I have read a lot of books on psychology, but I haven't seen much good information on relationships. I have even talked to psychologists about relationships. They all seem to come back to the same point: work on yourself and let the other person work on himself. Well to me, that is a very dissatisfying answer.

There is a dynamic that exists between two people in a relationship. In fact, I call it "The Three-legged Stool."

One leg of the stool is me. Psychologists are correct. I can work on that leg of the stool. The stronger I am, the more I can support a quality three-legged stool.

One leg of the stool is the other person. Psychologists are correct. The other person is responsible for their choices and behavior. The stronger they are, the more they will support our three-legged stool.

The third leg of the stool is our relationship. And the first point that I want to make is that the third leg and the first leg are two different things. If the first leg could also be the third leg, then it would be a two-legged stool. I don't know if you have ever stood on a two-legged stool, but they aren't very stable. A three-legged stool is much more stable.

If you want to have a really happy and successful life, you need to build that third leg. In fact, you can have more than one three-legged stool in your life, because you can have relationships with more than just one person. And I don't know if you have ever realized this, but when you are really happy or really angry or really sad, there is almost always another person involved.

Other people can teach me, love me, hurt me or affect me in many different ways. When I am alone, they can't do that, I lose the love, the learning and the hurting. So some people like to be alone, because they don't like the hurting or the discomfort. But they are missing out on the loving and the learning and the happiness, too. And the reason is, because they have not learned how to build the third leg of the stool.

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The second point I want to make about all three-legged stools is that the relative size of each leg does not matter. If two legs are one inch around and the third leg is four inches around, the stool will be just as stable as if all the legs were one inch in diameter. As long as there are three legs, the stool is a functional product.

Why does that matter? Because so many times in relationships, people are worried about who is smarter or who is working harder. They compare the first leg to the second leg, which really doesn't help. The first leg stays about the same, the second leg stays about the same, and the third leg disappears. Good-bye stool.

In fact, come as you are. Be an average first leg. Let me be who I am. Let me be an average second leg. Let's work on the third leg. If we can form a relationship, we are going to get the benefit of having another three-legged stool.

When you are ready to stop working on the second leg in your relationships with other people, and start working on the third leg, then you will be ready for my next post, because I still haven't said anything about how to build that third leg!

Read Part 2