Relationships; without them we wouldn’t survive as a species, or as people.
I’m not just talking about couples here; relationships with family, friends and colleagues are paramount to our survival. A lot of research has gone into the impact of loneliness and the reason for this is that humans are built for interaction.
So, on the eve of the Royal Wedding, I thought I’d give you some tips on how to help your relationships thrive. I doubt Harry & Meghan will be logging on to take a look tonight, but who knows, perhaps one day they’ll be looking for some relationship inspiration and will stumble across this!
Relationships can give you some of the most rewarding experiences, and simultaneously some of the toughest challenges you have ever had to face. Two people, with their own ideas, values, histories coming together to plan (a future/a business/a friendship), and hopefully you’ll see that some hiccups are inevitable, but that you can learn a lot from them.
10 tips to help them thrive are below:
- Change your part in it.
In a healthy relationship, there are two parts at play; yours and theirs. If you’re finding yourself stuck in the same arguments with someone over and over again, change the pattern by changing your part in it.
For example, this is how John and Marci usually argue about the dishes:
Marci: Oh my god, you still haven’t done the dishes!?
John: I’ll get onto it after the game, quit your nagging.
Marci: Why can’t you just get them done before the game so that I don’t have to see the pile all afternoon
John: Just don’t go into the kitchen, then you won’t see it
Marci: I can see you haven’t done the dishes. I know you’re watching the game now, and will get to it later, but next time I’d really like it if you could get to it before, because I have friends coming around and want to prep some snacks, which I’d find a lot easier to do if things have been put away. Is that okay?
John: Ah sorry, I didn’t realise you had friends coming around, but now that I think about it that’s what you usually do when you know I’ll be absorbed in the game! Sorry, I’ll be more mindful of the mess next time.
Marci: Thanks John!
See if you can interrupt the pattern. Avoid putting the person in a position where the need to defend themselves. It may confuse them for a while and they may try and repeat old patters, but eventually they’ll have to change it up too.
2. Learn the person’s ‘love language’
Dr Gary Chapman is an experienced counsellor who has helped thousands of people repair relationships by helping them tune into the person’s love language. Which of the following does the person you’re wanting to enhance your relationship with appreciate most?
- words of affirmation
- physical touch
- acts of service
- quality time
Tune in (or ask them, or get them to do Gary Chapman’s test), give them more of what they appreciate, and see what happens next! If you’re really unsure, turn detective and try all five to see how they respond to each one.
It might feel a bit weird at first, especially if they prefer a language you don’t; you may be doing the hoovering and wondering ‘how does this show them I care!?’ Keep at it and see if your relationship changes.
3. Accept what might not change
There are some things which may not change. It will be a lot easier for you if you let this go. Answering the following questions will help:
“Do these attitudes hold any advantages?”
For example, it may be annoying to be trying to foster a relationship with someone who is stubborn when their stubbornness manifests as a refusal to see your point of view, but is it useful when you’re both wanting to skip your fifth cousin’s daughter’s friends baptism? Do you like the fact that you can rely on them to stick stubbornly to the ‘no, thank you’ as you’re being guilt tripped?
“Do I have any annoying attributes which they accept in me?”
Nobody is perfect, and perhaps you’re giving that person a hard time when they’re more accepting of you.
“Do I want peace?”
Ultimately, letting go is more for your benefit than theirs; all that energy you’ve spent trying to change a situation can be used to feel good instead – so choose to feel peace.
4. Talk it out
If the relationship is important to you, talking is key. Make time to talk about how things are going for you. Be honest. Vulnerability shows courage, and it shows you care. Check in with each other regularly. Even if all you want to say is ‘I’m happy with our relationship, thank you for being there for me’, make sure you take the time to say it.
5. Learn how to forgive
It’s possible that your relationship is not thriving because the person has done something you’re feeling upset over. Forgiveness will help you get back on track.
Forgiveness is consciously choosing to remember the good things about someone and forgetting the bad. We all have our flaws, we all make mistakes, and we’d all feel wonderful if those mistakes were forgiven; so learning to show that same compassion to others will work wonders for your relationships.
6. Get angry, or sad, or frustrated
It’s okay not to be happy all the time, and it’s healthy to express this – to an extent.
A relationship where you feel safe enough with someone to express these emotions is special. Through expressing your emotions (which are there for a reason) in a healthy way you’ll both gain a better understanding of each other and how to help the relationship succeed.
“A quarrel between friends, when made up, adds a new tie to friendship” – Saint Francis de Sales
7. Know yourself
Spend time getting to know yourself. The better you know yourself the better you’ll be able to communicate what you need to others. The better you know yourself, the better also you’ll know your own boundaries, how you feel when someone crosses them, how this manifests in your behaviour, and how to prevent this from happening if you want to. All good stuff for relationships!
8. Change it up
New environments will stimulate new experiences with the person you want a thriving relationship with. When we first meet people things are really fresh – whether that’s a new partner you’re dating, a friend you’re making or someone you’re doing business with – at first, the ‘newness’ of it all creates it’s own excitement. Recreate this by getting out of the well-grooved rut by doing new things together.
9. Spend some time apart
No one person can be your everything. Do stuff you love with other people or on your own to make sure you’re being completely fulfilled. A happy you will make a happy interaction when you’re together.
10. Review your relationship as you both change
Change is the only constant, so try and keep in the present and respond to the person you are NOW and the person who is in front of you NOW, not who you think you both are based on the past.
Long term relationships will survive changes in lifestyle such as moving from studying to working, changing jobs, becoming parents, moving cities. Even without big changes, people are always pushing forward and developing. With each change make sure you keep on top of how your relationship is changing and how you’ll need to adjust accordingly.
Well, no-one said it would be easy, but it’s fun and interesting and if you put in the work it pays dividends. You get a companion who knows you better than anyone else; someone in whose company you can totally let go and be yourself in; a companion who has your back.
If you’re having serious relationship problems with a partner, family member, friend or colleague do reach out for help or book a free consultation with me!
Are you watching the Wedding tomorrow? Either way, have a lovely time!