Help me understand this: Why does it seem that relationships take a backseat when it comes to self-improvement? Often, you’ll hear things like, “I need a partner to accept me for me,” or, “If you can’t handle me at my worst, you don’t deserve me at my best.” While the intention behind these statements is well and good, it can be easy to fall into the trap of not bringing the energy necessary to improve your relationships if you aren’t careful.
Now, I want you to imagine what it would look like if you did. Whether you’re already in a relationship or searching for one, how much would your life improve if you applied intentional self-development to relationships? How much happier would you, your partner, or your future partner be?
In Part 2 of my conversation with Erwin McManus, he shows us how he approaches building a healthy, long-lasting relationship. Specifically, we talk about his philosophy on love and the spiritual side of relationships. We also discuss ways to support our partners without controlling them, the keys to a healthy relationship, and so much more!
And let me tell you, this was a powerful one! So if you’re excited to learn more about the second part of my interview with him, then let’s dive in!
Erwin McManus is a best-selling author, entrepreneur, fashion designer, filmmaker, and founder of Mosaic, a church movement based in the heart of Hollywood with a community that spans the globe. He committed his life to the study of genius and the pursuit of God never knowing that the two worlds would one day collide.
He is also the acclaimed author of The Way of the Warrior, The Last Arrow, and other leading books on spirituality and creativity. Currently, he’s written a new book called, The Genius of Jesus: The Man Who Changed Everything.
McManus finished his degree in philosophy at Elon University and earned a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He also earned a Master of Divinity from Southwestern Theological Seminary and a Doctorate of Humane Letters from Southeastern University. He currently lives in Los Angeles, California, with his wife, Kim McManus.
Erwin is a fascinating and spiritual person, and he has a lot of wisdom to share, so let’s dig in!
What does love mean to you?
The nature of life is relationships. Everything in us longs for connection and love. The great fire that burns inside each of us comes from the longing to be known by another heart. But it just seems like there’s a lot of struggle for people wanting to find love and intimacy more than ever. Many of us want to be loved, but we’re willing to do what it takes to sustain, build, and co-create it with someone in a conscious, healthy way. So how can we get out of that space and tap back into the genius of love and intimacy and co-creating them? Erwin talks about the importance of having the right partner to make this happen.
“To find a potential match, don’t look for someone who makes you happy. Look for someone that you naturally make happy and [who] love[s] the authentic you. … You aren’t in control of someone else’s happiness, and trying to do so can be exhausting.” – Erwin McManus
Imagine being with a person who wants you to fit into their dreams instead of being the person you are. It would not be a good idea to have that kind of relationship, right? It’d sure be difficult and tiring. Beyond that, though, finding the right person also means finding someone who wants you to be the best version of yourself.
“My wife has always pushed me to be my best version of myself. … One time, I lost a company due to a decision a business partner made. I had to fly home and tell my wife, “I lost everything,” … and my wife looked at me and said, without a second hesitation, “I thought I was your everything.” – Erwin McManus
Wow! How beautiful is it to have a partner who’s there for you, supporting and loving you no matter what? That’s what it means to find someone who wants you to be a better version of yourself. Just like with Erwin and his wife, it’s having someone tell you to get up off the ground, create, and make something happen!
Erwin’s story reminds us that having the right partner is the key to achieving the genius of love. We need someone inspired by us, who wants us to be great, and loves the authentic us.
You might think that having the perfect partner is the end of everything. But just as Erwin believes, relationships should be taken care of the most. They need to flourish because they might just get filled with conflicts or end up in something else.
So how can we make our relationships better, and how can we develop more loving relationships with our partners? Here are some of the things that Erwin suggests:
As I’ve mentioned, the right partner inspires us to be better people but we need to encourage our partners to be better versions of themselves, too. To do this, Erwin talks about the importance of listening.
” One way you can help your partner become a better version of themselves is by listening to their dreams. … For my wife, I listen to the dreams she put on the back burner when she married me. … It includes the dreams that are still haunting her and her wishes to live her life.”– Erwin McManus
By listening to our partners, we can help them make their dreams come true. They’ll know that they are indeed loved and essential in our lives.
#2: Cheer, Not Coach
Sometimes in our relationship, our partners have habits that we don’t like. These could be truly bad habits or things that we think are unhealthy to surround ourselves with. In cases like this, many of us are tempted to coach them on what needs to be done. For Erwin, this response won’t work. Instead, he suggests another way of dealing with it.
“You have to learn to say, I totally support you in that. I’m not going to help you change this. I will cheer you on as you change because I don’t want you to feel like you’re changing for me. You have to change for yourself.” – Erwin McManus
By cheering instead of coaching, our partners will see that we are genuinely on their side. Yes, it might not help them get rid of the bad habit, but we can cheer them on as they work on it. And the best part is, they know that they can make it happen because someone’s there rooting for them!
When we love someone, unconditional love is something we want to achieve. We no longer look at them with judgment or try to change who they are. Instead, we accept the person wholeheartedly and unconditionally.
“Differences are parts of who we are. We need to learn how to be partners in a dynamic scenario and not change the other person. After all, you knew who they were, and you must be willing to embrace that for a lifetime. … You have to be able to say this sincerely: “Even if you never change, I’m going to love you completely.” – Erwin McManus
It’s hard to do this, especially if we see the other person as “the problem” or “the thing that needs to change.” It takes a lot of courage to take this step. However, accepting our partners for who they are doesn’t mean that we stop wanting them to be better. It means giving them space and opportunity to work on becoming the person they want to be in their lives. Remember that no one can sustain change someone else wants for them. You can only maintain the change that you wish for yourself.
With these tips, we can deal with conflicts and build better relationships with our partners!
As a pastor, Erwin has dedicated his life to helping people build better relationships. I reached out to his expertise for time-tested spiritual principles for relationships:
As most successful couples know, laughter is essential for a relationship!
“You just can’t be mad at each other when you’re laughing together. You can’t hold bitterness when you’re laughing together. You can’t live in the past when you’re laughing together. When you’re laughing together, you’re completely in this moment. You’re completely present.” – Erwin McManus
We can create beautiful memories and moments, big and small, to share by laughing and having fun together.
Every person we love has dreams and aspirations. However, in the process of being in a relationship or marriage, these dreams are set aside. Should we allow this to happen to our partners? For Erwin, this shouldn’t be the case. He even urges us to always encourage our partners.
“You need to be a lifelong cheerleader for the other person. Don’t assume they know you think they’re awesome.” – Erwin McManus
Let me ask you this: How many of you have assumed that your partner knows how much you love them? Although we might forget, remember that these words are a reminder of invariable support for each other! Especially when we’re chasing after a dream, we need that support and cheering on from our partner to keep us going. So be there for each other. Build each other up. Be there when your partner falls down, and console them. Love, respect, and trust your partner unconditionally, and they’ll do the same for you!
In my previous relationships, I have always mistaken intimacy with sex. But Erwin corrected me and explained that intimacy is much more than just touching each other or having sex. It’s an expression of love, care, concern, and affection.
“Sex is supposed to be the most intimate act between two human beings. It’s not supposed to be a pastime for entertainment. Yet, we’ve turned it into something demeaning to the beauty of physical and sexual intimacy. It’s essential in a marriage and in deepening that relationship. It’s a necessary part of blocking everything else out in the world, making everything else irrelevant and just focusing on yourselves.” – Erwin McManus
Our current hookup culture may be why we tend to be so misunderstood when it comes to what intimacy is. But as Erwin advises, we shouldn’t be afraid to be vulnerable and open ourselves to our partners. Vulnerability is what causes connection, which in turn makes sex great!
A healthy relationship is one in which we learn to grow and change together. We help each other find our own paths, even when it doesn’t feel like we’re heading in the same direction. This takes a lot of courage and humility, but if we can do this together, then there’s nothing that can stop us from achieving the love we’re all looking for!
Before I go, here’s Erwin’s definition of greatness,
“My definition of greatness is the good you do for the world.” – Erwin McManus
When you do good to your partners, you’re also doing great things to the world. You are sharing your lives together, which means something to your children and others. Doing good things to one another can remind you of why you fell in love and the values and principles you want your relationships to be built upon!
If you find today’s episode helpful for you, share with other people who might benefit from what we talked about. Tag Erwin, @erwinmcmanus, and me, @lewishowes so we’ll know how much value our discussion has added to your lives. Also, listen and leave a review in our Apple Podcasts to know how you feel about each episode! Conversations like these help spread awareness within and beyond communities that need more love like yours does every day. Also, don’t forget that Erwin just released his newest book, The Genius Of Jesus: The Man Who Changed Everything, so pick up a copy today before they run out!
If you’re interested in learning how to deal with conflict in your relationship or what to look for when trying to find the right partner for you, then don’t miss Episode 1,166 of The School of Greatness.