Good relationships take a lot of hard work. I don’t mean the kind of work that makes you miserable, but rather the kind of work that makes your relationship grow.
I’m definitely not perfect when it comes to relationships. But some of my life experiences, like my divorce, have taught me the difference between when you’re working and growing and when you’re working and spinning in circles.
My relationship with my children is one of the most important in my life. But more important than my relationship with them is their relationship with each other. I want them to remain close long after they’re out of the house and I’m gone.
Some people believe if something isn’t easy, it isn’t worth doing. Others believe that effort directly reflects value – harder = more value. No matter your stand, the fact is good relationships take constant work & encouragement.
People are always evolving, having new experiences, and living life. The day-to-day may stay relatively the same, but things are always changing. Meeting people where they are and nurturing them through the ups and downs of life is what relationships are all about. The best relationships have an ebb and flow where each person is giving and receiving at relatively the same rate.
Relationships fall flat when there is no infusion of effort. Though it does take action to manage and help a relationship thrive, it doesn’t take crazy, over-the-top antics.
Here are some easy but very effective ways to work on relationships and encourage others:
Learn their love language
Everyone has a love language. A way that they prefer to give and receive love. Some love quality time together while others prefer it when someone does something for them to make their life easier. Ask questions, pay attention, and see how others want to be valued. Then, pour into them through their love language.
The book by Gary Chapman outlines the five love languages in relationships. There is also one for children that highly recommend. It helped me to learn how to better relate to the kiddos and meet their needs.
Set aside quality time
Scheduling “date night” is a testimony to the benefits of spending quality time with the important people in your life. Date night, daddy-daughter time, or other specifically designed time with important people is a key way to manage and improve relationships. The activity isn’t as important as the time and the meaning infused into the time. I’m not necessarily talking about date night with a romantic partner, although those are important too.
Rather, having special time 1-on-1 with your child can do wonders for your relationship, especially if they have siblings. Each of my children gets one afternoon every couple of weeks after school. They get to pick an activity for us to do together while the other child hangs with their grandparents. It’s a win-win for everyone!
Doing activities spur of the moment, giving an unexpected gift, an unplanned trip to the park, or an impromptu dance party in the living room are all fun ways to be spontaneous. Do things that are unexpected but meaningful, and the bond between you will expand.
Listen with intent
Listening to someone with the intent to support, encourage or offer valuable wisdom is a blessing. Relationships flourish when people feel heard and understood. Being someone who can listen well and offer support is one of the easiest ways to provide encouragement in a relationship.
Every good thing needs to be nurtured. Pouring into relationships with hard work and encouragement returns that investment over and over again. Your love and attention is the key to a long-lasting bond that stands the test of time.
Strengthen Your Relationship with Kindness, Support, Compliments, & Respect
Taking a relationship from so-so to a strong bond is four steps away. Kindness, support, compliments, and respect are the cornerstones to a solid foundation in your relationship. Routinely placing a focus on these cornerstones is a simple way to build long-lasting bonds.
These four elements of a great relationship work seamlessly together – let’s take a look:
We live in a world where people are on the go and short of time and patience. Being kind is a lost art. Choosing kindness when it would be simple to be curt makes a big impact for truly little effort.
Here’s some ways to infuse kindness into your relationships:
- Bringing your loved one a cookie or their favorite drink for no reason
- Picking up someone’s favorite magazine or send them a gift subscription
- Send a card in the mail
- Text a funny gif or meme to share your fun side
- Make dinner or dessert for someone going through a life change
Support is more than saying “if there is anything you need…” Support is taking specific action to make an impact of difference. Support walks in when others walk out. Support invests when others withdraw. Support leans in when other push back.
Here’s some supportive ways to strengthen your relationships:
- Be willing to go out of your way when crisis hits
- When someone is in chaos, be a calming force
- Offer support instead of waiting to be asked
- Practice being an excellent listener
- Be honest even when it’s hard
Believe it or not, being complimentary isn’t natural for everyone. Giving and receiving compliments can feel contrived and too fluffy for some people. Get over it! Compliments are a high-value way to strengthen a relationship. Even if they seem overrated to you, they make a big impact in a very meaningful way.
Here’s a primer on giving a good compliment:
- Compliment what you notice
- Be sincere
- Focus on small details
- Look people in the eye when you compliment them
- Compliment what you truly admire
Respect is powerful because it creates humility and expresses itself in equality. Respecting someone requires admiration, holding one’s tongue now and then, having safe boundaries, and thinking of others more than yourself. Respect is expressed through seeing others as your equal and deserving of your kindness, support, and occasional compliment.
Here are some key concepts about respect:
- Respect withholds judgement
- Respect honors differences
- Respect sees beyond the obvious
- Respect asks for and offers forgiveness
- Respect gives space and accepts boundaries
Taking relationships from so-so to solid is easy when you build your foundation with the cornerstones of kindness, support, compliments, and respect. Focus on these elements, and the rest will fall into place nicely.
Surviving the Tough Times – It’s About Forgiveness, Admitting Mistakes, & Finding Common Ground
It’s normal to go through tough times. When we are in relationships with others, we are bound to have some hiccups along the way. You can survive the tough times if you practice three simple aspects of relationships: forgiveness, admitting mistakes, & finding common ground. Choosing these relationship-building activities will make it possible to withstand disagreements, fights, and other threats to your relationships.
Let’s take a look at what this means:
Be willing to forgive and ask for forgiveness when appropriate. Forgiveness isn’t accepting what happened without consequence. It is allowing the human nature in yourself or someone else to exist without being fatal. The key to forgiveness in relationships is making sure the offense doesn’t repeat itself.
Sometimes forgiveness is going to require some amends – either for you or from you. If you need to give or receive amends, make them clear, natural, and logical for the situation. Be fair and forthright when making up for a mistake.
Being able to admit when we are wrong is an act of humility and greatness. Being able to express our missteps in a way that shows we are aware of our impact goes a long way towards surviving tough times.
When admitting mistakes, it’s best to be very specific and detailed about how and why we acted out of turn. Being sincere and honest with remorse is important.
Finding common ground
No matter the issue or the rift, there is always common ground. Going back to the things that are shared experiences or values will help close the gap that developed during the conflict.
When things are at their worst, we can stop and think about what we have in common and choose to see the bigger picture and avoid being negative. Being willing to compromise or derail bitterness and anger for the greater good is always a better choice.
Disagreeing with someone we are in relationship with isn’t something to be feared. Being at odds with someone doesn’t always mean we shouldn’t be in relationship with them. It means we are all different and sometimes we just need to agree to disagree. Instead of getting into a huff and possibly fracturing the relationship, use these techniques to survive the tough times and strengthen your relationship. Be willing to go the extra mile and forgive, admit mistakes, and find common ground.