Good relationships don’t just happen. Too many times, I’ve heard, “If I have to work at it, then it’s not a good relationship.” This is a false statement. If you want good physical health, you can attain it only through exercise, eating well, and stress reduction. In other words, through work. If you want a good relationship with your significant other, your peers, your children, your friends, you must work at it.
Here are seven choices you can make that will not only improve your relationships, but can help turn any failing relationship into a successful one.
1. Take Responsibility for Yourself
This is the most important choice you can make to improve your relationship. When you learn how to take responsibility for your own feelings and needs, you focus not on getting your partner to make you feel happy and secure, but on learning how to you can do this for yourself through your own thoughts and actions. You learn to treat yourself with kindness, caring, compassion, and acceptance instead of self-judgment. Self-judgment will always make you feel unhappy and insecure, no matter how wonderfully your partner is treating you. Owning your own needs is the best way to improve your relationship.
Assigning blame is usually an indication that something is not aligned in you. Identify what is missing for you outside of blaming others and thereby create the space for you to make requests in a supportive way. Improve your relationship by owning your own needs, emotions, and requirements.
2. Kindness, Compassion, Acceptance
Treat others the way you want to be treated. Yes, the Golden Rule. There’s a reason we all known it and hear about it. Because it does work! This is the essence of a truly spiritual life and is a simple way to improve your relationship. We all yearn to be treated lovingly; with kindness, compassion, understanding, and acceptance. We need to treat not only ourselves this way, everyone we have relationships with, this way. Relationships flourish when both people treat each other with kindness. A one sided relationship will always result in resentment and ultimately, will fail. While there are no guarantees, often treating another with kindness brings kindness in return. You cannot make other’s change. You can only change yourself.
3. Learning Instead of Controlling
When conflict occurs, you always have two choices regarding how to handle it. You can either be open to learning about yourself and your partner thereby discovering the deeper issues of the conflict, or you can try to win, or at least not lose, through some form of controlling behavior. Human nature would have you try to win. This however, will always lead to failure in a relationship. We’ve all learned many overt and subtle ways of trying to control others into behaving the way we want. We use anger, blame, judgment, niceness, compliance, caretaking, resistance, withdrawal of love, explaining, teaching, defending, lying, denying, and so on. All the ways we try to control create even more conflict. When we remember to learn instead of control, then we can begin to improve our relationships. Most people have two major fears that become activated in relationships; the fear of abandonment and the fear of engulfment. Most people will protect themselves against these fears with their controlling behavior. If you chose to learn about your fears and why they become activated, instead of attempting to control your partner, your fears would eventually heal.
4. Create Date Times
When people love each other, they make time for each other. Relationships need time to thrive. It is vitally important to set aside specific times to be together. Make time to talk, play, to be together. Intimacy cannot be maintained without time together. Build a strong relationship by spending one on one time together each week. This will strengthen and improve your friendship, your relationship with your child/sibling/significant other, with any relationship.
5. Gratitude Instead of Complaints
Positive energy flows between two people when there is an “attitude of gratitude.” Cultivate this quality in your life. Be grateful for the people in your life and for what they bring to your relationships. Life is short and tomorrow, that person may be gone from your life. Constant complaining creates a heavy, negative energy, which is not fun to be around.
6. Fun and Play
“Work without play makes Jack a dull boy.” Work without play makes for dull relationships as well and people tend to not put their focus into such relationships. Relationships flourish when people laugh together, play together, and when humor is a part of everyday life. Learn to see the funny side of life. If your relationship is full of laughter then it is automatically full of closeness as well. Intimacy flourishes when there is lightness of being, not when everything is morose.
One important means of creating intimacy is to do service projects together. Giving to others less fortunate fills the heart and creates deep satisfaction in the soul. Giving service moves you out of yourself and your own problems and supports a broader, more spiritual view of life. When you learn to see the bigger picture, you are less likely to give heed to little, insignificant things that can become wedges in your relationships. Not only can you improve the lives of others but by doing so, you will improve your relationship.
Our relationships should be the most important “possessions” of our existence. If your relationships are not all they can be, then apply one or all of these tips to create a more stable, fulfilling relationship with those who matter most to you.