Some people believe if something isn’t easy, it isn’t worth doing. Others believe that effort directly reflects value — harder = more value. No matter your stand, the fact is good relationships take constant work & encouragement.
Most of us don’t want to have to work too hard to make our relationships work, but if you fail to put in enough effort, you’ll find that your relationship suffers the consequences. So how do you find that balance?
People are always evolving, having new experiences, and living life. The day-to-day may stay relatively the same, but things are always changing. Meeting people where they are and nurturing them through the ups and downs of life is what relationships are all about. The best relationships have an ebb and flow where each person is giving and receiving at relatively the same rate.
Of course, every relationship has times where one person is giving more and the other person is receiving more, but in a healthy relationship, this is rare and both partners are willing to step up and do the giving in those times when it’s needed.
Relationships fall flat when there is no infusion of effort. Though it does take action to manage and help a relationship thrive, it doesn’t take crazy, over-the-top antics.
Here are some easy but very effective ways to work on relationships and encourage others:
Learn their love language
Everyone has a love language. A way that they prefer to give and receive love. Some love quality time together while others prefer it when someone does something to make their lives easier. The problem is that we typically try to love others the way we prefer to give and receive love — so even as we’re showing our love, the other person may not feel it as well.
Ask questions, pay attention, and see how others want to be valued. Then, pour into them through their love language. When you can love them the way they want to be loved, they’ll feel it more strongly and be more inclined to do the same for you. And when two people make the effort to use the other’s love language, it can create a solid relationship.
Set aside quality time
Date night is finally becoming a social priority and supported more than ever. The rise in date night activities is a testimony to the benefits of spending quality time with the important people in your life. But date night isn’t reserved just for couples.
Date night, daddy-daughter time, mommy-son time, girls’ nights out or other specifically designated time with important people is a key way to manage and improve relationships. The activity isn’t as important as the time and the meaning infused into the time.
Whether it’s a couple or a family, or even a group of friends, ruts happen. We fall into routines and get comfortable. And while it might be nice to settle in with the fam and watch a movie every Saturday night in your comfy sweats, or to know that every Sunday afternoon, you and your partner will take a nap together, it can also be… boring. And boredom can lead to frustration.
Doing activities spur of the moment, giving an unexpected gift, holding hands as you cross the street, or an impromptu dance party around the couch are all fun ways to be spontaneous. Surprise someone you love at work with flowers or send them a handwritten note in the mail. Do things that are unexpected but meaningful, and the bond between you will expand.
Listen with intent
We all want to feel heard. But many of us don’t truly listen when someone is talking to us. We half-listen while we do something else. Or we listen to respond — to defend ourselves or tell the other person why they’re wrong. We might also listen just enough to think we understand and offer some advice that doesn’t make the other person feel heard even if it's helpful.
Listening to someone with the intent to support, encourage or offer valuable wisdom is a blessing. Relationships flourish when people feel heard and understood. Being someone who can listen well and offer support is one of the easiest ways to provide encouragement in a relationship.
This kind of listening requires being fully present. It means paying attention to not just the words you hear, but the tone with which they’re said and the body language that accompanies them. Sometimes, it also means remembering other things the person has told you in the past that are relevant to the current topic. If you’ve never truly listened before, it can feel overwhelming at first, but you’ll quickly get the hang of it and make your loved one feel so much better about talking to you.
Every good thing needs to be nurtured. Pouring into relationships with hard work and encouragement returns that investment many times over. Your love and attention are the keys to a long-lasting bond that stands the test of time.
Wendy Miller is a meditation teacher, single mom coach & writer. She helps moms use mindfulness, meditation & self-care to create a calm & happy life. She lives in Florida with her two sons and enough pets for a zoo.
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