication and compassion than it is to focus on your relationship with someone else.

Dan’s Top Resources


Dan has 3 bestselling non-fiction books available in both written and audio form:

  • The Naked Truth, his latest release, shows you how radical honesty builds self-confidence and relationships
  • Nothing to Lose explores how to build confidence from the inside by correcting the programming in your brain
  • The Legendary Life is a very practical, action-focused guide on how to plan and execute a life plan that brings you your ideal lifestyle

Online courses

Dan continues to put out high quality online self-paced courses through the Udemy platform

Full transcript (unedited)

Perhaps the secret number one reason to why people struggle in relationships is because they don’t even really know what a relationship is, they’ve never really thought about it much before. Well, we’re going to think about it today in this video, we’re going to have a look at what a relationship is and whether or not it even really exists. So just take a moment. What is a relationship? What does that word mean to you? How would you define it? I mean, you know that you’re in relationships with people, don’t you romantic relationships, friendships, work colleagues. There’s these things that will come under the umbrella of the word relationship. But what does it mean to be in one? Where’s the proof? Where’s the evidence that it exists? How could you show it to another person who wasn’t in it? How would they know that it was real? So imagine that your partner goes away? Maybe just they’re going to work? Or they’re traveling overseas? Or they spend some time with a family? What happens to the relationship? Does the relationship still exist? Is it ongoing? Is it paused? Does it exist in the first place? What about if somebody dies, I don’t mean to sort of bring up wounds for anyone. But if someone you’re in a relationship with dies, what happens to their relationship? If you’re not aware that they’ve died? Then you still think they’re alive? Are you still in a relationship until you’re aware that they’ve died? Or does the relationship end with their death? Regardless of what you’re aware of? If you still go to somebody’s grave, and feel connected to them, and talk to the grave as if you’re talking to them? Is the relationship ongoing? Or does the person’s body need to be animated? They need to exist as an alive person for it to count? What if somebody no longer loves you? What if you’re in a relationship with someone, but on their side of the fence, they don’t consider you to be their partner or their friend or whatever anymore? They’ve betrayed you. You know, you think you have more of a relationship with them than they do? Are you still in a relationship? What if somebody cheats on you? When they’re with that other person when they’re betraying your trust? Is the relationship still alive? Or dead in their moment? And what do you call it? When you feel love? And connection towards somebody who isn’t around or doesn’t even exist? Like a fictional character in a movie? Or an ancestor? This passed away? What’s the word to describe your connection with that person? Do you call it a relationship? Or do you have to call it something else? The reason I ask all these questions is because in my work as a coach helping people with relationships, so called relationships, I’ve found that a lot of the effort that especially romantic couples put in is to maintain that relationship without even having a clear definition of what that means. They put heaps of effort into it. When they make decisions about how they’re going to talk to their partner, how they’re going to choose their own goals and hobbies and choose how they live their life throughout the day. They’re constantly in the back of their mind thinking like, how do I do this in a way that is good for the relationship. And I do this in a way that keeps the relationship going. People think about this and their friendships as well. You know, they might behave differently around a friend, because they’re, they’re different, and behavior seems more likely to keep the friendship going. You know, the classic example of not being fully honest, as the type of behavior people do to keep our relationship going, you know, they’re not fully honest with their boss, or they can keep a good working relationship with their boss. They’re not honest with their partners, they, they keep their partner loving them and not piss their partner off so much that they leave. And the songs with their friends, their friends still think that they’re a cool person, so that the relationship, the friendship will keep going. It will do a lot of behaviors, especially a lot of compromising of their integrity, in order to protect what they call the relationship, or the friendship, or the partnership, whatever the word is. They’re trying to protect this thing. And yet, if I asked you, where is it, where is this relationship point to it? Oh, there, I like that’s a person that’s your partner. Where’s their relationship? Where’s this thing that you’ve put so much effort into protecting? Where’s the thing that you compromise yourself? Or can you show it to me on a piece of paper on a plate something? Go, well, here’s, here’s my marriage contract. Alright, that’s a piece of paper. But if the other person is cheating on you, and doesn’t see you as the as their partner anymore, what’s this piece of paper worth? The problem with focusing on the relationship is it’s kind of like focusing on money. You’re trying to maintain something that actually doesn’t exist. That is only a match theory, or the correct word is inter subjective belief. So if you think of money as something real, because there are credit cards in notes that guide, you think there’s something tangible it exists. Well look at what happens when the economy crashes or look at what happens when you try to use foreign currency at a shop that doesn’t recognize it. Look what happens when you take, you know, money from the Monopoly game board and try to use it to buy a car, the person has to agree that you have money for it to exist. If they don’t agree it has no value and does nothing. If I go to somebody with check currency. In the United States, they’re not going to accept it, even though the check currency is money has like it’s real money, the government, I don’t care, I don’t want to give me US dollars, in which case, the Czech money becomes worthless in their moment, because they don’t agree that it exists because they don’t agree that it’s valuable. So the idea that money actually exists is of course, an illusion. If other people don’t agree with you, the money disappears. Well, it’s the same with a relationship, isn’t it? If you think you’re in relationship with someone, and they disagree with you, or they behave in a way that breaches all the conditions of the relationship, which is basically the same thing as disagreeing on the relationship, then the relationship disappears. It doesn’t exist. It can only exist if you both believe in it. And something like that is so fragile. And this is what I think guides people under such, ironically harmful behavior towards love relationship. They’re so aware of its fragility, they’re so aware that the other person has to keep believing in it, the other person has to keep wanting it the same amount, the other person has to keep agreeing as to what it means that they’re constantly treating it with kid gloves, treating it like this fragile thing, compromising themselves changing what they want, and who they are, and what they really think and feel, to never do any damage to this imaginary thing that doesn’t even fucking exist. Again, we can use money as an example here. What really smart people do with money, as they understand that money itself doesn’t exist. Money is just a symbol of agreement. What really does exist is things like resourcefulness, courage, being able to create something of value. These are skills, talents, and motivations, that if you were to hone them, enhance them and get good at them over time, you won’t actually ever need money. Or you will always be able to create money, you’ll always be able to create agreements with people on value. If I’m a very courageous, intelligent and resourceful person who can create very valuable services and products, I’ll never be poor. No matter what happens with the fictional concept of money, people always want what I’ve got, and I want it expensive. Whether I’m trading it for money, or sheep, or other services, always find a way to survive with the skill set. But if I’m only focused on money itself, if I hoard money, and I keep it all on my bank account, the government could take it away like that. An economy crash could take it away, a stock market crash could take it away. A war could take it away. And then what am I left with? If I have no real skills in saying negotiation, or resourcefulness or courage, what am I left with nothing. Whereas if you take an entrepreneur who built a business from nothing to a million dollars, because of their skills, and because of their determination, and the courage, and then you take away the million dollars, they’re not going to be harmed, they’ll just rebuild again. Because the money was just a symbol actually, of their skills. It wasn’t a symbol of anything that they need from somebody else. So money in the bank doesn’t matter if you’re all of these things. And it’s the same concept with a relationship. If you’re focused on building your communication skills, your confidence, your self respect, your empathy, your ability to work with someone and cooperate, your ability to both lead and follow. If you’re constantly working on these things, and developing them to a mastery level, it won’t matter about the status of your relationship, you won’t need to say that person is my friend, that person is my partner. That person is my boss. You won’t need to label people with a relationship title to try and hold the moon. You know, I’ve been part of lots of you know, marriages and divorces, I guess you’d say. And what I always noticed, especially with divorces is that the person who doesn’t want the divorce will always be like, but you you took vows, you know, there’s here’s a piece of paper, we’re legally obliged to be together. And they’re shocked at how powerless they are and how As much that doesn’t mean anything, I’m always trying to explain some dude, you sucked at being a partner, you didn’t communicate well, you didn’t have a spine. You were too nice or you’re too distant. We didn’t learn how to emotionally connect. There’s no piece of paper in the world that can save you, if you can’t do those things. Any of you can do those things. Well, you’ll never need a piece of paper, you’ll never need a ring. You’ll never need wedding vows, wedding bells, they drive me crazy people promising things for the future, I’ll stick with you through sickness and health. Not if you change your mind, you won’t work, what’s the point of that promise? measured the wedding vows will like I’ll stick with you even if you turn into a totally shitty person and don’t live up to your side of the bargain with this relationship. And I just hate being with you. They don’t say that in the vows do they they leave that one just in case that they need to use it. You’ve never had a relationship problem in your life. You know, the way people describe it like that, you know, our relationship is on the rocks and our marriage is struggling. You know, our friendship has taken the downward turn. Now nothing’s happened to those things because they don’t exist. There is no relationship, no friendship, no marriage, what you’re really saying is our communication has broken down. I’m not standing up for myself enough. And I haven’t been for years. I’m too callous, and emotionally disconnected. That’s what’s actually happening. The relationship, nothing’s happening to the relationship, your connection skills with the person are lacking. We’ve chosen a bad person to try and be in a relationship with or something. There’s something you can control here, you can’t talk about your relationship, like some third thing is you and the person in their relationship, the relationships got all these problems. Now, disconnect there, that doesn’t make this you and the person have problems with each other. These problems are real, they’re not inter subjective agreements. They’re not things that only exist if the other person agrees. If you’re poor at communicating, you’ll find that there are things you all across the board. If you’re dishonest, you’ll find that you’ll have superficial connections always. If you lack courage and lack of spine, you’re going to find you’re going to have difficulties with confrontations and boundaries. Always, this is a real problem. It doesn’t require agreement from anyone else, this is the thing you actually need to be working on. Most of the time, I don’t actually recommend that couples get couples therapy, because that’s always a therapeutic approach to their relationship, where they need as individual coaching, you need to work on your communication skills, you need to work on your courage, you need to work on your integrity, you need to work on your people pleasing, whatever is gonna go on between you after that will be exactly what needs to happen. But you know, work on the relationship you work on yourself. And in terms of just daily maintenance of the so called relationship, instead of trying to think of the relationship as something that’s permanent and real. You know, like, I don’t need to talk to my wife bow there, she’ll still be my wife tomorrow. So no, treat it like every person could leave you at any second. I don’t mean have a panic attack and try to people please. But more look at it like you have no guarantees with anyone. There is no contracts that somebody cannot actually break. I don’t care if they sign the marriage papers, and they’re a conservative Christian, they can still divorce you do, they can still cheat on you. They can still decide they fucking hate your guts and never talk to you again. There is no contract, real or imagined. That protects you. In your interactions with people, the only thing that you can do is be solid in your interactions. Every time you talk to someone, whether they’re a long term partner or a stranger or anything in between. have integrity. Be honest, be courageous, be compassionate, listen to what they’re saying. Give respect in demand, respect and return every single time don’t ever take your foot off the bottom with us. Don’t ever get complacent. Because our relationship exists don’t fall into that on we that kind of auto pilot boring mentality that people get into when they laugh, I have been together forever. I don’t need to think about the stuff you do. You need to think about it every time you interact, the kind of thought you put into meeting someone new at a party, you know, and nothing’s been established and nothing safe and nothing’s locked in the bank. So you’re actually quite aware, and you thinking things through when you talk and so on. Now, a lot of you go into people pleasing when you do that. But if you can get to a point where you treat every interaction with every person, including your close family and friends and all the people you think are guaranteed to stay with you, as if they’re not as if they actually do have the choice to leave you and change their mind about you at any given time. Go you know what? I’m going to be solid. I’m going to be consistent. I’m going to be me at all. All times I’m never going to slip, never going to get lazy. I’m going to show up who I am what I think what I believe in. I’ll fight every battle if I have to. And that way, I’m going to do the safest thing to keep people in my life. If you want more help with living in this way, get in touch We can talk about coaching and training for integrity, and social skills. I’ll see you next time.

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