“Satisfying Relationships” Section Overview
For many of us, “relationships” refers to our connection with our significant other – husband, wife, girlfriend or boyfriend. But in reality, we are in a relationship with every living being including family, friends, co-workers, store employees, & everyone you know. In this section, I share more than 20 processes to help you have better relationships with everyone. If you are single or in a relationship, the skills you learn & develop in deepening your connections with everyone can be applied to that “special person” too, and make that relationship so much better.
For most of us, relationships have a huge influence on our lives. Don’t think so? Recall how you felt the last time you had an argument with your husband or wife, boyfriend or girlfriend. How about that time that special person told you that they were seeing someone else and you were history.
Depending on how deep your relationship was, you may have been depressed for days, weeks or longer. A good friend of mine was pretty-depressed for more than a year with an on-again, off-again relationship until he got his head together and realized that it was never going to work.
Even outside of primary relationships, problems with children, relatives, neighbors or coworkers can really knock you down and make you miserable.
On the other hand, satisfying relationships can make you feel like you’re on top of the world. It thus makes sense to approach them with a strategy rather than just do what comes to mind and hope things work out.
The good news is that basically the same rules apply to all of your relationships, although there are some variations for your primary one.
On my Website at GreatMiddleAge.com, I regularly put up new articles on ways to improve your relationship and just be happiert, so be sure to go there from time to time and check them out. Of course, if you sign up for my newsletter, you’ll get lots of great info delivered to your inbox regularly. Click on this link now to get connected: https://greatmiddleage.com/newsletter/. Or you can always just click on the “Newsletter” link on GreatMiddleAge.com.
Here are some tips for better relationships.
So that you and your partner will be able to have a truly intimate relationship, it is a must that you learn to forgive and forget what happened in the past. If you have long been nursing some hurt within you and you found it hard to forgive your partner before, this is the perfect time to let things go and embrace the concept of forgiving.
Refusing to forgive can be similar to a poison slowly but surely seeping through your whole being, filling you with such bitterness and eventually setting up a permanent wedge between the two of you. When you forgive, it does not necessarily mean that you condone the things done by your partner. More importantly, forgiveness means that you have finally come to peace with it in order for you to finally move forward.
An essential part of forgiveness is often communication with your partner about what was hurtful, and then getting their feedback. This might include an explanation of something they did that hurt your feelings. Especially if some hurtful behavior is repeated, then you both really need to work on this. Use some of the techniques I explain below such as “Active Listening” and “Clearing”.
There are some people who end up forgetting about themselves once they become a part of a relationship. However, for a relationship to work, it is important that both parties know how to take care of themselves for them to better take care of each other. Discover the importance of taking care of yourself first before anything else.
Self-Care is the Key for a Better Relationship
Taking care of yourself when in a relationship is as important as tending to the relationship itself. It is a must that you take care of yourself prior to fixing your relationship. Here, you can apply the old adage stating that you can never give away things that you do not have. Until you feel happy and peaceful, you will never have a happy and peaceful relationship.
If you choose to skip such steps and jump right away to your troubled relationship’s murky waters, chances are you will be going straight down under. This is the reason why you need to do everything in your power so that you can stabilize yourself prior to getting in deep water. Prior to confronting the core issues of your relationship, first you need to follow the following steps in order to increase the chance of being successful.
Commit to Staying Okay, Whatever Happens Along the Way
Promise to yourself that you will still take care of yourself and remain okay whatever happens in your relationship. If your happiness completely depends on your partner being there by your side all the time, you will end up feeling powerless and fearful. This will then mean that it is more likely that you will be engaging in ineffective actions like pleading and begging. When this happens more often, your partner have less reason to stick to the relationship. Why is that?
A good reason for this is that your partner will see you as someone emotionally dependent and needy. The things that they will do for your sake may still be not enough for you because you may always expect more from them. This is something that will not escape your partner’s attention, and will make him/her fearful of being consumed and eaten up by your unending demands for care and attention.
One more reason is that it can be a real burden for one person to feel completely responsible for another person’s happiness. The majority of people feel the need of running away if this is the case. The partner who tries to be everything to another will usually feel anger and resentment when placed in this kind of demanding position, thus snuffing out the sense of fun and playfulness that is vital to having an enduring relationship.
When you respect yourself and believe in your own capacity of thriving whether you are in a relationship or single, you will surely come from a place full of strength and empowerment. These two attributes can attract other people and provoke respect, which will then make you a more desirable and lovable partner.
Commit to Staying Happy With Your Life Despite Feeling Miserable
There is no need for you to wait to plan some fun activities you can do on your own until you get your relationship perfect. If you want, you can join classes where you can learn interesting pastimes such as gourmet cooking, playing the guitar or such. List down places in your area or others nearby that you plan to visit. Learn brand new skills, branch out, and broaden your own personal world. Checkout https://www.meetup.com/ for lists of activities and events in your area.
When you have fun and stay active, you will feel much happier and even contented with yourself. On top of that, this will make you more attractive to the eyes of your partner or potential partner. When you lead your own life with gusto, have a sense of adventure and take good care of yourself, no matter what state your relationship might be in, you will increase the likelihood of your partner wanting to spend more time with you.
No relationship will thrive and become successful if one person is always doubtful or suspicious of the truth of the other’s words, feelings, and actions. Having a “benefit-of-the-doubt” mentality can greatly help in changing the flow of your relationship to the best direction.
Give Your Partner the Benefit of the Doubt
Have you ever done some stupid, dumb or hurtful thing which greatly affected your partner? Chances are almost all people in this world have unintentionally or intentionally hurt someone they love. In fact, research showed that most people will do something hurtful to their partner in long-term relationships.
All relationships are bound to experience their own share of conflicts. Whether it is confusion, misunderstandings or disagreements, if you know and have been with someone long enough, eventually, something will take place that will result in tension. It might even happen weekly or more frequently.
People will sometimes make you feel frustrated, angry, disappointed, hurt, or upset. That’s just our nature. Your partner is human, just like you, so there is actually no way to get around this. Once such situations happen, will you respond with anger or will you give your partner the benefit of the doubt?
When you give another person the benefit of the doubt, it only means that when you still lack all the needed information of what caused their action, even in times of conflict, you will still be willing to assume the best, set aside the negative judgment and respond in a favorable way.
Love itself can give the benefit of the doubt. It will not make the mind filled with negative assumptions. It will seek to work its way around the difficult situations, even after being proven wrong or getting disappointed.
Love is not naïve but instead, it gives the benefit of the doubt. Love chooses to see the best in other people. You do not just give this kind of benefit simply because you want to. More importantly, you give your partner the benefit of the doubt because you choose to and because you love them. This act is selfless. So, how will you successfully give your partner the benefit of the doubt?
Knowing how to love someone is the key here. You simply cannot expect a person to completely accept you for who you are and then expect perfection from them. That kind of love is not unconditional. Conditional loving is based in selfishness, something that will not let you give a person the benefit of the doubt. It’s like a business deal. I’ll give you this if you’ll give me that. This is not the way to have a great relationship.
Patience is needed when looking for the truth and trying to resolve conflict. Jumping to conclusions is not part of giving benefit of the doubt.
It is important to try putting yourself in the shoes of the other person. For all you know, they may be afraid of being themselves due to fear of rejection, abandonment or other issues. Just assume that your partner has tried to be truthful and wants to grow with you.
The last but definitely not the least thing that you need is to learn to forgive and forget. Never let yourself dwell in bitterness. When you finally let your initial anger go, let it stay in the past and do not let it cloud your mind over again.
The “blame them” mentality is another big no-no in a relationship. Letting other people take the blame is an act that will never bring you to any good. Learn how to change this negative mentality today.
Get Rid of the Blames in Your Relationship
As far as placing blame in a relationship is concerned, it is always much easier to see your partner’s faults than those of your own. One of the biggest issues with couples that they point fingers of blame at one another, rather than also looking at themselves and their actions.
All people have their own flaws and ways that they try to defend themselves, sometimes pushing away other people from them. These defenses for protecting yourself become much stronger once you get close to another person, with old feelings triggering ways in you that you do not expect or were not even aware of.
If you want to improve your relationship and make it thrive and last longer, the key lies in knowing and challenging these defenses that you have. Instead of adapting the “blame them” mentality and choosing to focus your attention on the flaws of your partner, why not look at your own limitations first?
Avoid Building a Case
Once a conflict arises, fueling the fire is easy by using all types of proof of the character flaws of your partner. A single morning of accidentally overcooking the egg can already lead to a full blown case of your partner not caring enough for you to make the effort to cook it right, where you catalog all incidences when a similar situation happened. Case building is one of the biggest issues in all relationships. Try to avoid doing this if you do not want your relationship to be always crowded with different cases day in and day out.
When the blame is already going back and forth, and with things getting out of a control, it will no longer be possible to resolve who is really at fault. In fact, there may be nobody who is at fault; it could just be a misunderstanding. During such arguments, there is actually no winner. The battle may have been won, but the war was lost. Just try to keep your perspective on the important things. If your aim is to get close again, it will not hurt to just drop the past, let your guard down and be nice to one another. Unilateral disarmament might be the initial step to get back the loving and easy flow of feelings between the two of you.
Relationships can trigger ways in you that you rarely expect. A lot of things can set you off, particularly when your defenses are in full gear. Once you feel triggered, try to focus and relax before you react. Fighting fire with fire will not do you any good. Managing the temper of your partner will be easier when you calm yourself down first before you approach him/her.
Communicate Your Feelings
After you have calmed down and given your partner a chance of expressing their own perception, that is the time for you to explain how you felt with no need to feel victimized or place the blame. Stay away from using generalized statements or victimized language if you do not want things to go from worse to worst.
Once you have changed your “blame them” mentality, you give your relationship the best chance of staying passionate, equal and fulfilling.
Having a negative mindset will negatively affect your relationship and yourself too. If you always think that there is no reason for you to be loved by anyone, or that others will leave you when they get to really know you, you will end up being a taker and a needy partner. Before you know it, you are already proving yourself right, with your partner no longer wanting to stay by your side.
Of course, this is not what you want to happen, but if you believe that you’re not lovable, then you will never be able to share and give because you will feel empty within. Healthy relationships are those that share and give and if you keep thinking negatively, there is no chance for your relationship to be healthy.
To help you out, here are some tips that will help you have the right mindset that will take your relationship in a better direction.
Assuming can take you to places, and sadly, those places are not happy ones. Assuming is like a poison that can consume your mind and it is not something good. For instance, let’s suppose that your previous partner tended to send secret emails to others when you were not looking, which led to a breakup. You then found a new partner, but when you see your present partner checking the email, you instantly assume that he/she may be doing the same thing as your previous partner did.
You may jump in and start accusing, when the truth is the email is maybe only work related, or to friends, and nothing else. It is important to realize that not all people are the same, and the flaw of a previous partner might not be the same fault of your present one. Jumping to conclusions right away will push your partner away from you before you even know it.
Live and Stay in the Now
Trying to relive the past is not good, and the same is true with excessively focusing on the future. There are some people who get so stuck with their past that they really don’t exist in the present. Meanwhile, there are also those who live only for the future, with their lives already planned out, or imagining what some dream life might be.
It is good that you take some important lessons from your past and use them for your present, or plan for a future that you hope will happen. But, never let the past take full control of your present in the same way that you should not plan for every single detail for your future. Living and staying in the now will let things fall into the right places as they are supposed to, with your decisions being based on your present and not on your past or what you want to be in your future.
One of the secrets for projecting the right mindset is by being grateful for what you have in life and where you are at present. Appreciating the good things that your relationship has in the moment will help you project more positivity into your life and save you from being drowned in the adversities that might come your way. Try my “Happy and Grateful” practice that I explain in the Morning Rituals section of this course.
Projecting the right mindset is easy, so long as you and your partner help one another in the direction that you want your relationship to take.
One of the key components of a successful relationship is being compassionate towards one another. When you feel like your relationship is lacking this one important aspect, this is the best time for you to start learning how you can put compassion back into your and your partner’s lives.
People who are compassionate are people who are happier. Couples who feel compassion for one another have more understanding and joy in their relationships. Compassion, the combination of consideration, kindness, concern, and empathy, is considered to be the cornerstone for people who want to have a fulfilling life and love life.
When you feel down and sad, the simplest gesture of compassion from your partner can bring so much difference to your mood. Encouraging words and warm hugs can vanish any discomfort that you might feel. Having someone to hold your hand, giving you the emotional support you need through staying by your side, can help ease away pain, whatever it might be about.
Relationships that lack compassion tend to be harsh. Once this happens, interactions will be less caring, leading to the building up of resentments that can make you feel as if you are the only one who is in that relationship.
Development and expression of compassion can establish a safe zone for your love as well as other feelings and issues which might come your way. Nothing can replace your partner’s sympathy or soft touch. This is something that can heal the two of you, something that creates that emotional security that you may have never even thought you needed in the first place.
Building compassion is very easy, with desire being the first element. Here, it is important to ask your partner about the needs that he or she might have and then explain your own needs too. Through such discussion, it will be easier to show compassion to one another because both of you know where your energy should be focused.
The second thing that might be a bit challenging is to commit yourself to always keep compassion intact in any dialogue. A compassionate relationship is devoid of harshness, and once this actually occurs, the two of you need to pinpoint and shut arguments or negativity down right away so that you will be able to return to relating in the right manner.
A simple but effective exercise for enhancing compassion is looking into each others’ eyes. While movies might have extremely romanticized this action, this seldom happens in the modern relationships. Instead of looking intently at the television, stop and look deeply into your partner’s eyes and sense the emotions that he or she has, in order to create more compassion and depth.
It is good to show compassion but it is better to be compassionate. If your mate shares a problem with you and you show concern, you make your partner aware that you are not only there for them, but at the same time, you also care about what your partner is going through. It is something that your partner will feel, and will return this kind of gesture in the same way that you did.
Make sure that you build and practice compassion as an essential part of your day to day love. Nothing is more palpable than knowing that your partner cares for you in the same way that you care for them.
Saying the wrong words at the wrong time can wreak havoc on any relationship. Before you open your mouth and blurt things out, it is important to think things over to avoid hurting the feelings of your partner. Here are some tips that you can keep in mind in order for you to follow this kind of mindset.
Even the simplest words can inspire loyalty, uplift hearts and change people’s lives. They can give hope where there was despair, but they can also mutilate what used to be whole hearts. Words can be an assassin to character, estrange a soul, and can show either kindness or cruelty.
In any relationship, thinking before you actually speak is a must, due to the awesome and sometimes destructive power of words. All relationships have their own share of emotional garbage and unresolved issues which can affect them on a negative way.
For the preservation of a relationship, and make it thrive, thinking about the things you will say is essential, as well as considering whether the words you might speak are coming from a loving and kind heart or a heart that flows with bitterness, rage, anger, and other unproductive emotions.
Once unkind phrases and words have escaped your mouth, you can never take them back. Even if you try hard to say something different or something better, or fix the damage caused by the words you said in the heat of an argument, there is no means for retracting them, even if you try really hard. The damage is done. However, there is still hope, and that is by thinking before you speak.
One important thing to remember is to consider first the effect that your words might have on the other person. Will it make them feel bad? Will it lessen their confidence in themselves? Such things should be taken into consideration to avoid hurting feelings.
Saying things skillfully involves timing and you have to remember that timing is everything. Avoid saying negative things during emotional or hectic times. Never start any heavily emotional conversation if there is no adequate time to talk things out.
Consider your motives for speaking. If you just want to say something for the sake of speaking, then, think again. Will the words sound unkind? Should you just leave things as they are, unsaid, at least for the time being, so as to avoid any negative emotions? It is important to have true and good motives for speaking.
Thinking before you speak is vital for any relationship, as there is no way to take the words back. Once a heart is broken, it will still have some cracks, no matter how much you try to put the pieces back
Boundaries are essential for relationships, especially the personal ones. Learn how to set and maintain your own boundaries in order to have a fruitful relationship.
Boundaries refer to the set of personal limits reinforcing your sense of autonomy and identity. These can be emotional, physical, sexual and spiritual. Setting them is your choice for protecting yourself and demanding respect. Boundaries can vary from one relationship to another and can also change within a relationship.
Determine Your Boundaries
Consider the things that you like and dislike. Know the attitudes, experiences and behaviors that make you feel uncomfortable. Clearly understanding your own boundaries can help you in firmly and clearly setting them, and recognizing if they are being violated.
Be Assertive in Communicating Your Boundaries
When you set boundaries, do this in a direct and clear manner. Determine the boundary issues and with the use of “I” statements, make them clear to your partner.
Create a Response to Violations of Your Boundaries
Come up with a possible response in case your boundaries are violated. You can reiterate your own boundaries, and point out your partner’s failure to respect your limits. Make your partner aware of the consequences of disregarding your boundaries.
Follow Through Your Boundaries
Be firm and make sure that you follow through your boundaries and stick to the consequences that you have planned. Failing to follow through enforcing your boundaries will make your partner think that it is okay for you if he or she crosses your boundaries again. If your partner fails to respect the boundaries you have or does not take them seriously, it will make you feel that your needs, desires, and feelings are unimportant, meaningless and insignificant. This is not healthy for any relationship so make sure that the two of you discuss one another’s boundaries in order to make your relationship better.
Change your focus from yourself to the other person, and your relationships will flourish.
Years ago I read the following quote: A lady who had been at a party commented “After speaking with Mr. X, I felt as though he was the most intelligent man in the world. And after speaking with Mr. Y, I felt as though I was the most intelligent woman in the world.”
For people you are closer to, including coworkers, friends and family, find out something that they are really interested in and then get to know something about it and their involvement in it.
So if someone’s a sports fan, find out what teams they really like, and when you see them, ask how their teams are doing.
If someone loves travel, find out where they have been recently or where they plan to go next, and remember that. “What did you like most about Bali?” Or, “Still planning to go to Japan?”
Proud of their son or daughter in college? “How’s Justin doing at Harvard?”
Motorcycle touring fan? Where is their next tour to and how did the last one go?
If they’re a close friend or relative, ask them to tell you what they like about their passion, and then ask more about it. “So, when you’re playing golf, how do you decide which club to use?” For extra points, do a little online research about their interest.
It’s pretty simple: show a real interest in others and their lives. Show them you care about them and how their lives are going.
Listen – I believe that perhaps the biggest error in relationships is that we don’t listen to the other person. Too many times, we’re busy thinking of what we’re going to say back to them when they stop talking (or when we interrupt them).
In doing this, we miss out on the chance to hear and know what they are thinking and feeling. No wonder there are often hurt feelings caused by conversations, because we don’t know if we’ve actually been heard or not.
Don’t just “allow” people to finish what they’re saying and assume that you’re “listening”. Focus on what they’re saying. Be aware of their facial expression, their body language, their tone of voice. Give them feedback.
Here’s a great listening technique. It’s called Active Listening. This technique works really well in primary relationships, such as with your husband or wife, boyfriend or girlfriend, and especially when you’re having an intense discussion.
It will help to defuse a lot of anger in many cases, because both parties will feel that they’re being heard. You should probably discuss this technique with your significant other before you need to use it, so that they’ll know what’s going on, and that you’re making an effort to have good communication with them. You can also use it with friends and family, but in a less-formal way.
In an example of active listening, let’s say that your wife (for example) might state something like “When you come home from work, you never come to me, ask how my day has gone and see how I’m feeling”. You then repeat this back to her in this way “I hear you saying that when I come home from work, I never go to you and ask how your day has gone and see how you’re feeling. Is that right?”
At this point, it may be agreed that you can respond to the “accusation”. If so, she is to mirror back what you have to say. Really try to respond in a thoughtful manner and not in a defensive tone, as this will only create problems. Be willing to admit it, if indeed what she says is true. Admitting fault can take a huge amount of negative energy out of an argument.
You can also express your side of the story, such as “To be honest, when I get home after a hard day at work, and then and fighting traffic, I’m really beat, and I need a break or a little down time. Also, when I’m feeling beat like that, I don’t feel like I can give you the quality of attention that you deserve.
Since in this case, you’re the “bad guy”, you might suggest a workaround, for example, she agrees that maybe you get a half-hour or so after you get home to just relax, shower, lie down or whatever works, and then the two of you will talk and see how her day went, as well as how your day went too.
If she agrees to this, it is really important that you keep your agreement, or else your credibility will be damaged. If needed, on special days where you’re really beat, you should have an agreement that it’s OK for you to tell her about what’s up, and have the freedom to maybe take an hour nap, or whatever you need. But don’t make this a frequent occurrence.
Many years ago, I read about a practice called “Clearing”. It’s pretty simple, but it’s also powerful.
When you have an unresolved problem with someone, don’t just keep it inside, like lots of us do, both men and women. Instead, discuss it with them.
You start by asking them the following question at what you feel is a good time “I have something I’d like to clear with you. Is now OK, or would later be better?” Make sure that you both have the time to focus on the process without interruptions.
If they say that the present moment is OK, then sit down and get their attention. If the present moment is not good, then schedule it for later, but not too far off.
If they’ll allow it, you should both sit quietly for a few minutes to get relaxed and focused.
Then, tell them your issue. “I sometimes feel like you’re always complaining about me not making enough money. I’m doing the best that I can. I’d like for us both to come to peace with that, and I’m open to hearing your view.”
This is a good time to use Active Listening, which I write about above. This technique, like many others, will become more effective the more you practice it, so use it to keep things clear between you and others.
Be sure to encourage others to utilize this technique with you. Let them know that you’re very open to it and welcome Clearing sessions.
Don’t Talk too much about yourself.
Ask questions, and pay attention to the answers to show people that you care about them.
If you feel you must interrupt, say something like “I’m sorry. I’m going to interrupt you because…”
Ask people to continue when they get interrupted.
Keep track of other people’s lives and interests.
Be specific in your thanks and praise; don’t just say “Good job!” Say specific things about what they did that deserve praise. Maybe something like “John, you did a great job organizing all of the boxes in the storeroom. Now everything is easy to find.”
Avoid criticizing others unless it’s in a structured situation where you both can talk the issue over. Also avoid criticizing when you’re angry or upset. NEVER criticize someone in front of others unless it’s a must, perhaps in a work situation where somebody did something unsafe.
Feel free to celebrate your successes and victories, but avoid bragging.
Don’t say negative things about others. It makes you look bad and may come back against you.
Pay attention to them when talking with someone. Yes, this means avoiding your cell phone.
Make eye contact when you’re speaking with someone.
Smile when you meet someone, call them by name and ask how they’re doing. Show that you’re glad to see them.
Great! You’re well on your way to a happy life. Next, let’s go to the Mental Fitness section, your next step in creating a great middle age!