The best blog comment I’ve seen all year

Ramit Sethi

A lot of people think I define a “Rich Life” as mostly about money. Wrong!

I think money is an important, but small part of a Rich Life.

Also included:

  • Your job/business
  • Being able to travel
  • Relationships: Friends, your girlfriend/boyfriend/spouse, sexuality, attraction
  • Style: What you wear and how you look
  • Fitness and health: How to look and feel amazing

Today, we’re going to talk about RELATIONSHIPS.

To start, think about the last time you got excited and shared that excitement with someone else. Maybe it was losing weight, starting a business, traveling somewhere exotic…whatever.

I love noticing people’s responses. They’re so revealing.

For example, some people say, “WOW! That sounds amazing!”

Others say, “I wish I could do that” (code for: “I could never do that because [insert excuse here]”).

Or one of my favorites: “There’s more to life than making money.”

The last one is very telling. I absolutely loved this comment in a blog post about ambition:

“What irks me are the assumptions inherent in people saying ‘There’s more to life than just…’

What have I said that makes you think I’m excluding other ‘important’ things? Why are you positioning my ambition and other aspects of life as two separate ideas, as if they don’t connect or enhance each other (for example, can’t a love for your family fuel your ambition?)…

The phrase says a lot more about the person saying it than the person it is being said to.”

Statements like, “There’s more to life than just…” are what I call extreme-reach barriers. We use these phrases whenever we focus on the worst possible outcomes (irrationally) instead of what we want.

How many of us claim we want something, then let extreme-reach barriers hold us back?

Some of my favorite examples…

  • Starting a business: “I wish I could, but I don’t have enough time. I don’t want a second full-time job.”
  • Working out: “So you’re saying I’d have to go to the gym every day for the rest of my life to lose weight? Forget it!”
  • Getting married: “Have fun while you’re single, because marriage is a graveyard.”

That last one may strike a nerve with the systems weirdos who read my site.

Isn’t it interesting that we’ll read 6,253,468 articles about Pomodoro Technique this and No-Carb that — and then make the most lazy assumptions about what research says is the #1 driver of a Rich Life: our relationships?

My friend Ryan Holiday wrote about this in his post: The Perfect Spouse Is The Best Life Hack No One Told You About:

“For all the productivity and success advice I’ve read, shaped and marketed for dozens of authors in the last decade, I’ve never really seen someone come out and say: Find yourself a spouse who complements and supports you and makes you better.

Instead, we’re supposed to believe that relationships tie people down, that they are the death knell for creativity and ambition. When Cyril Connolly said that there was ‘no more somber enemy of good art than the pram in the hall,’ he was voicing, in appalling clarity, the selfishness and self-absorption that draws many people away from love and happiness.”

I love Ryan’s take.

Not just because he rejects everything our culture (especially Silicon Valley’s “success” culture) tells us about marriage, but because he goes deeper.

It’s EASY to sit in your computer chair and say “screw relationships, I’m trying to change the world.” Or to struggle on, assuming your personal life and work life don’t dramatically affect each other. It’s much more challenging to say, “You know what? Relationships matter a lot. I’m going to figure out how to have an amazing relationship and change the world.”

Yes and yes!

Look: I’m not telling you to go get married tomorrow. I’m not married yet, either. The point is that when you fall back on extreme-reach barriers (instead of thinking for yourself), you block yourself from defining — and living — your own Rich Life.

The #1 extreme-reach barrier in relationships

We’ve all heard it: “Once you get married, bye-bye sex life.” I wanted to explore this, so I invited Esther Perel (bestselling author of Mating in Captivity) into my studio to talk about the unwritten rules of intimacy.

What Esther revealed is that a stale sex life is NOT the inevitable dead-end of a relationship.

It’s the result of breaking rules that:

  • We don’t even know we’re breaking
  • And often have nothing to do with sex

Once you know these rules, you can improve your relationship — piece by piece — and your sex life will thrive automatically.

Here’s an 11-minute excerpt from our talk. I was struck by her opinion (at the 3:00 mark) on marrying for love and passion:

I’m curious: what’s an extreme-reach barrier you tell yourself? How has it stopped you from pursuing what you want?

Leave a comment. I read every one.

By the way, want to know what every single top performer I’ve interviewed in Brain Trust (including CEOs, athletes, and best-selling authors) ALL have in common? Simple. It’s habits. Successful people don’t just catch a lucky break and coast — they systematically identify and integrate winning habits into their lives, day in and day out, for years.

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  1. Delmania

    Well, I was just thinking about this while taking a shower. My extreme barrier? I rushed into marriage and married someone who does not “complement or support me”. I’ve had to make myself better in spite of her in order to make up for her shortcomings, or my house will be a disaster and my kids will be nervous wrecks. It’s stopped me from pursuing what I want because I need to use my energy to make sure things are taken care of. I can’t divorce primarily because of the kids, but I know that if I had the chance to do it over again, I definitely would have picked up on the warning signs and made a better decision.

    • Alexander

      Love the honesty but my god man, get out of that relationship now before it completely sucks the life out of you!! I have done a 50-50 split with my ex for 8 years (our daughter is 11 and spends 2 days with me, 2 days with her, and then the weekend with me, then it flips around) and we couldn’t be happier. Children are more resilient than you think and if you are that unhappy you need to make a change. Period.

    • Kat

      I have not entered marriage and sometimes I think (and my significant other tells me) that I sabotage my relationships, because I have this fear that a significant other would slow me down and I would have to “make up for his shortcomings” and that husband and marriage come with societal expectations and I worry I can’t “Lean In” enough. My career is well and great and I’m pursuing my dreams at the cost of personal relationships. I want children and family someday. We all want to be on the other greener side. Do you really absolutely believe that without her you could pursue what you want? Good luck though

    • stace

      however what are her positive qualities? write them down put them on the fridge where she can see them.
      Have you discussed life goals with her?

  2. Matt

    I’ve never wanted to be married. I’ve never wanted anything like that. This is where blogs like this tend to lose me. Legacy this, love life that.

    There is more to it than simply saying no, of course. Being traded for sex and being sexually abused is always a hurdle no matter how many times you fight against it. I have trust issues and that is all well and good.

    But I never wanted to get married before all that happened. I never wanted a deep and meaningful relationship before anything happened to me. Even if you were to expel the experience from my mind, I would still default to not wanting these things.

    The bigger thing here is the use of influence without overtly influencing. This is what gets my hackles up every time I read your offerings. I love the hell out of you, like a good heel wrestler you just love to hate and know I can’t do without you being the way you are because it would be boring otherwise.

    And this is one of those times.

  3. Jen

    Wow, I feel like this blog post was written just for me. This is an issue I’ve been struggling with myself lately after marriage, pregnancy, and having a baby. It’s been so easy to tell myself “pregnancy is hard, I can put the rest of my life on hold until the baby is born” or “babies take up so much time, just wait until she’s a little older” or even “to be a good mom, I need to sacrifice every other aspect of my life”. That last one is a doozy! If you’re a mom who wants to continue with a career, fitness, relationships, and hobbies, people think you are the devil incarnate.

    I’m fortunate enough to have a husband that pushes me (hard!) to improve. A few days ago he finally sat me down and told me “I know you want to be a great mom and have chosen a job that you think falls into the ‘good mom’ category, but you are miserable. You’re going to wake up in 40 years and realize you wasted your life”. So here I am trying to break free from my own extreme-reach barriers.

    I did see in your email the other day that IWT is hiring smart, ambitious people. I have an unconventional background that will help give your team a fresh perspective. Keep an eye out for my application; I’m the behavioral science girl with a flair for figuring out why people do what they do.

  4. Deji

    Great article! Always enjoy reading your blog Ramit.

    I agree with you; I too have extreme barriers that get in the way of me achieving my goals. Like being tired. I’d like to have a great career, work on my passion projects, have a fulfilling relationship and have a good social life.

    But there’s only so many hours in the day! Something needs to be sacrificed in order to get to where I want to be, and that likely means sleep every now and then. Although I want to be conscious of the consequences of sleeping less, because lack of sleep can make me cranky and hinder my productivity.

    I think that what you said about relationships rings true. The last relationship I was in was so hugely beneficial in my life. My ex-partner pushed me to better myself; personally, spiritually and professionally.

    I’m at a position in my life where I’m more spiritually connected than I’ve ever been, I’m about the take the next step in my career and I’m taking courses to get better at executing on my passion project. I wouldn’t be where I am in my life today without my ex-partner.

    So, I hope that I don’t let working hard on my career, passion projects, social life, etc. stops me from entering into a meaningful and fulfilling relationship.

  5. Stephen Roe

    Wow, Ramit. This was not what I expected from that headline! Still so glad I read the article and listened to your interview.

    Around the 3:20 mark, you and Esther talk a little bit about arranged marriages, a topic that’s always intrigued me. I’m sure you discuss it more in the full interview, but you prompted me to do a bit of research on my own. For years I’ve told people that “science shows arranged marriages are happier,” but that’s a little overstated. Science shows they’re fairly equal (based on a study in the US, Pamela Regan in Psychology Today).

    Which makes me wonder. After the marriage, happiness isn’t defined by the amount of “love” or “passion” or “connection” one feels beforehand. BUT, if those elements hinder the connection each spouse feels towards the other afterwards, I wonder if arranged marriages are actually the better route.

    Okay, I’m not advocating arranged marriages. I’m very happy in my non-arranged relationship. But still. Our gut reaction (in the 21st century West) is to be abhorred by the thought of an arranged marriage, but perhaps it would be a better strategy for marital success.

  6. Marlena

    Extreme reach bareer: in career- success is scary and when it happens, you won’t have any privacy left. (I have anxiety so, being private for me is very important ).

    I don’t think in terms of ‘there’s more to life than money…’ because I really belive we are all meant to have abundance in all areas of our life.

    What I discovered from my years of studying psychology is this: most of the time when people want to achieve a goal (that healthy relationship or great career), they get stuck in their emotions. They weren’t taught how to deal with their emotions as children so, in adult life, they find some coping mechanisms that don’t work most of the time. Be it alcohol, food, procrastination and so on. My coping mechanism is anxiety. Yes it helps md cope with life but it also stops me from going after my goals.

    Maybe if we learn to deal with our emotions in a healthy way, then it will be easier to get past our extreme reach bareers.

  7. Physician on FIRE

    Love, marriage, and my relationships with my wife and young boys are the most important things in my busy rich life. Freedom will soon follow in the form of an early retirement.

    Style??? That would be somewhere on Page 2 if I were making a very long list of priorities. I mean, there’s more to life than just st….

    From a guy who wears scrubs and thinks he looks good in scrubs. 🙂


  8. Shel Horowitz

    Well, I can tell you from 36 years with the same partner that long-term marriage CAN work. We are each other’s best friends, spend a lot of time together, do fun things both together and separately. We just did a three-week road trip together with no time apart, and it was a great trip.

    I admit–it was somewhat more challenging to find time to make love when the kids were young, but we managed. Now the kids are grown and out of the house, and that part of our relationship is stronger than ever. One of them just married a really great guy.

  9. Mollie Moorhead

    Love this – thank you, Ramit! Great video. The topic of relationships is dear to me because its really my relationships that up fill my heart and spirit. I have great relationships with my friends, but my relationship with my partner is easily the most supportive and nurturing, and has been for our 8 years (so far) together. We organically take turns being the more stable one, and the more adventurous one, going out and traveling or doing new things. This really works to keep our relationship ALIVE, not static. And play is important – I think that makes switching roles (between confidante, friend, lover, etc.) really pretty easy. It can be playful. I would also add that sharing money and resources is very helpful in supporting our success as individuals as well as together.

    As for my extreme-reach barrier, which I take to mean, ‘how do I limit myself with my thinking?’ I’ll have to consider this. I used to think I had to work my ass off to make a lot of money, but now I know that just isn’t true – I make way more money now working 3 1/2 days a week as a coach & consultant, than I ever did when I was younger, working 7 days a week as a laborer.

  10. Liz Jones

    Good interview! I agree with what she’s saying about lack of communication creating barriers in relationships.

  11. Taylor Dahnert

    I had been secretly waiting to see how you would systematize relationships and communication, as I am a systems gal my self.

    I cannot express enough how having certain frameworks and systems in place for communication has radically improved my relationships, including my love life!

    What is a rich life to me? When systems for wealth and lifestyle can be modified and applied to communication for creating deeper and fuller interpersonal connection.

    Let’s be honest: the only life worth having is one you can share.

    • Christopher

      What frameworks and systems do you use for communication? As someone who is in a new relationship, I’m realizing I need to rethink my approach to how I communicate with my partner. (I’m new to this ‘systems’ game so looking for any pointers and tips I can get!)

  12. Jessica M

    Hi Ramit, I purchased Perel’s book when it first came out perhaps 8 years ago. This line has always stayed with me: “Reconciling the erotic and the domestic is not a problem to solve but a paradox to manage.” Like with all good things. Clearly you are tuned into people’s desires and motivations on every level, and what really IS most nurturing. I appreciate it. One of my biggest extreme reach barriers was that “if I start a business, I’ll have to become generic”. But I like being a weirdo. It’s not even negotiable. You’re definitely a role model when it comes to doing both, as long as your business is build around the client.

  13. Kat

    My extreme reach barrier: Not believing that I can have an equal partnership (or that I’m just not good at it). I apply productivity methods and make myself better in every way possible but can’t seem to make this method work in relationships. I’m driven, ambitious, and persistent. I put in 110% effort in improving my career and physical and mental fitness and it pays off every single time. However, when I double my efforts in relationships, they don’t seem to work in the same pragmatic way. It seems that relationships do not operate on productivity or rationale or motivation, it operates on gut feeling and compromises and emotional appeals and I’m no good at those things. There is only one correct and optimized solution, everything else are series of compromises. When relying on gut feeling and emotional appeals, marriage is a series of compromises and cannot be optimized. It’s a ship with two captains, a lock with two master keys. I’m waiting for the right person to create synergistic relationship with, but so far every relationship slows me down and I don’t feel like myself. Every decision takes twice as long. Buying a house? Pursuing a new degree? Pursuing a business? Investment opportunities? Takes. forever. The alternatives are not great. Single forever alone with 9 cats. Or marry a traditional wife.

  14. Dave

    I was in a 23 year marriage and was unhappy. Looking back I realized I married her because I didn’t think anyone else would want me. We divorced and a little over a year later I found the woman of my dreams. In describing her, a cousin nailed it; “I love her positive energy” she said.
    Four months into our relationship i was diagnosed with cancer; had surgery to remove it and thought we were good to go. A week after our honeymoon the cancer returned.
    We’ll be celebrating our 4th anniversary in December and the cancer is still part of our lives. I would go through all of the surgeries, chemo and other treatments all over again if it meant having her as my wife.
    That’s what it means to be “happily married.”

    • Heather

      It is warming to hear your journey & how much of an amazing support your wife is. Wishing you the best for health.

  15. Derrick

    Time is def my barrier. It’s an endless cycle of knowing exactly what I need to do and not having time to do it. I work in NYC and I’m out of the house 14 hours a day. Come home to wife and two kids, I cook, read to them, go to bed exhausted.

    On the weekends she’s got me running around all day. I usually work on my biz 2-4 hours a week and it’s going at a snails pace. 8 months into the year and still no product to sell.

    Challenge me Ramit!

    • Christie

      Derrick, you sound tired and frustrated. ” On the weekends she has me running around all day” .. That sentence sounds resentful. Maybe you and your wife need to talk about what family time looks like to you and explore other ideas. Best of Luck.

  16. Natasha

    Ramit: What an incredible and insightful video interview with Esther Perel. Nice work.

  17. Deji

    Hi Jay,

    Not an expert on bankruptcy and improving credit but my suggestion would be to attack your debt as ferociously as possible. Just my $0.02.

    As you pay down those significant debts you should start to see some lift in your credit score, although it will likely be a while you can have excellent credit due to bankruptcy.

  18. chester Field

    Marriage IS a graveyard. There are absolutely NO benefits for men in marriage these days. Go MGTOW!

  19. Yasmin

    The marriage barrier hits a little close to home, in that I’ve always felt that my boyfriend of 4 years sees me as one. Honestly, our relationship has always been strong, but I think it’s just the fear of being “tied down” that scares him. He’s never been one to settle for what people think he should be doing, and he doesn’t accept that he can only do one thing and not another. I would never stand in the way of that, but I actually get the concern. I’m actually quite fond of my independence, too, and would be concerned if I felt it was being comprised.

    Babies are a thing for me. Once I hit a certain age, my maternal instincts and my ticking clock slapped me in the face. A biiig part of me is ready to be a mother, but damn – am I ready to sacrifice my time, my sleep, my energy, my body, my career right now?? Would it even be a sacrifice at all? Am I being selfish? Would the joy of motherhood somehow trump how much everything else could potentially suck?

    These things scare me, but I’m almost defiantly adamant that no…motherhood, marriage, whatever shouldn’t stop me from achieving whatever I choose to. People do it all the time. I’ll just be one of them…

  20. Melanie

    Hi Ramit, great post. I enjoyed your questions and Esther’s powerful insight. I agree marriage gets a bad rep. There are bogus narratives passed around about the “giving up” and being handed this new life. Truth I learned is nothing changes, unless you and your spouse do from Day One. If we get bored its because we’re boring. Oh, you will see yourself. Its a lifestyle choice that is expansion through contraction.

  21. A couples therapist reveals why modern marriage is so hard : Your Partner Business

    […] a recent interview with bestselling author Ramit Sethi, couples therapist Esther Perel shared some insight into why […]

  22. Heather

    This is hard to write but, I am terrified of being stuck with someone who truly does not appreciate who I am & makes me feel like I’m not good enough.

    There is a bit of the imposer syndrome mixed in there too. “Everything is going great but if they knew this about me they wouldn’t want me.” However the times I have taken the chance to open up and be vulnerable (with the right people), it is the most bonding & rewarding moment. (9:32 stuck a chord.)

    I find myself coming up with weird unrelated reasons that completely mask the real reason like “relationships will pac man up all my time.” But it’s a load of bullshit.

    P.S. Your outfit is this video is on point! You should wear that jacket everywhere.

  23. Tim Stoddart

    I’ve never left a comment before but I’ve sent you a few tweets to you. I really appreciate your work. When I sit down in my office every morning the first thing I do is read something from either CopyBlogger or IWT. It always sets the tone for my day and gets me in the right frame of mind to run my morning staff meetings. My girlfriend and I always remind each other that when we are uncomfortable it’s better to be challenging each other than to be sitting in one spot. I don’t mean challenging each other like arguing but rather pushing ourselves so that the other wants to do better as well. I think people’s biggest fear is pain and I find that interesting because pain is always where we grow. I’m not saying I like pain, but I do try to embrace it. Especially in relationships because that way if I am self-aware I can say “ouch that really hurts, let me not do that again.” Feel me?

  24. Tony

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