Maybe your relationship is great! Maybe it's…not so much. Whatever the state may be, it is always (and I mean, ALWAYS) important for relationships to keep improving upon what you've got if it makes for a stable and healthy lifestyle. Health isn't always just physical, it's emotional too. Make sure you and your partner are establishing healthy ways of interacting and building your relationship to be in its best form! Here's how you can start.
1. Express Gratitude
Women’s Health lists this as the number one way to build a better relationship. As it turns out, acknowledging your partner’s little gifts to you (even if they are in the form of back rubs or cleaning the house) can help you to “hold [your partner] in higher regard.” However, giving a gift in return can make a partner feel “indebted,” so it is absolutely not necessary to reciprocate every time. It is the appreciation itself that creates positivity in the relationship.
2. Actively Listen
Are you ever speaking to a friend and think, “They’re just nodding along, I must be boring them”? I think we’ve all had those moments, but it doesn’t mean that you’re boring, nor does it mean that the person to whom you were speaking is actually uninterested. Often times, the listener is engaged, but just has difficulty showing it.
I can’t push the development of this skill enough. The art of listening while giving acknowledgement and support can take time to master, but will make all the difference. Asking questions such as “how do you feel about that?”, or even clarification questions, may seem to indicate that you haven’t been listening, but actually serve the opposite purpose. Asking for clarification makes it clear that you’ve been listening and want to understand the issue or situation better.
3. Boost Your Partner’s Self-Esteem When Needed
Psychology Today notes this as one of 21 essential relationship skills. This doesn’t mean that you are your partner’s therapist and must hold their hand through everything, but it does mean being emotionally supportive and reassuring when your partner is in need of a little confidence boost. Rather than leaving your partner to figure it out on their own, offer a little encouragement, even in a small positive phrase such as, “You’re so much fun to talk to.”
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4. Try New Things Together
It is more than okay—sometimes better, in fact—to have interests that vary from those of your partner. It’s what keeps things interesting for you both, and allows you to live your own lives. Maintaining your individuality in a relationship is crucial to your own development as a well-rounded person.
But once in awhile, it can be beneficial to try something new as a couple. You’ll be able to bond over these new experiences, and share in the memories that result. This might mean taking a class, visiting a new place, seeing a movie neither has seen, a fun date night at home, or even just going for a walk in a different area than usual.
5. Express Anger the Right Way
Perhaps you’ve heard comedian John Mulaney’s joke about Irish people keeping emotions bottled up.
Yes, this is a stereotype. However, it’s true that not everyone is liberal with sharing their feelings. In order to maintain an open line of communication and let go of hurtful anger, those negative emotions need to be expressed. Hanging on to annoyances can create resentment or passive aggression; no one wants to be in uncomfortable relationships with brooding participants. Make it easy on everyone: share your anger in a constructive manner. Allow your partner to listen and perhaps try to talk out the situation.
Building better relationships takes time and skills. Those skills can be built, and they don’t need to be built alone! Use this skill-building as an opportunity for individual and team growth.