In this article, I want to look at a few ways we can fail-proof our relationships. I am mostly writing this in the context for a couple, but most of this can certainly be applied to any form of a relationship.
The reason I feel that this is necessary is because of the relationship failure rate. Why are relationships failing anyway? Well, that’s hard to know for sure without getting onto a personal, one on one level. But, some of the common issues are; trust, communication, fidelity, selfishness, substance abuse and a general lack of goals.
In some cases, two people are simply just not compatible. No matter what happens, they will be in constant disagreement. But, I don’t believe this to be a common issue. We all disagree at some point, but, if two people are completely incompatible, the relationship likely wouldn’t flourish past the first date.
Whatever the situation, most things can be worked out. So, if struggling with any of the above areas in a relationship, don’t despair. Relationships can be repaired in the majority of situations; but, the couple must want it. Because if either isn’t completely on board, there will be a shortage of effort.
Because relationships include two people, this means that it takes two people to make it work; all the time. If we get complacent in our actions towards each other, we put the relationship at risk.
Here are 8 ways I work continually to improve on my own relationship
There are many ways we can improve in our relationships, but in this article, I will share my top 8. These are:
- Get rid of any negativity
- Make allowances
- Find a quality pass-time
- Do regular check-ups
- Understand significance of other
I put loyalty first for obvious reasons; too many relationship failures due to infidelity. It is amazing to see how many people give in to this. Especially in the celebrity world. I am certainly not going to point any fingers at anyone, but I would go as far as saying that it is possible to build a life with one person and make it so great that there is no need to find comfort in the arms of another.
And the great thing about that statement is; we can get started right now. Even if things are not going well, it isn’t too late to turn things around.
So, if there is any risk of becoming disloyal, I implore you to take some time to reconsider. And one more thing; the biggest reason that these things do happen is because two people spend too much time together, where feelings towards one another can grow, and talking about things that should be saved for their partner at home.
The easiest way to avoid any situation of infidelity is to make distance from anyone it is likely to happen with.
From a biblical perspective, there is sin and there is temptation. Temptation is something that someone or something does that stirs up thoughts in our minds and makes us vulnerable to giving in to it. Sin is when we actually give in to it.
So, although it is normal to be attracted to, and tempted by someone, it is wisdom practiced when we can see the situation for what it is and look for an escape route.
This topic of loyalty plays a large role in the next topic; trust.
2. Build trust to improve the relationship
Trust is the difficult one here because it takes so much time to build. Sure, we start off with some trust as new relationships start, but our actions over time will dictate what level that trust can build to.
As mentioned, it takes time, and sometimes lots of time, to build a solid level of trust in a relationship. The difficult thing is; only one simple act can destroy all of that trust. So, we must be on constant guard to protect the trust and reputation we have with our partner.
Related: Developing Healthy Relationships
The best method I practice for building trust is; I don’t give my wife reason to be concerned. I don’t have other friends who are women, unless they are another couple who are friends with my wife and myself. I don’t put myself in a situation where I am alone with another woman because this too can give the wrong idea to others.
I’m not here to tell anyone to give up their friends. However, if there is rising trust issues with your partner, it might be time to put some distance between yourself and someone who is causing insecurities.
Also, I try to do what I say I’m going to do. So, if I tell my wife that I am going to be at a certain place or somewhere doing a certain thing, I do that. If I do change my plans, I communicate that to her. This way there is no question of my whereabouts at a certain time.
Lastly, she can get a hold of me. My phone isn’t mysteriously off for periods of time where she can’t reach me. These are small steps I practice, but they are necessary in building trust in our relationship.
3. Get rid of the negative attitude
It’s not good when we go about our days with a negative outlook on life and the things in it. I spent far too long living this way, and I can assure you, it didn’t help our relationship much.
What happens is, one person tries to be optimistic and happy and tries to maintain this attitude for the whole relationship while the other is crabby and frustrated about, well, everything. In some cases, both are negative, and in some cases, both are positive and happy.
Positive and happy is the end-result we want to aim for, so if our partner is struggling with negativity, we are wise to find ways to work with them as soon as possible. This takes time, but the relationship will improve when the attitude improves.
This process can be done through counseling, and it can be done through self-help exercises. Negativity has to do with focus on the wrong thing and allowing negative thoughts to grow in our mind. Positive people are met with negative thoughts too, but they often choose to re-focus on positive stuff and don’t end up in a bad mood.
From what I’ve learned, it is difficult to learn anything new when in a negative mindset. So, if this is an issue in your relationship, and is responsible for the relationship being stagnant or in a lull, getting the negative partner into a good mood and then getting to work is essential for the relationship to improve.
For a tip; when I’m in a negative mood, something that throws me into a positive mood quickly is doing something I enjoy or getting something new to play with. Getting gifts is my love-language, and nothing puts me in a better mood faster than receiving gifts.
4. Forgiveness will improve relationships
It is difficult to improve any relationship if there is bitterness and resentment looming. Is there something our partner has done to make us feel like we can’t forgive them? Is there something someone else has done that causes us to lash out on our partner?
When we harbor any sort of resentment or bitterness or grudges for any amount of time, it starts to wear on us. It becomes difficult to have fun, to stay optimistic and positive, and even to get good sleep. When we go around in this state, we aren’t at our best, obviously.
Holding on to things and not letting go through forgiveness is the number one way to become bitter and resentful. I realize that sometimes forgiving others isn’t easy, but it brings health back to our own souls. It also allows the relationship to grow and thrive because the attitude is better.
We want people to forgive us when we do wrong, so, we should do our best to be quick to forgive others too; especially, our partner.
The only way to forgive is to do it promptly. And, just like a wound, it heals faster when we don’t keep tearing the bandage off. Once we forgive, we must let it go. We must let them go free and we too must go free.
I have had friends who struggle in their relationships because of the need for forgiveness for each other. But because of stubbornness or pride, neither would forgive. Every time they would have a little tiff about something, it almost always quickly escalated into a big fight.
I have learned in my relationship to let it go. Sure, my wife does things that can annoy me or can hurt my feelings, just as I do the same, but we forgive and move on.
5. Make allowances for others
This is kind of an extension of forgiving. Making allowances means that we understand that others will do things that aren’t ideal. Even we will do things that aren’t ideal. This is because we are human and make mistakes.
We would be naïve to think that we can go about our days and future without ever making another mistake. So, we naturally believe that we will make mistakes and that life will go on. This must be true in our relationships too.
If we are so rigid that we can’t allow our partner to make a mistake here and there, how long can the relationship survive. And, what do I mean by mistakes, anyways?
Well, a big mistake is infidelity. We can’t easily make allowances for such an act of betrayal, nor am I asking anyone to. I do believe that a relationship can be rebuilt after such a thing through counselling and time, but the type of mistakes I’m referring to here would be smaller, and less damaging.
Stuff like spending too much money and racking up some debt; giving in to an old addiction; doing something that causes a negative impact on the relationship’s reputation.
If we are understanding that things happen, we can be quicker to forgive and get the relationship moving in the right direction again. If we can skip the grudges, bitterness, and resentment stages, and move to forgiveness, we can keep the relationship healthy.
This is where too many couples struggle. They are amazingly shocked when something negative comes up in the relationship, and for some, they quickly move to ending the relationship instead of looking to repair it.
I encourage couples to learn about forgiveness in the relationship, to understand what pet-peeves are, and to learn how to effectively deal with such scenarios.
6. Find a quality pass-time
Couples who don’t do anything together eventually get bored. Our partner is supposed to be our best friend; better and closer than any other friend we have. So, why do so many couples live in boring and dull relationships together?
Not every person in a relationship will have the same things in common, and this is fine. However, every couple should have a handful of things they enjoy doing together. If the relationship is a bore, try finding some new forms of entertainment that both can agree on and enjoy.
Searching up activities for couples to do should yield many interesting results. Careful to enable search filters here when searching this phrase on the internet.
There are activities that have to do with food, with hobbies, with exercise, with traveling, with socializing, and many others. It is best if the activity is something that requires the couple to be engaged in together rather than something that draws the two apart. Social activities can tend to draw the couple apart while they go about mingling.
If the relationship is dull because the couple doesn’t do much together, then finding something fun and engaging is key.
Trying to do this or any variety of activities once per week is a good start. We can’t simply always have fun, right? I’m kidding. Hey, if you can find a way to get through this life while having fun, do it.
My wife and I don’t travel much, but we sure do love road trips. We currently live five hours away from a large city, so for us, this counts as a road trip. We like to rent a hotel room with a jacuzzi tub and have a romantic night together.
Finding something that you both enjoy and doing it often will help improve your relationship.
7. Do regular check-ups
I encourage couples to do periodic check-ups in their relationships. This is when the couple analyzes the condition of the relationship. Consider things like; how’s the communication, the intimacy, the spontaneity and adventure, the growth of the relationship, the progress of relationship goals, and the overall enjoyment of the relationship for each other.
By learning these things through periodic assessments, the couple can remain aware of any issues that threaten the relationship. It is when we allow a small issue to go unchecked for a duration that it grows into something big that potentially tears the two apart.
We can avoid such a fate by doing a brief assessment monthly and a thorough assessment annually. The annual assessment is where the couple would set up relationship goals, such as; what they want to learn for relationship improvement, places they want to travel, debts they want to pay, big purchases they want to make.
The monthly assessment would just be to look at the progress of each of these goals and talk about if there are any issues looming in the relationship that must be addressed. Just as we do preventative maintenance on our vehicles to be alert of any problems that are rising and to help prevent catastrophic failure, we must practice preventative maintenance in our relationship.
Someone said, “If we fail to plan, we plan to fail.” This is true in our relationship. If we want our relationship to improve and grow into something enjoyable and long-lasting, we can’t go on auto-pilot and expect to achieve such results. This takes deliberate action with daily effort between the two in the relationship.
8. Understand the term; significant other
We hear the term, “better half,” or, “significant other” at times when someone is referring to our partner. I tend to use the term, significant other, and I like it for a reason; because, she is significant to me.
So, for this section, I want to look at how we act. If we believe that someone is of significant importance to us, we are likely to treat them that way.
And, our spouse or partner should be of significant importance.
The best way that I have found to effectively show that I am aware of my wife’s importance, is to put her needs before my own.
I do my best to cater to her needs more than my own. In any relationship, when we put others first and work to make their life easier and more enjoyable, we improve on the relationship instantly. The nice thing here is, it becomes the track record, or the reputation. It is what they can expect when they see us.
Think of it this way; if someone does something nice for us and makes us feel good, we are likely to cherish that feeling and want to spend more time with that person.
So, if we routinely do this for our own partner, then when they see us, they will associate us with a good feeling.
When we do our best to do good to others, they tend to want to do something good for us too.
If on the other hand, we are always only doing what is best for ourselves, then it won’t take long before our partner feels neglected and unloved. This creates turmoil, and soon resentment, and finally, the potential for separation.
We should be able to estimate our results by the quality of our actions.
Building great relationships is about effort and attention. Without any effort, the relationship is likely to stagnate and fall apart. Without paying attention to the health of the relationship, it is possible to miss any signs of stress and imminent failure.
By applying effort in the 8 areas in this article, it is possible to start building a solid foundation in new relationships and reinforcing weak foundations in strained relationships. Consider the value of your partner and what they mean to you. Is it worth it to put in some extra effort today?
If you can imagine an ideal future with your mate, then there is only one thing between you and that future; immediate action.
If you have any other helpful tips for couples, please share in the comments below.
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How to get your spouse to hear you, by Mort Fertel.