There are 3 Kinds of Relationships + Only 1 Brings True Happiness

ari salmansohn

When I was a teen, I tried to read the entire Encyclopedia Britannica.

My goal: Memorize its contents, be on TV game shows, win cash and prizes, run away from home, move to Manhattan and become a professional writer.

I got as far as Asparagus.

To this day, I know a little about a lot of words beginning with “A.” Some favorites: ants, atoms, alchemy. Plus, Aristotle was a childhood crush, because I’ve always loved philosophy. When I finished reading his one-page encyclopedic write-up, I bought books about him. I’d been saving these dog-eared, underlined Aristotle books, as well as the “A” book of Britannica, all to be used in a novel, where I’d been planning to bless my protagonist with the quirky detail of knowing all things “A.”

A few years ago I rediscovered these Aristotle books when moving apartments. I flipped through and was surprised to discover Aristotle said a lot of the same things about love and happiness as modern psychologists. Only Aristotle obviously said it first, having been born in 300-ish B.C. Plus, Aristotle said it truly wisely.

Indeed, much of what Ari (as I affectionately call him) said hit home big-time — in particular about a sexy, smart, funny, rich, lying, cheating, don’t-get-me-started Prince Harming I’d just broken up with. I could almost hear what Aristotle might say to me if we were to chat over souvlaki.

“Mea bene, Karen,” Ari would say. “You know what your problem was with your ex? He was not your soul mate — but your ‘sold’ mate — because you sold your soul to be with him. Sure he was sexy, smart, rich, funny — but alas, he was a lying, cheating asshole.”

“Wow,” I’d say. “I can’t believe you just said that word!”

“What? Asshole?” Aristotle would say with a smile. “Hey, I’m from Greece, so alas I’m no prude.”

“Actually, I meant ‘soul mate’!” I’d correct. “You’re an intellectual guy—the regaled philosopher who was called The Mind of The Academy by Plato. I’m surprised you believe in something as namby-pamby metaphysical as a soul mate!”

“Absolutely!” My fave Greek philosopher buddy Ari would respond emphatically. “Actually, I sort of coined the concept of ‘soul mate.’ If there’d been a little TM trademark thingy back in the 300s B.C., I’d be a very rich man today. I firmly believe caretaking the soul is incredibly important for happiness. I describe a soul mate as a ‘soul-nurturing mate.’ Someone who nurtures your soul, thereby promoting insight and growth. I pushed folks to find soul mates because, in my opinion, real happiness only comes when you stimulate your core self — and grow into your highest potential. Basically, the soul is the ultimate G-spot for happiness.”

Of course, I’m playfully paraphrasing for my philosopher buddy. But if Aristotle were here, I know he’d agree with my verbal modernization of his philosophies. Plus, Ari would go on to describe how he views the world as offering three kinds of relationships, only one of which brings true happiness.

Yes, according to my ancient philosopher buddy Aristotle, there are three kinds of relationships – and only one will bring you true happiness.


1. Relationships of pleasure

Partners who are about sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll. You share soulless, passionate sex and playful banter — but they’re about the body or ego. They never soul-nurture you with insight and growth, so they never bring real-deal happiness. Basically, instead of finding a soul mate, you’re simply finding a sex-mate and/or an ego-mate.

2. Relationships of utility

Partners you spend time with in hopes of garnering status, power, money and beauty like the rich guy with a trophy girl. Again, this is about body or ego and doesn’t bring true joy. Again, instead of finding a soul mate, you’re finding a sex-mate, ego-mate, status-mate, and/or wallet-mate – none of which are long term satisfying mates!

3. Relationships of shared virtue

Partners who challenge and inspire you to grow into your highest potential and nurture your soul. A good example is when Jack Nicholson’s character in “As Good As It Gets” says, “You make me want to be a better man.” When you prioritize seeking a partner who supports you becoming your best self — instead of crushing on “superficial lures”(hotness, funniness, smartness, success, etc.) — you wind up with a soul mate/a Prince Charming/a definite keeper!

With this in mind, if you want to be happy in love, you must take time to see past your partner’s “superficial lures”  (hotness, funniness, smartness, success, etc.) and look inside to get to know their “core self” – or their “true soul.”

Unfortunately, as I’d discovered with my ex, those fumes of chemistry can sometimes dizzy a gal into making stupid love choices.

That’s why it’s important to remember: Hot, steamy chemistry eventually fades — and what’s always left beneath is a person’s true soul.

Yes, if you want to be happy, you must seek a good-hearted, ethical soul who brings you great growth — not simply a hottie who brings great grope. I’m joking. But I’m serious. Which brings me to another point – a confession.

Confession time: Another superficially alluring quality I’ve been suckered in by is humor. I am Silly Putty in a friggin’ funny man’s hands. I once had a boyfriend who teased me that the secret to getting me into bed was to crack five good jokes in a night. He’d count down his jokes as the night progressed. Unfortunately, funniness is a mere decorative quality — sometimes developed to avoid talking about real-life issues. Which is why in the past, after a few months of dating a friggin’ funny guy, I’ve witnessed all that fabulous ha-ha-ha laughter often gives way to tears when the guy’s true character — true soul — shows up as one that avoids honest communication, warm empathy and the desire for growth. Yes, when I’ve tried to connect soul to soul — heart to heart — with a partner who’s been super funny, I’ve often found that I’m greeted by a gigantic, unmovable whoopee cushion wall.

Basically, friggin’ funny is only the tiniest tip of a person. Meanwhile, a person’s soul is a person’s foundation!

For the record: Aristotle wasn’t against finding someone friggin’ funny or friggin’ sexy or friggin’ rich. He believed these pleasure-bringing qualities were good for stirring up passion, which humans need to be our fullest selves! But Aristotle recognized “superficial lures” and material goods were simply what he called “means to the ends” of happiness, not “the final ends,” which is always to grow into your most esteemed self.

As Aristotle said: “Men imagine the causes of happiness lie in external goods. That is as if they were to ascribe fine and beautiful lyre playing to the quality of the instrument rather than the skill of the player.”

Or as I like to say, “It’s just as easy to complain about a rich man as it is to complain about a poor man.”

Basically, it doesn’t matter how rich a guy is if his behavior makes you twitchy and miserable.

While on the subject of money, Aristotle was no fan of slackers either. He recognized that being or dating poor brought its share of problems. He even admitted the lack of a certain amount of wealth was as much an obstacle to happiness as deprivation of freedom. He gladly accepted that some wealth was needed to be happy — just as exciting bodily pleasures were needed.

But again, wealth and bodily pleasures were mere means to the ends of happiness — these ultimate ends being to nourish your soul, so you can reach your most esteemed level of self.

A big secret to happiness?

Stop focusing on finding a Mr. or Ms. Right! Start focusing on finding Life Plan Right. When a Mr. or Ms. Potential Right comes along, you must ask yourself if this person will lead you to Life Plan Right or Life Plan Wrong.

As you get to know your partner, look to see if they:

1. Offer you exciting growth as well as exciting grope

2. Have developed good character — so they’ll be a positive influence on your character development.

If your partner scores two for two, you’re likely in Prince/Princess Charming territory

Want to enjoy a happy, safe-feeling, committed love relationship? Check out the tools in my NEVER AGAIN PROGRAM -a life changing online home course – you can do at your own pace – on any kind of computer or idevice. These tools were so loved by the people at OPRAH, that they gave me a column on their site. Click here now – and grab a discount for a limited time only.

TWEET THIS NOW: There are  3 Kinds of Relationships + Only 1 Brings True Happiness – find out if you’re seeking the right one via @notsalmon ‘s blog 

What’s something which comes to your mind and heart when you read this essay. Share your personal story or a personal happiness tool! 


Written by Karen Salmansohn (Founder)

Hi I’m Karen Salmansohn, founder of NotSalmon. My mission is to offer you easy-to-understand insights and tools to empower you to bloom into your happiest, highest potential self. I use playful analogies, feisty humor, and stylish graphics to distill big ideas – going as far back as ancient wisdom from Aristotle, Buddhism and Darwin to the latest research studies from Cognitive Therapy, Neuro Linquistic Programming, Neuroscience, Positive Psychology, Quantum Physics, Nutritional Studies – and then some.
  • gt

    great article

    • Alicia Torres

      I had a very bad relationship very controlling very jealous even if I didn’t answer my phone fast enough must be with someone else accusations not true but I stayed WITH him 8 years just broke up again today. But he always comes back & I let him. I don’t know how to say no.
      Any suggestions?

      • notsalmon

        He is definitely a Prince Harming. I know it will be hard but you must let him go and believe you deserve so much better than that.

  • Jill Therese

    I totally love this. I’ve found that as I get older, when people ask me what I want from a man, ALL I say is: ” I want him to have good character”. Its fool proof kinda; good character that is compatible with your own is like, striking gold:)

    Thank you for this!

    • notsalmon


      You are right. When I man has good character, it’s very sexy.


  • notsalmon

    You are so welcome!

  • ika

    totally liking this. now i understand that some things in my life need to switched

  • Hipshot

    Very nice!

  • notsalmon

    Yes Dian! That would be great. Just be sure to add this to the bottom of the post. Karen Salmansohn is a best selling author/designer with over 1 million books sold, plus a columnist for Oprah, Psychology Today, Huffington Post,, Positivelypositive, The Daily Love, and an AOL Selected Career Coach, and founder of a website which offers fun/feisty/inspirational books, posters, screensavers, tees, totes, mugs, journals, videos, ecards and more to empower people around the world to live their happiest life. Learn more at

  • Laura

    I spent way too many years on the “Prince Harming’s”. Thank you, Karen, for helping me to look deeply inside myself and attract what I really wanted..a man of character and kindness. I am now engaged to such a man, and truly happier and more contented than I have ever been. I stayed single for 12 years by choice, but your wisdom helped me open myself up again to honest to goodness love. Keep the wisdom coming.

  • hilluua Muhamad

    My love told me that he gained a lot from me ‘spiritually’. He was a victim of Narcissistic parents and he fall into poor upbringing. I helped him out of his own self and found out he performed well yet undeniably back to his nature when things went wrong. I’m sometimes tired of ‘pulling’ him up to the bank, what is the best thing I could do for both of us. This is what I’m thinking, If all people avoiding Mr. harming who else then will save them?

  • Mimi

    I totally agree that a relationship is not just purely fun and ‘sexciting’ but it should be between two people who can talk to each other without pretentions and help and support each other in striving and becoming a better person

  • Aldi

    The same direction, the same vision and common purpose sure is very important. I agree with you.

  • gladys

    this is sooo helpful to people!
    thanks! 🙂

  • CitizenGreen

    After being married 22 years and observing my friends who are dating, I’ve discovered that the less impassioned partners (which my friend calls boring) make good long term ones. Even tempered, somewhat predictable, dependable, mature are qualities that make him a good husband and father. Not one who is impulsive, wild, ultra adventurous. I won’t advise people to find an exciting grope. IMHO.

  • Sarfaraz Merchant

    Brilliantly written !! … Now, I am in love !! :* 😛

  • Lauren

    Thank you Karen for an inspiring article. I applied this to my own relationship and realised very quickly how lucky I have been to have found a man that does these things for me. Sure in the beginning it was definitely more about status/passion but then we fell deeper into love and I can detect some clear changes that drove us from status and passion to love, growth, comitment,and support. We are definitely role models for each other to grow into a better version of ourselves and apply that growth to everyday life.

  • Virtue over zazazooo ?

    What about amazing growth and low grope? It feels a little forced but the potential feels amazing….very conflicting!

  • kris

    Love this, Karen. Brilliant, creative and funny…like YOU! love, Kris xo

  • Kim Mislich

    Passion…passion for life, brings passionate love!!!

  • anne

    HELP!!! i am torn at the moment between two men who i have strong feelings for both, one i was with for 6 years, anti social but with wonderful morals,had some hard times where i had to support him financially, he has since paid me back, we split up after i cheated on him because of his inability to socialise or meet any of my friends as I am very outgoing…He has recently come back into my life when he heard i had broken up with my second man.. who ive been with for the last 3 years, hes a guy who is very friendly and social and everyone seemed to love him until he started being needy and borrowing money. We have so much fun together but i feel like he needs a mother more than a girlfriend. Im making myself so sick stressing over them as they are both pressuring me for an answer as to who i want to be with, I love them both in different ways.. How do i make a choice??