9 Little Practices to Strengthen Any Relationship

“The smallest of things can make the biggest difference”

Just like anything else in our lives, relationships need to be nurtured to survive long-term.  Whether it’s a friendship or the love of your life, here are some ways you can nurture your relationship and help it last the test of time.  We invest a lot of time making friends and dating to find The One.  If you don’t nurture that relationship and allow it to fizzle then all that effort is wasted.  Relationships are valuable and the right relationships enhance our lives and make our journeys special.  A great way to honor the people in your life is to make sure that they feel your gratitude and your love.

 

1. Tell your them that you value them    

This may seem so simple, but we don’t tell people enough how much we value you them.  Think of all the times that someone has thanked you for doing your job, or for just being you.  What about the time that you heard that you were so wonderful and appreciated?  Those things feel good, and we all crave appreciation from the people who matter.  So, say the things you want to hear.  Not with the intention of encouraging others to say them to you, but to use your words to encourage the people that matter most to you.  Whether it’s your spouse, your best friend, or the neighbor, when you tell people how much their presence matters, you build them up and let them know that they matter.

When people feel appreciated, they’re more likely to stick around for the long-term.

 

2. Show them their value

There comes a point when words aren’t enough, which is when you need to actually show that you value someone.  Words are nice and make us feel good, but if someone is telling you things you want to hear and not backing them up with actions, the words become hollow and lose their value.

This doesn’t have to be a gift, but something as simple as pitching in when someone needs help can make all the difference in the world.  It really is the little things that matter, though there are sure to be a few big things along the way, so, be prepared to put in the work.  If the relationship matters to you, then the work is well worth it.

If you don’t see an immediate need but you want to show someone you care, there are plenty of small things you can do that will make someone feel special:

-make a big deal out of their birthday

-if you see something that reminds you of them, pick it up for them just because

-if your friend or significant other is complaining about something they need to get done that’s overwhelming, divide and conquer.  A lot of people say that they’ll lend a hand when the time is right, but many people never make good on that promise.  If you step up and help, even when it’s something as simple as planting a garden or helping with an extra load of laundry, you show them that you hear them and you value the times they’ve stepped up and helped you

 

3. Listen when they speak

This can be a hard one, especially when one friend or spouse is more talkative than the other.  Practice active listening to let the person that you’re with know that you are paying attention.  Make eye contact, ask questions, nod your head and offer words of encouragement where necessary.

Unless they’re asking for advice, don’t try to fix any problems they may be sharing.  Sometimes, the most valuable thing you can do for someone is to be an active listener.  Feeling heard and knowing that someone understands can help the speaker feel empowered to tackle a stressful situation on their own, which means so much more than telling them how you think they should handle it.  It also shows that you believe that they can handle things, and if they can’t, that they’re strong enough to ask for help.

 

4. Be present

This ties into listening, but it’s so much more.  The advent of social media has caused a litany of issues that we’ve never dealt with before; the biggest one being that we now spend more time on our phones than any previous generation.  This is both good and bad.  For the young college student away from home for the first time, or the busy mother stuck at home with a sick child, it’s a way to connect to the outside world in ways we never have before.  We feel like we’re part of things even though we’re still experiencing it through pictures and videos.  There’s just something different about the connection that social media offers that email and traditional mail never did, and as a result, many have turned to social media to fill voids that moving to new cities or having busy lives can create.

On the flip side of this is the number of people who socialize face to face while still having their cell phones on and in front of them.

It might seem like a no-brainer, but if you’re out with friends or at home relaxing with your spouse, put the phone away and really live in the moment.  There is so much we’re missing out by keeping in touch via social media, and it’s time to separate the two.  There is a time and place to lose yourself in the online life of friends and family near and far.  That time is not when you’re spending time with someone you care about face to face.

 

5. Ask them how their day is going

This is another thing that has fallen to the wayside into today’s busy world.  Simple small talk, though tedious at times, serves a purpose.  Though it may be tempting to walk in the door and immediately start unloading every moment of your day on your spouse, or to call your best friend and blurt out everything that’s bothering you without taking a moment to find out how they’re doing, this habit has the potential to leave the other person feeling like the only purpose they serve is a sounding board for you.

Obviously, if you have huge news or something out of the ordinary is going on, it’s not wrong to skip the pleasantries and go straight for the big topic.  But, if you want to nurture your relationships and make sure that the other person is receptive to listening, you need to remember that they have things they may want to share, too.

So, start more conversations than not asking how the other person’s day went.  You may find yourself surprised by how much more willing they are to listen to what you have to say when they know you’re just as invested in their life as you are in your own.

 

6. Remember days and events that are special to them

Birthdays are important to a lot of people, so make sure that you know the dates of the people that you’re close to.  Luckily, there are so many tools at our disposal to help us remember birthdays that even social media prompts us to wish our friends and family Happy Birthday.  If you don’t have the memory required to remember every birthday in your circle, enlist the help of a calendar on the wall, or set a reminder on your phone.

Beyond birthdays, there are many moments in our lives that bear remembrance; both happy and sad.  It’s inevitable that our spouse and our friends will experience losses that will rattle them to their very core.  We all will.  The anniversaries of these losses are often days when our loved ones feel most vulnerable, and not taking notice of those days can make it look like you don’t care.

It’s so hard to know what to say sometimes, but I encourage you not to shy away from the painful moments.  Set a reminder, including what the loss was.  Then, make it a point to text or leave a note on that day.  A simple “thinking about you today” can show that you care deeply for them.  They might not want to talk about the loss on that day, but feeling like they aren’t alone can be the little boost that someone needs to make it through an otherwise tough day.

But make sure you prepare yourself for the chance that they do want to talk.  If you’re sending a text to a friend, make sure you do it at a time when you have a few minutes to talk.  If you’re not able to talk, but have time later, amend the text to something like, “thinking about you today.  See you after work?”.  It isn’t much in the grand scheme of things, but to someone who is navigating a painful anniversary, it can mean so much.

 

7. Say “Thank you”

We seem to thank strangers more than we thank our friends and family.  The closer we are to someone, the more we almost seem to assume that they know intuitively that we appreciate them.  But that’s not how life works, and saying “thank you” is one of the quickest, easiest ways to nurture a relationship and make sure that people don’t feel taken advantage of.

Start by paying attention to how much you thank people around you now.  Maybe you’re one of those people that’s naturally very vocal about their appreciation.   Or maybe just thinking about how often you say, “thank you” makes you say it more often.  That’s great, and a positive step in the right direction.

But if you still struggle with saying your thanks, it’s time to make a change.  It might be hard at first, but if you’ll push yourself to start saying “thanks” when someone close to you deserves appreciation, you’ll find that you become comfortable expressing your thanks pretty quickly.

 

8. Have fun together

Make sure to spend time together just having fun.  We tend to get stuck in a rut, living our daily life the same way day in and day out.  Relationships are no different and we often have to make a point to schedule something fun into our time just to shake things up a little.

You can do almost anything.  From watching a movie together to going on a hike, or even trying something new together.  Anything that gets you laughing and having a good time.  You don’t have to do it every day, but research shows that laughing together is great for bonding and makes us feel more positive in general.  So, treat the good times as an integral part of every relationship and create as many opportunities to have fun together as you can.

 

9. Don’t be afraid to spend time apart

Even the best relationships can use a break, including marriages.  That may seem counterintuitive, but it really isn’t once you really look into it.

In general, people need time alone to regroup and to center themselves.  It doesn’t have to be a long period of time, but a day spent apart, exploring your own interests can breathe life back into a relationship that may feel like it’s stuck in a rut.  Not only do you both come back together refreshed, renewed, and ready to share whatever experience you’ve had with the other person, but you also get an opportunity to miss them.  You’re experiencing a taste of life without them, and they’re experiencing the same thing.  By embracing some time alone, you’re reminding yourself and your friend or spouse why you’re an important part of their life and they yours.  By taking the time apart, you are reminding each other the unique qualities you both bring to the table, and that’s an excellent way to strengthen your bond for the long-haul.

 

A lot of these tips may seem like small things, they might even seem obvious, but it’s when we neglect the little things that our relationships start to deteriorate.  If you’ll spend a few extra moments to build up the relationships that matter and make sure they have a solid foundation, you’ll find these little things become second nature, and your relationship will be stronger for it.

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