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Wellness Center

Strengthening Your Relationships

10 Tools to Live Your Life Well | Get Curious | Social Connection | Creating Connections | Do You Have Enough Support? | Making Friends | Strengthening Your Relationships | Getting Support from a Group

If you want to get more out of the relationships you have, consider these steps:

  • Make a list of the people you want to contact regularly. If necessary, add a reminder to your calendar.
  • Commit to a certain amount of time together each day or week—without pagers, iPods or other distracting contraptions. 
  • Listen really well. Repeat what you heard to make sure you understood.
  • Ask for specific kinds of help. Even the best of friends can't read your mind.
  • Show how much you respect, support and appreciate your friends and family. You may think positive thoughts, but sharing them works wonders.
  • Move out of relationships that make you feel unsafe, lower your self-esteem or draw you into unhealthy habits, like abusing drugs.

If you're in a troubled relationship, it pays to work on it. Experts say a bad relationship can hurt you even more than a good one can help you. If your relationship is rocky, here are some suggestions:

  • Take responsibility for your part in the problem
  • Stay constructive and propose solutions
  • Consider how you might feel if you were the other person
  • Try to focus on what you value about the other person

If disagreements get intense, remember to fight fair. Researcher John Gottman, PhD, who has predicted with amazing accuracy which couples will divorce, says your fighting style really matters. Consider two great ways to reduce the heat:

  • Avoid over-generalizing. Beware of statements like, "You  never pay attention to me." Instead, make specific requests like, "Could we spend an hour together soon?"
  • Avoid finger-pointing. Instead of blaming the other person, focus on how you feel with an "I" statement such as, "I feel upset when you come home and just read the newspaper."

When appropriate, try to forgive—for your own sake. Research shows that forgiving reduces tension, depression and anxiety. Of course, letting go can be tough. Try to:

  • think about what stresses might have contributed to the other person's behavior
  • contemplate what's good about that person
  • ask for an apology if that would help
  • remember that forgiving doesn't mean you're saying the behavior was acceptable

If you're having trouble expressing your needs or getting them met, consider individual or couples therapy