Throughout my career I have been asked for tips on building and strengthening relationships. Here are a few things I think might help.
Although this is not a stand-alone fix, effective communication is a great start to moving in the right direction. Here are a few questions to ask yourself before reading on. What the heck is effective communication, why is it important, and how do you know if you are doing it?
Simply put, when a couple communicates effectively, both partners understand what the topic of discussion is, know the reason for the discussion, and are aware of the emotions involved in the conversation.
This type of communication is important because it often prevents a phone from being chucked at your head. Not only is your physical safety important, but effective communication allows both parties to feel heard, understood, and to be a valued part of the conversation.
So how do you know if this is happening? Ask questions. Engage in active listening. Rephrase what your partner has said to show that you are listening, and that you understand.
How many times have you had a conversation with your partner only to find out that not a word you said was processed? (Guys, we are notoriously bad for tuning out when the conversation is not about football or sex.) Feeling understood is a big thing in a relationship, so it’s time to apply the skill.
Active listening is a great way to show you partner that you are not only engaged in the conversation, but care what the heck they are talking about. You can do this by repeating back what they said, asking questions, and by validating their feelings. Yes, this sounds like a lot of work, but the more you do it the better you get.
So this is a big one. Let’s think of a relationship as a machine for a moment. A machine has several parts, and requires all of the parts to work together in order to make the machine run. A relationship is very much like this. When you take two people and cram them together to make one functioning relationship it requires the couple to work together and compromise. Without it, the relationship often suffers, or at least a phone or two gets thrown.
Compromise requires understanding. Understanding requires effective communication. See the patter?
I like to have fun! Relationships need fun, and part of my job is to help re-ignite that fun if it has died out. How you define fun is up to you. It doesn’t have to be expensive. Fun can be nerdy, playful, romantic, relaxing, or whatever fits for you. It is easy to forget what the heck fun is when you have been in a relationship for several years, or when kids take up every precious moment of your day. I get it.
So it's time to combine all three of the previous tips and show your partner that you are still a rock star! If you have forgotten what fun looks like, who cares! Do something out of the ordinary. Go to a new restaurant, get together with friends, do something together that has a no clothing rule. Whatever it is, get up and go out!