Top tips for building great relationships
Does it seem to you that some people are able to have great relationships, really easily and naturally... and you wonder how they do it?
“All you need is love” according to the Beatles. Love and good relationships make the world go round – to love and be loved is the deepest desire of the human heart. Sadly though, things all too often go wrong. However it is possible to have great relationships! This article will share some nuggets of wisdom for navigating romantic relationships – and the ideas presented here, are just as applicable to other human connections - between parents and children, friends, colleagues or extended family.
As well as sharing useful insights, this article will highlight when you may need to call on the expertise of a therapist, to help you develop new, more useful behaviours, as well as resolving past issues that may be getting in the way of your relationships flourishing. The great news is that brain science shows we are able to change how we think, feel and behave. This is possible because our brains are highly flexible, enabling us to create a more healthy relationship with past hurts we have experienced, allowing us to respond freely and fully in the present. Would you like to have some of this? If so, keep reading…
Developing and cherishing great communication skills is the bedrock of all good relationships – quite simply being able to listen, understand and respond authentically and appropriately to another human being is the lifeblood of a flourishing relationship. The tips below are all facets of good communication. You are invited to test one or more of them out, in how you relate to others and yourself. Notice the positive changes that flow from being more flexible in your behaviour. Remember, there are two people in the relationship and you need to be taking good care of yourself as well as your partner. So, can good communication be learned? Yes it can, and here’s how.
1. Love languages - discover yours and your loved one’s
According to relationship counsellor Gary Chapman, there are five key ways or love languages, through which individuals experience love from another person. The five love languages are: receiving gifts; spending quality time together; physical touch; acts of service and words of affirmation. So if my love language is spending quality time with my partner, but all he does is buy me gifts and spend little time with me, I am likely to feel unappreciated. You can see where miscommunication so easily begins and how we miss the mark without realising!
2. Be willing to see the world through your partner’s eyes
Cultivating the ability to see the world from your partner’s perspective will enrich your relationship. You will gain new ways of seeing the world and be able to be more compassionate and understanding towards your partner.
3. Set the ground rules of your relationship with your partner
How many times do we just recycle our parents’ or other role models’ ways of relating to others, without really thinking about it? Become more conscious of how similar your behaviour may be to your role models’ – then choose the bits you like, and drop the bits you don’t! So if you (and your Mum) sulk when you don’t get your way, choose a more useful response! And if you find it hard to change your behaviour, it’s time to get help from a qualified practitioner to help you develop more choice around how you interact with others.
4. Remember, we are all human!
Setting unrealistic expectations on your partner or yourself, will put pressure on your relationship. This will often result in tension and a lack of forgiveness and acceptance towards ourselves and others.
It’s a fact of life that there’ll be moments of tension and arguments – it’s normal to have this – each of us is a unique blend of personality, temperament and life experience and we have our own ways of dealing with life. The presence of disagreements doesn’t mean the relationship isn’t working – though if it is a regular feature, you may need to seek help from a skilled practitioner to nip it in the bud, before it starts causing long term damage.
5. Practice forgiveness
Given that to be human entails being less than perfect, the practice of forgiveness towards others and yourself is essential. And practice means what it says! Practice! Work at it! It won’t necessarily be easy at first and it takes a conscious effort – but the more you do it, like any skill you engage in regularly, it does become easier – remember, your flexible brain will support new skills, if you practice them regularly. If this is something you struggle with, seek the help of an experienced therapist.
6. Remind yourself of your partner’s great qualities
If you’re really fed up with your partner, the chances are you’ll have been talking to yourself about them in a negative way, thinking over and over about the thing they did or said that irritated you. Right now… just for a few moments… I’d like you to take yourself back to one of your early dates – where are you…? What are you doing…? What do you notice about being in this place…? What feelings and frame of mind does that bring to you about your partner…? I would put money on you having just experienced a much more positive perspective…..! Recalling happy times with your partner, helps you to tune in and see them more as they really are.
7. Be alert to unhealthy patterns of behaviour
These can manifest themselves in a multitude of ways – and you’ll know if you have a way of behaving that doesn’t serve you (or those around you) well. If this is the case, talk to a professional to get help in gaining perspective and to make the changes you need to. Unhealthy patterns of behaviour can be resolved. How great would it feel and what difference would it make to your life, to have more choice in how you relate to others?
8. Let go of the past (so that it stops interfering with how you respond in the present)
Often destructive behaviours are rooted way back in our younger years. These may have come from difficult experiences which at the time we just didn’t have the capacity to process or deal with properly. Equally influential were the role models (parents, teachers, extended family) that we spent time with and from whom we may have unwittingly learned unhelpful ways of relating to others.
You may have spent a long time trying to overcome behaviours that you may know started in your childhood. You may also feel powerless to change these patterns of behaviour - this is because the root cause is often outside of your conscious awareness and you will have repeated this behaviour so often, that it has become a habit that runs automatically. If any of this resonates with you, get professional help. We can’t change the past, but here’s the truly great news – we can change how we relate to the past, so that we are no longer hurt by it.
A hypnotherapist could help to settle painful or damaging memories, so that these memories no longer have power over you in the present. And it’s wonderful when people are at last able to respond fully, freely and creatively to the present moment.
9. Make time to have fun together!
It’s all too easy to get caught up in the busyness of life, work, kids, bills and so on. Make time to have time out together – just going for a walk and having space to chat will be refreshing, and will bring a different dynamic and energy, as well as getting you away from all that domestic stuff!
10. Practice gratitude
And finally, you know the old saying, how you don’t appreciate something until it’s gone? Remember that life is precious - and so are people. So right now, give yourself permission to make the most of, to enjoy and to be thankful for those special people in your life.
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