7 Best Ways To Strengthen A Relationship
It is both an art and a science in how one is able to create, nurture and strengthen a relationship. Human relationships are dynamic, ever evolving and in need of constant care. They are both our most valuable commodity and at times, our most challenging, time consuming personal experience. Personal relationships are the most important part of our lives, and involve the most basic human motivations and emotions.
According to Dean Ornish, M.D and countless other medical professionals, personal intimacy affects both our emotional well-being as well as our physical health. Intimate relationships affect our immune system, improves our cardiovascular functioning, and increases our life expectancy. “Love and intimacy are at the root of what makes us sick and what makes us well,” as he discussed in his book Love & Survival. “When you look at the scientific data, the need for love and intimacy is as important and basic as eating, breathing, and sleeping.”
Our very survival and health depends on our ability to strengthen a relationship, nurture personal bonds and also release those relationships that adversely affect our lives.
It is in our ability to Release – Balance – Focus that our longevity, health and happiness rests.
Love is perhaps our most powerful emotion. The need to be in an intimate relationship is at the very core of our human nature. We feel connected to both our partner and the world when we are in an intimate relationship. Our feelings sponsor a sense of well-being, gratitude, patience and empathy. Love in our hearts makes us better human beings.
We often celebrate loved ones in our lives on special occasions like birthdays, Valentines Day and the anniversary. While these gestures may elicit a moment of gratitude, we have come to expect these moments. In that expectation, some of the beauty of the moment is lost. Your relationship has to endure the remainder of the year long after the chocolates are eaten and the cards discarded.
Maintaining a strong relationship takes time, attention and kindness. The concepts are simple, but the actualization of continuing to give to our partner is what makes us a strong team.
The following are seven easy steps to help strengthen a relationship.
1. Commit to Being Friends First
Long after the honeymoon phase of any relationship ends, you have to figure out how to function as friends. Each deserves the same, if not greater amount, of respect that you show to casual relationships or professional associates. Open communication, respect, kindness and appreciation should be the pillars of your relationship. Don’t be anything less to the one you curl up in bed with than the business partner with whom you go to lunch.
2. Stay Connected
Take time our of each day to connect with your loved one. Commit to at least 20 minutes a day of uninterrupted time together to stay abreast of at least the mundane details that are happening in each others lives. This may not be intimate time where you find that “connection” but it will help keep an open line of communication and mutual understanding within the relationship.
“Couples need to spend a lot of time with each other. There is no substitute for quantity of time.” advises David Kaplan, Ph.D., chair of the Department of Counselor Education and Rehabilitation programs at Emporia State University in Emporia, Kansas. Kaplan encourages couples to take a half-day a week to go out on a date.
3. Be a good listener
Listening is an important part of the communication process and easiest way to strengthen a relationship. Being an attentive listener lets your partner know that his or her thoughts and feelings are important to you. Moreover, good listening encourages partners “to open up and be willing to share,” say Richard and Kristine Carlson, authors of Don’t Sweat the Small Things in Love (Hyperion, 1999). The secret, say the Carlsons, is not just to “hear” what your partner is saying, but to be truly “present,” having a heartfelt desire to understand what is being said and listening without being judgmental.
4. Communicate your love in frequent, meaningful ways
Each of us communicates differently. The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman is a great window into how we communicate clearly with each other. Celebrate your relationship with expressions of love that nourishes your relationship. Depending on how your partner communicates and feels appreciated, be thoughtful and communicate your love in a meaningful way that can be easily understood. Leave no room for interpretation that you love, care and respect your partner. Honoring your partner with loving expressions should be a daily event. It simply means that you are thinking about the other. Often, knowing this is all we need to feel appreciated.
5. Enjoy Physical Intimacy Often
We are physical creatures with very real sexual needs. Physical intimacy is a natural, and healthy, extension of a relationship. Do your best to allow time for intimacy so this part is not neglected. Children, family, cooking, cleaning and last minute emails are intimacy killers. Each of those will fill every waking minute of your time if you allow them to do so. Commit to making time on a regular basis; create spontaneous moments to leave work, cleaning or other routine duties to reconnect and share your mutual intimacy.
6. Fight Gently
Disagreements are an inevitable part of every relationship but they do not have to spiral into demonstrative anger and insults. Keep the arguments short and gentle.”No more than 10 minutes,” says Kaplan. “After 10 minutes, it gets nasty and repetitive.” Of equal importance is that the argument stays on point. If you have other issues that are unresolved, don’t allow festering topics to enter the argument. Set time aside to work out the unresolved issues so you can manage the issue at hand.
7. Maintain Your Self Identity
A common issue in long-term relationships is that one or both subordinate each others needs to the relationship. One can easily lose one’s sense of self. Their personal rudder has been pulled from the water in place of the collective rudder of the couple. Partners must learn to balance their needs as individuals with their needs as a couple. “On one hand, you don’t want people to be too far apart emotionally. If you don’t spend time together, you become disengaged emotionally,” says Kaplan. “The other end of the spectrum is couples that become too dependent on each other and their individual identity gets lost.” Ideally, the two of you should be close enough to have intimacy, yet “far enough away to have individual identity,” says Kaplan.
Take time to create new friendships and interests that are separate from your partner. The time apart will be good for the relationship. The time spent building a new component to you life will improve self-esteem and heighten self-worth.
Do you feel that one of these relationship pillars is more important than the rest to help strengthen a relationship?