Four Ways To Improve Relationships
Relationships can enhance or inhibit a sense of well-being. Here are four ways to make the ties that bind feel supportive rather than constricting:
1. Be strategic about what you share with others.
You’ve known your co-worker for years. You confide your feelings about the boss to her, and she blabs all to another co-worker whom you hardly know. You didn’t expect this; now, here are some golden rules for avoiding these social slip-ups. First, think before you confide your innermost thoughts and feelings to anyone. Second, reconsider asking for advice from a friend or family member if they have disappointed you in the past. Third, take the path of least resistance; sidestep certain sensitive issues with particular dear ones if you know those issues will bring drama and heartache. If emotional upheavals do ensue, remain centered, positive and confident. Being strategic means being aware of what you reveal when you reveal it, and not disclosing sensitive information to just anyone.
2. Lend a hand to friends and lovers out of a genuine desire to do so.
You love your big-city life, but your spouse is growing tired of the hustle and bustle; also, your family is growing and you can’t afford a larger apartment in the city. How do you make changes in your life out of a desire to do so rather than feeling forced? Couples run into these kinds of struggles when housework remains undone, childcare is one-sided, or one partner lands a dream job in a far-away city. In these situations, couples usually try to work things out through compromise. But should partners make fateful concessions? What difference does it make whether you do something for others out of a desire to do so versus a sense of obligation? Heather Patrick, a University of Rochester assistant professor, “found that partners who engaged in [pro-relationship behavior] because they wanted to – not because they felt pressured or obligated to – were more satisfied in their relationships, more committed to them, and felt closer to their mates following [pro-relationship behavior] experiences.” The same research revealed that couples reported greater fulfillment when they perceived actions that encouraged the relationship as arising from genuine desire. The commonsense lesson here is that strong-arming anyone into doing anything will never bring happiness in a relationship. Instead, create a mindset that is optimistic, and open to all possibilities. Flexibility and open mindedness is key to becoming aware of solutions to challenging situations. Brainstorm feasible options with all involved parties to facilitate creative solutions to what otherwise might seem to be insurmountable problems.
3. Be thoughtful about interpreting others’ words and actions.
Your husband is constantly looking at attractive women, and you assume that he has lost interest in you. Or you assume friends or loved ones who forget to return money or clothes you lent don’t appreciate the favor and are taking advantage of you. When it comes to interpreting a dear one’s behavior, it is easy to assume the worst. To enhance your relationships, it’s important to take notice first of the circumstances in your life that are shaping how you perceive the behavior of others. Consider your cultural background, similar interactions you’ve had in the past, and your own stress levels. Perhaps you need food or a good night’s sleep. Not having your physical needs properly met can lead you to misinterpret the way others behave toward you. To become a better communicator, try to explain someone else’s behavior to yourself in a loving way. Then cordially ask that person for a clarification of his or her behavior. Simply ask, “I’m not sure why you haven’t called me in months. Are you upset with me, or do you have something else going on in your life?” This thoughtful approach can enhance your relationship and save you much unnecessary anxiety and stress.
4. Bring laughter to your relationship.
You’ve heard that “laughter is the best medicine.” Well, a good sense of humor can improve a relationship. “[If] you don’t laugh as much as you used to,” says cartoonist Mike Moore, “and [you] want to improve the situation, start associating with humorous, fun loving people and avoid the downers.” Experts agree that the amount of laughter friends and couples share indicates the quality of the relationship. Start a practice of noticing humorous events, news, comments, and situations. Share these as much as you can to try to get a chuckle out of others. In any tense situation, laughter can defuse a conflict, if it is not used to poke fun or minimize the feelings of another. And keep in mind that a good sense of humor is not innate in a person, but is a learned behavior.