Sunday, September 11, 2011

Making Relationships Thrive

You can't plant a garden and forget to water,feed,or weed it and expect it to grow.If you do that, you will walk outside and find it dead at some point.Close relationships also take tending to be at their healthiest. What skills does it take to make your closest relationships really satisfying? Here are a few:

1. Be intentional about spending time together.A relationship can't thrive on e-mails,text messages,periodic phone calls,and ignoring each other. Step away from the technology,and have some fun together.In his research on happy couples,John Gottman found that the happiest couples have high-energy fun together on a frequent basis.While small and school-age children often seek out fun with parents and grandparents,we have to reach out more creatively to engage teens.Join teens on their turf,and invite them to bring a friend,or sweep them away for a meal out with you one-on-one.

2. Recognize and celebrate the positive.Catch your partner,child,or family member doing something positive,and compliment them.Be specific.Most people feel thirsty for positive feedback,and besieged by negative feedback.You can create circles of encouragement in your relationships by pointing out positive effort,persistence,creativity,follow-through,and courage.You can create a relationships where you bring out each other's highest self.

3.Build positive momentum.Cherish your shared history by making photographs of good times spent together visible in your home environment.Couples can create an "us" bulletin board in their space,where favorite moments of your shared history are celebrated.Identify fun traditions you can look forward to,like date nights for couples,game nights for families with younger children,or family meal traditions that are unique to your family.

4.Resolve differences directly and effectively.Learn to fight fairly in your relationships.If you have a problem in a close relationship,talk in confidence with that person directly.Don't be triangulating by talking to a third person.Stick to one topic.Listen to the other person from your heart,for understanding.

5.Apologize when you have done something to hurt the relationship.Own up.Ask for forgiveness.

6.Be generous:with affection,with kindness,with your time,and with forgiveness.

7.Imagine yourself in the other person's shoes.Empathize.Be aware that situations in life and in relationships look different from the other person's perspective.Be conscious that the other person may have different needs and wants; relationships are a team-sport,and it's not always all about you.

8.Ask for input from the other person about any ideas they have to change,improve,or upgrade the relationship.

9.Listen.Really listen,putting away distractions.It feels wonderful to REALLY be heard in your closest relationships.

10.Let the other person know what you love about them,and often.Today is the tenth anniversary of the September 11th terrorist strikes in the US,and a good day to remember that life is indeed fragile,and that it's important not to take the people closest to you for granted.Taking advantage of the moments we have with our loved ones is crucial,as noone is promised tomorrow.

We each have it in our power everyday to take care of our closest relationships so they flourish and grow fully.Very little in life means more than our closest bonds.Since relationships are never in a static state,but always dynamic,we either deepen our relationships by our daily behaviors,or we passively outprioritize them with other things.

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