In Relationships

A guide to building and strengthening your relationship with your spouse, friends, or family.

Do you feel like you would like to have a deeper connection to your partner? Do you struggle with conflict when things come up with friends and acquaintances? Curious how to improve relationship communication?

woman wishing she could have date night with her spouse

Building strong, long-lasting relationships requires effort and skills.

Our lives are based on human connection, and having supportive, caring relationships offers us energy and motivation to move forward with confidence and joy.

The Pandemic Has Caused Isolation

Most people feel their well being depends on their relationships with others. The pandemic has caused most of us to feel disconnected, isolated and in need of human connection. As we put our lives back together, our relationships also require some help.

Whether you are going through a separation or divorce, looking to develop a committed relationship, or simply reconnecting with an estranged family member it can help to build and improve your relationship skills.

We’re Here to Help

What creates healthy relationships? Knowing exactly what to do to create a healthy relationship can be difficult at times. We sat down with our life coaches and therapists to find the answer to this question for you. Take a look at our top 4 recommendations that you can begin to or continue to practice in order to ensure that you have a healthy relationship.

a couple makes eye contact while considering date night options

Learn How to Navigate Differences and Accept Disagreements

We all want to feel connected and understood. We naturally feel more comfortable when others “get us”. Therefore, we tend to befriend people that are like us. However, how do you avoid conflict when you do not agree with a friend or loved one? Are you comfortable with being honest? Can you listen openly and disagree with your friends?

All of these things are difficult and can be real sticking points when it comes to staying close with a loved one while still having strong oppositional opinions. If you struggle during these moments, here are a few things you can do when you are faced with these feelings:

Listen With Curiosity

While you listen, don’t interrupt, allow the person to share all their thoughts with you, even if you do not agree or like what they are saying. Your action of listening without interruption will allow them to reduce their need to defend themselves.

Consider your body language and avoid common aggressive postures such as getting too close or finger pointing. Try to empathize with their point of view by imagining how this might be making them feel.

You may not agree but try to consider and respect their perspective.

Suspend Judgement

Being right is not always the goal. In most conversations, winning is holding space for expression. Try your best not to judge what your loved one is talking about. Instead know that you are offering support. Try to remember your goal of having a better relationship and avoid assigning blame.

Avoid Using Closed Language

Avoid using words such as “no”, “can’t” and “wrong”. Instead try using open questions, such as “I wonder if …”, and “Is it possible to …”

Being open and providing a sense of possibility will lend connection and trust to the conversation, two important aspects of strong relationships.

relationship expert provides mental health advice

Improve Your Listening Skills

Are You a Good Listener? Be Honest. Do you often think about your rebuttal before the other person has had a chance to finish? Do you most often have the last word in the matter? Are you most interested in getting your thoughts across?

If you have answered yes to any of these (a lot of us have) that is perfectly normal. You may need to tune up your listening skills so that you have more meaningful conversations.

Check out these 5 quick recommendations that can get you listening in a different way.

1. Limit Distractions

Turn off notifications and put your phone away. Move the conversation to a room that is silent and where you can focus your full attention.

These simple steps can make a big difference as they demonstrate that you are taking the conversation seriously. Make sure you have no other competing obligations to distract you. This is especially important if your partner feels dismissed or unheard.

2. Pay Attention to What is Being Said

Listen to what is being said and consider your partner’s point of view, not simply what you want to say. Try to find critical words that are being said, or visualize what the person is discussing.

3. It’s Okay to Be Silent

Remember that you don’t have to fill every quiet space. Thinking and reflecting is part of the communication process. In these moments, it can be helpful to take a moment to focus on what you want to share and assess how you are feeling.

4. Encourage The Sharing of Ideas & Solutions

Encourage the other person to offer ideas and solutions before you offer your own. Offering to let the other person share first, lends practice to your listening muscles. The gesture can help you better understand what the other person is thinking and feeling.

5. Reflect What You Are Hearing

Paraphrase what you are hearing. Reflecting what has been shared with you ensures that you are both on the same page. You can say something like, “let me see whether I understand.”

Active listening helps you to understand not only what is being said, but how the other person feels and the meaning of the conversation.

keep your relationship strong by cultivating trust

Cultivate Trust in Your Relationship

Let’s face it, without trust our relationships cannot have any real meaningful depth. Trust allows us to have intimacy, build confidence as well as commitment. However, trust can be hard to attain. The fear of being hurt or judged can be so strong that we can’t see past it.

If this is an area that you are working through, take a look at a few adjustments that might really help you move past the fear of trusting another person.

Know That “Broken Trust” is Shared by All

We have all felt hurt, disappointed, rejected, scared, and abandoned. We have all suffered in some way and felt pain in relationships. It is part of life and unavoidable. It happens in all relationships but the key is how both parties work through it together.

Don’t Use Your Trust as a Trade for Protection

We usually give our trust to another when they have earned it. This sets us up for disappointment because, as we know, there are never guarantees, and everyone makes mistakes.

Know That Trust Does Not Come With Guarantees.

This is a good thing. There is a freedom in knowing that you are going to do the best that you can in relationships and you do not have control over the outcome. We are all imperfect.

Don’t Let Your Past Hurt Your Future

Don’t let your past hurt prevent you from future trust. It is important to try to find closure from past negative experiences so that you can move into the future.

Take a Leap of Faith

If you are struggling with trust issues, what can you do? Make an informed decision about the situation and go for it. When you decide to trust someone, you are choosing to believe in that person’s integrity. Trusting is knowing that ultimately this person’s intentions are good and you also understand that they will make mistakes.

Trusting Yourself Helps You Trust Others

When we trust ourselves, it is easier to trust others. Knowing that we can deal with life’s ups and downs and that ultimately, we will be OK, allows us to weather the storms that might arise in a relationship.

Trust then becomes understanding that trust is not about never feeling another negative emotion, but instead it is about knowing that you can handle whatever life throws at you, and you will be OK.

physical touch can reduce stress and shows empathy in a relationship

Lead With Empathy and Compassion

The warmth and comfort that comes from a strong relationship is knowing that you are loved just as you are in that moment. That is a true gift. This often comes from the offering of empathy and compassion. Knowing that someone understands you and how you are feeling in the moment.

Having empathy can be a foreign concept depending on whether you learned it and whether you practice it or not. Depending on your upbringing, lifestyle, and social environments it can be difficult to nurture an authentic expression of empathy.

If empathy is something that you feel is a new concept, consider trying the following:

Explore Your Feelings

What makes you feel loved? What moves you? Do you know? Find out. Do some self reflection through reading and writing about events or times that you recall having been really moved.

Examine Your Biases

We all have blind spots regarding biases. What are yours? Do more self reflection here and read about people in other walks of life. Explore the challenges and struggles of communities that are different from yours.

Cultivate Your Sense of Curiosity

During your daily walk, take a look around you. Do you wonder what your neighbour’s life is like? Or your doctor? Or the barista that makes your morning coffee? Get curious about how other people’s lives may be like yours and how they may be unlike yours.

Asking yourself these questions will allow you to really gain a sense of thoughtfulness and caring about others.

Although relationships can be messy, they are a big part of our lives. If you are struggling to connect with your partner or hold deep intimacy with your friendships, try out the suggestions that we have listed for you.

family enjoying time together after help from a licensed psychologist

Working Towards a Good Relationship Can Make All The Difference

We can’t all have a team of relationship experts on hand, but with some effort we can help to improve most relationships.

From spending better quality time together, to avoiding situations where tempers flare, taking just a few minutes to consider how you can better speak to and spend time with your loved ones, even the difficult ones, can make a big difference.

Whether this leads to personal growth, a better sex life, falling in love, or a happy marriage, remember any small improvement is a step in the right direction.

If you would like to work with a life coach or therapist to gain insight and advice into improving your romantic relationships, or improving relationships of any kind, please contact us.

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