- 13 Steps to Better Relationships…and Peace of Mind
- 13 Tips To Make A Good Relationship Great
- 1. Do the things you did the first year you were dating.
- 2. Ask for what you want.
- 3. Become an expert on your partner.
- 4. Ask questions beyond just “How was your day?”
- 5. Create a weekly ritual to check in with each other.
- 7. Get creative about the time you spend together.
- 9. Take a (mental) vacation, every day.
- 10. Take “fight breaks” when you need them.
- 11. When in conflict, dig deep to unearth your true feelings.
- 12. Seek to understand, not agree.
- 13. Make your apology count.
13 Steps to Better Relationships…and Peace of Mind
I’ve blogged frequently about techniques that you can use when you need more peace of mind.
I usually focused on practices that you can do inside your own mind—no one else required! Mental strategies that promote the gratitude attitude, self-compassion, mindfulness, and self-soothing can certainly go a long way toward reducing stress, increasing your happiness, and lessening mental suffering.
But let’s face it. Sometimes you need to know that good people have your back when things go wrong. Good relationships can bring peace of mind, not to mention longer life, companionship, health, happiness, and a host of other benefits. At our core, we are social creatures who need each other. Even meditating monks do it—congregate in communities, that is.
Social needs are the most basic of all needs, according to Dr. Matthew Lieberman in his book, Social: Why Our Brains Are Wired to Connect.
He and other researchers speculate that our large brains may have evolved in order to become more adept at social skills.
In fact, in our free time, our thinking tends to default to musing about our social relationships—what's right, what's wrong, how we can all get along.
Relationships and Peace of Mind
If you doubt the role of good relationships for a more peaceful mind, consider how you felt, or might feel, in these situations:
- You lose a valued friend. Or, a romantic partner walks out on you.
- You realize you were unintentionally rude to a colleague.
- You don’t have a place to go for a holiday dinner.
- Someone insulted you.
- You realize you don’t have someone to call during a crisis.
Any of these situations can stir up powerful negative feelings. When your social safety net is full of holes, it’s a challenge to maintain your peace of mind. Relationship worries can prevent a good night’s sleep or a good day’s work. When your relationships are humming along smoothly, on the other hand, it’s much easier to feel peace of mind.
So how is your “relationship health” these days? Do you have the kind of relationships and social support that give you peace of mind? Do you possess the social skills to connect up with -minded people and to resolve typical social problems?
If you desire the peace of mind that comes from being in harmony with your fellow human beings, here are 13 steps that you can take right now. Learning about relationship health is a complicated process, so along with most steps, I’ve linked to at least one blog post that offers further insights.
13 Steps to Relationship Health
1. Make the conscious decision to put your relationship health at or near the top of your priority list.
Whether you are altering mental habits, behavior habits, or relationship habits, research shows that your conscious decision to change will be a key factor in your success.
2. Assess the relationship area that needs work and set a specific goal.
For example, if you don’t have a strong social network, your general goal might be to build a better one. You can seek out friends from a variety of sources—family, work, spiritual organizations, 12-step groups, hobby groups, groups with a common purpose, and teams. Your specific goal could be: “Join one group where I can share my interest in ___.”
Of course you have to respect your own nature. If you are an introvert, you might prefer to choose one person from your existing network to get to know better. Or, if your network consumes too much of your time already, consider a goal to prune it.
Your relationship needs may vary with your age, as this post by PT blogger Christopher Bergland explains.
3. Set standards.
If certain friends or groups drain your energy or sap your self-esteem, move them toward the bottom of your priority list or stop seeing them at all.
Beware of those who force you to give up too much of yourself as the price for a relationship! Choose to spend more time with people who have your interests at heart and can help you grow into the person you want to be.
If you the “you” that emerges with a particular person or group, that’s a good sign.
Source: Meg Selig
4. Observe character.
Those little inconsiderate things that your friend does? Notice them. Bring them up in conversation. Tell her what you’d prefer instead.
If her response is indifferent or worse, this friendship could be at a dead end. On the other hand, if your friend is appreciative and kind, notice that.
Green light! To become a better judge of potential romantic relationships, read this outstanding post by Jeremy Nicholson.
5. When your friends are happy, be happy for them.
This quality is called “mudita” in the Buddhist tradition—being able to feel joy in the joy of another. PT blogger Toni Bernhard explains here.
6. Apologize when you’ve been wrong.
Tasting a bit of crow can be good for your character development! But not everyone can deliver a healing and heartfelt apology. For the how-to, see this wise post by Dr. Guy Winch.
7. Ask for what you need in the relationship.
Want more life? Just ask! Asking is a very effective way of getting, as this post by Thomas Hills shows.
8. Be able to say “no” when your friends’ requests interfere with your own values and goals.
“Peace at any price” will not lead to peace of mind. Dr. Judith Sills shows you how to stand up for yourself here. For basic assertiveness skills, see here.
9. Use negative feelings—such as resentment, sadness, and annoyance—as clues that you might need to change either yourself or something in the relationship.
For five important things you can learn from “annoyance,” for example, click on my post here.
10. Say thank you.
Thank your friend when he does something for you. Stay in touch with people who have helped you. Pick up the phone. Write a thank-you note. You will find that expressing your gratitude—to yourself and to others—can ignite a chain reaction of other positive changes.
11. See a therapist.
If you have trouble connecting with others or maintaining your relationships, see a therapist for the express purpose of improving your social skills.
12. Don’t put all your relationship eggs in one basket.
If things go wrong in one social area, it's good to have alternatives. That's why you must continue to cultivate your friendships even after meeting Mr. or Ms. Right.
13. You decide! What else could go on your list?
Finding good people and groups for mutual support is a lifetime pursuit and is not always easy. Still, it’s worth it for your peace of mind. What could you do today to strengthen your “relationship health?” Better relationship health will lead to a more peaceful mind.
© Meg Selig, 2015
Meg Selig is the author of Changepower! 37 Secrets to Habit Change Success.
13 Tips To Make A Good Relationship Great
mbg Contributor By Allison Cohen, LMFT Allison Cohen, LMFT, is a licensed marriage and family therapist based in California. She received her master's degree in marriage and family therapy from Pepperdine University and has over 12 years experience empowering individuals and couples to achieve their best selves.
Last updated on February 17, 2020
We all want to have healthy relationships, but most of us were never really taught about what that actually means. As a therapist with over a decade of experience working with couples, here are my top tips for how to have a good, healthy relationship. The key is being communicative and proactive.
1. Do the things you did the first year you were dating.
As the months and years roll on, we tend to slink into our proverbial sweatpants and get lazy in our relationship. We lose our patience, gentleness, thoughtfulness, understanding, and the general effort we once made toward our mate. Think back to the first year of your relationship and write down all the things you used to do for your partner. Now start doing them again.
2. Ask for what you want.
Over time, we assume that our partner knows us so well that we don't need to ask for what we want.
What happens when we make this assumption? Expectations are set, and just as quickly, they get deflated. Those unmet expectations can leave us questioning the viability of our partnership and connection.
Keep in mind that “asking for what you want” extends to everything from emotional to sexual wants.
3. Become an expert on your partner.
Think about who your mate really is and what excites them, both physically and emotionally. We can become consumed by what we think they want, as opposed to tuning in to what truly resonates with them. Remember that if it's important to your partner, it doesn't have to make sense to you. You just have to do it.
4. Ask questions beyond just “How was your day?”
At the end of a long day, we tend to mentally check our lives and, consequently, our relationship.
We rely on the standard question, “How was your day?” But because we hear that question so often, many of us will reflexively just respond with the bare minimum: “Fine.
How was yours?” This does nothing to improve your connection and can actually damage it because you're losing the opportunity to regularly connect in a small way.
If your initial “How was your day?” doesn't spark much conversation, try asking more creative follow-up questions: “What made you smile today?” or “What was the most challenging part of your day?” You'll be amazed at the answers you'll get, with the added benefit of gaining greater insight into your significant other.
5. Create a weekly ritual to check in with each other.
It can be short or long, but it begins with asking each other what worked and didn't work about the previous week and what can be done to improve things this coming week.
Additionally, use this opportunity to get on the same page with your schedules, plan a date night, and talk about what you would to see happen in the coming days, weeks, and months in your relationship.
Without an intentional appointment to do a temperature check, unmet needs and resentments can build.
What might change in your relationship if both you and your partner committed to increasing the behaviors you each find sexy and limiting those that aren't? Think about this in the broadest form.
“Sexy” can certainly refer to bedroom preferences, but it also represents what excites us about our mate in our day-to-day lives.
Do you find it sexy if they help with the housework? Do you find it “unsexy” when they use the restroom with the door wide-open? Talk about what it specifically means to “keep it sexy” in your relationship. Be amazed, be humored, and be inspired.
7. Get creative about the time you spend together.
Break the “dinner and a movie” routine, and watch how a little novelty can truly rejuvenate your relationship.
On a budget and can't go big? Jump on the internet to look for “cheap date ideas” and be blown away at the plethora of options. Can't afford a sitter? Try swapping babysitting time with friends that have kids.
It's free, and they will ly be thrilled to take your kids because they will get to take advantage when they drop their kids at your place.
Unless you have committed to an asexual partnership, sex and touch (kissing, holding hands, cuddling, etc.) are vital components of a romantic relationship.
How much sex a couple has is, of course, up to the particular pair of individuals, so it's imperative that you discuss your ideas about it in order to manage any desire discrepancy.
Rare are the moments when both partners are “in the mood” at the exact same second, but in general, most people tend to “get there” after the first few minutes even if they weren't initially in the mood.
9. Take a (mental) vacation, every day.
Life and work distractions can become paramount in our minds, and that leaves little time or energy for our partner. Practice the art of “Wearing the Relationship Hat.
” This means that, barring any emergencies or deadlines, we are fully present when we're with our mate.
We truly hear what they are saying (instead of pretending to listen), we leave our distractions behind, and we don't pick them up again until the sun comes up and we walk out the door.
10. Take “fight breaks” when you need them.
When conflicts inevitably come up, remember to approach them thoughtfully and with a lot of kindness toward your partner and yourself.
If you see the stress beginning to escalate during a conversation about a conflict, one or both of you can call a break so that cooler heads can prevail.
The crux of this tool lies in the fact that you must pick a specific time to revisit the conversation (i.e., 10 minutes from now, 2 p.m. on Tuesday, etc.) so that closure can be achieved.
11. When in conflict, dig deep to unearth your true feelings.
In most disagreements, we communicate from the “top layer,” which is the obvious emotions such as anger, annoyance, and the .
Leading from this place can create confusion and defensiveness, and it can ultimately distract from the real issue.
Start communicating from the “bottom layer,” which are the feelings that are really driving your reactions, such as disappointment, rejection, loneliness, or disrespect.
This type of expression creates an instant sense of empathy because it requires honesty and vulnerability to share from this space. Tension will dissipate, and from here, solutions can spring. Just be sure to use kind, nonreactive phrasing when expressing these bottom layer feelings, such as “I felt hurt by…” as a replacement for “You're such a jerk,” etc.
12. Seek to understand, not agree.
Easy in concept, difficult in application. Conversations quickly turn to arguments when we're invested in hearing our partner admit that we were right or when we are intent on changing their opinion.
Choose to approach a conversation as an opportunity to understand your significant other's perspective as opposed to waiting for them to concede.
From this perspective, we have an interesting dialogue and prevent a blowout or lingering frustration.
13. Make your apology count.
It's well understood that apologizing is a good thing, but it only makes a real impact when you mean it. Saying things “I'm sorry you feel that way,” “I'm sorry you see it that way,” or “I'm sorry if I upset you” are a waste of time and breath. Even if you don't agree that your action was wrong, you will never successfully argue a feeling.
Accept that your partner feels hurt. From this place, a real apology can have a significant impact. When you love your partner and hurt them (intentionally or not), you can always legitimately apologize for the pain you caused, regardless of your perspective on what you did or didn't do.
You are now officially armed with the comprehensive guide for how to have a healthy relationship.
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