How do you rate yourself as a partner? A friend? A parent? Can you and those you care about benefit from improvement in the connections you have with them?
Relationships are like a dance, a two-way street. Like any system, one reacts to the output by the other in some way. One of the hallmarks of a healthy, loving relationship is when both parties are able to be self reflective enough to take ownership of their roles in the dynamic. Occasionally contemplating how you might make positive changes can only create space for better things especially considering how important it is for people to feel connected, safe, included and loved.
We all get busy. We all can be remiss in feeding our relationships. And yes, relationships require feeding and nurturing to operate optimally.
Here are some ways you can improve your connections with the important people in your life; your intimate relationships, family and friendships. (Keep in mind some of these may not be effective, especially for those with trauma where some forms of connection are distressing for the individual.)
- Check in with them. “How are you? Really.” People generally respond well to feeling like they matter, more than superficially.
- Make eye contact. This can inspire powerful feelings of connection. Eye contact activates parts of the brain that allows you to better process another’s feelings.
- Make physical contact. Touch is a powerful way to express compassion and care like a hug or gentle touch on the arm.
- Listen. Feeling heard is a powerful way to connect to another. “You get me,” and “I matter.” Try not to interrupt. Be inquisitive. Find solutions with them if that’s what they are asking for.
- Prioritize them. A busy life is a reality for many people and it’s not realistic that all of your important relationships can get top priority. But keep connected in some way so they know you’re thinking of them.
- Be there in times of trouble. One of the places your most treasured relationships can shine are when the chips are down. This is the testament of deep connection and love. “You are not alone. I am with you and we will see this through together.”
- Repair. Hurt feelings can be mended, especially if you are able to look at your role, take responsibility and offer a sincere apology. This vulnerable act can reconnect what was once ruptured avoiding the build up of resentment.
- Tell them what they mean to you. It’s easy to take for granted our love for one another. Remind your loved one of your appreciation for them. This can be verbally, in a note, email or text. Just tell them.
- Keep it in check. If your loved one does something to anger or hurt you, take a breath. Emotional intelligence and your ability to handle your feelings can derail unhelpful defensive behaviors. For improved relationship connection, listen to what’s underneath their behavior rather than lash out.
“When people feel loved they are freer, more alive, and more powerful than we ever imagined.”
Dr. Sue Johnson, PhD
Whether much of this is new or a refresher course in healthy relationships, it’s easy to forget. At the end of the day we only have each other and we are all responsible for maintaining the health and longevity of our most valued connections.