10 Ways to Strengthen Your Relationships

Relationships can lead to our greatest challenges and our greatest joys.  Whether it be a marriage, partnership, friendship, family relationship or co-worker, relationships teach us about ourselves and show us both our light and our shadows.  If we grow through the bumps and valleys of relationships and make them a priority, we thrive.  If we continue to focus on only our individual selves, it will fail.  Ultimately our closest relationships and the triggers that come from those interactions reflect where we need to heal.  It’s all about understanding ourselves through observing our reactions, feelings, wants, needs, and use or lack of effective communication, both verbal and nonverbal. 

Here are 10 key points from what I have learned in over four decades of friendships, family relationships and marriage.

1.     You can’t take anything personally.  You are in your own movie and your partner/friend is in theirs.  Each person only sees things from their perspective.  Even if your partner calls you names, it’s not about you.  It’s about him/her.  This doesn’t excuse his/her behavior, but it does bring a different perspective and understanding in.  His/her behavior not about you.  The only part that is about you is your reaction to it. 

2.     You cannot change your partner/friend.  It is not your job.  This was a big one for me.  I tried changing my ex, thinking it was my job to make him happy or “show him the way.”  That was extremely arrogant of me.  Each of us is on our own journey and it is not our job to change anyone.

3.     Your partner’s/friend's childhood is affecting his/her current relationship with you.  It’s cliché, but we are all influenced by the way we were raised, how our parents interacted with us and the culture (school, society, geographic location) we grew up in.  It all has an impact on a very deep and often unconscious level.

4.     You cannot expect your partner/friend to be conscious all the time.  He/she is human and will have up moments and down moments.  Get to the root of what is going on to understand each other better.

5.     Acknowledge your triggers and reactions.  Ask yourself…

·      Why is it triggering me?  Only the part of you that believes it will trigger something in you that still needs to be healed. 

·      What is this bringing up in me that I need to address? 

·      What can I do about it? 

·      What life situations, if any, do I need to change?

·      Am I practicing self-care?  Create an action plan to take care of yourself.  This can include surrounding yourself with positive people, spending time in quiet reflection, journaling, art, yoga or meditation.  Find what works for you and do it. 

·      What am I afraid of?

6.     Set boundaries around your partner’s/friend's triggers and reactions.  This comes from a place of compassion.  Know that when people react, they are acting from a place of fear.  This is when the primal brain takes over and jolts us into fight, flight or freeze.  It is part of our survival.

7.     Try not to judge.

8.     Have compassion for yourself and your partner/friend. 

9.     Forgive.  This releases the bind a negative relationship or situation has on you.

10.  Trust life and take action from a centered and calm place.  Know that the universe has your back.