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11 Tips That Help Couples Keep Growing In A Relationship

11 Tips That Help Couples Keep Growing In A Relationship

My wife and I turned the flame of our burgeoning relationship into a raging blaze on an epic three and a half month, 8,000 mile motorcycle trip. The result, over 17 years of marriage and eight kids! It’s been a magical journey, but nothing about it has been easy. It has taken work and more than a few difficult days to make life a joyful adventure.

I wanted to share a few of the lessons we have learned on keeping a relationship growing, more often than not, the hard way. We’ve thrown things, we’ve yelled, we’ve wanted to quit, we’ve wallowed in the distance of anger, yet we’ve persevered and learned to grow a relationship that is as deep as it is wide.

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Here are ten thoughts on growing in a relationship:

  1. You don’t have to settle. You can grow your relationship and make it something that continually enhances your life. A good relationship is like anything you love, you must be committed to learning, to growing, and always looking to improve. When you feel like you’ve settled, you need to act, or else that settling becomes a chasm of stagnation or worse.
  2. Arguing is good. Many studies show that couples who argue have healthier relationships. It took a while to learn this in our relationship. For so long I saw arguments as a failure, but the truth is that they are necessary components of a healthy relationship. To argue well, i.e. when the sparks are done flying you can actually talk, means you must respect each other and the relationship enough to fight for it.
  3. Say you are sorry, and own it. When an argument goes bad, just walk away. Then when you can own your part in the debacle, return and say you are sorry. Expect nothing in return. This kind of unconditional response to adversity is a sure sign to your loved one that your relationship is more than skin deep.
  4. Make time to talk about your relationship. Schedule time where you give each other an opportunity to talk about the relationship without judgement or animosity. And by “talk about your relationship”, I mean treat your relationship like a third person. Are we talking enough, are their unresolved issues, etc.
  5. Remind yourself often of why you fell in love in the first place. Look at old pictures, tell old stories, remember those first magnetic embers of love. We aren’t just who we are in this moment, we are a culmination of the past, the present, and the future. Use the victories and lessons of the past as fuel for future growth.
  6. Share small adventures. Our lives can get so busy we begin to forget about small pleasures. Go for walks, shopping together, coffee, whatever. When life has consumed us, even a short pleasure can seem like a walk on the beach.
  7. Spend time totally focused on your partner. Massage them until your fingers cramp up, listen and don’t talk, go with them on an errand they could do alone, write them a poem or love letter like you did when you were falling in love. Pray for them. Focusing on them will make the relationship stronger.
  8. Schedule space for each other. You need space to grow. A suffocating relationship kills growth. We need freedom in the safety of a commitment. A strong relationship is one that is conscious of this space. Here is some good insight into a fully conscious relationship from www.mindbodygreen.com.
  9. Keep track of your growth. Set goals for the relationship and keep track of them. Growing a relationship is like anything else of value, you need to plan, set goals, work, and review.
  10. A healthy relationship is two individuals working together. A healthy relationship is kind of like a trinity, two individuals create something deeper and better than themselves, yet they are still themselves. For a relationship to grow, you must also grow as an individual and not lose yourself. This can be really hard for mothers. They can get so caught up in work, husband, children, that they don’t know who they are anymore. Make sure you help her with that.

After 17 years of marriage, I can honestly say that the most exciting part of our relationship is what lies ahead. We made it through the incredibly hard process of learning to grow together and now the future seems filled with possibilities even as our kids grow and we age. Life is about living. Living is about growth. Any healthy relationship makes you better, it encourages you to grow, it is there for you when you stumble and falter.

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A relationship is hard work, but if you commit yourself to planting the seeds of growth, you will see something beautiful you could never imagine alone.

One more thing. As I was finishing up this article I asked my wife to take a look. She couldn’t believe I’d left out a key, monumentally important thought, so here is a bonus point for you all!

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11. Morning Sex! Like anything else, work on it, make it a priority, and it only gets better and grows! There is no better way to leave behind the night’s worries and start the day with a full head of steam!

Featured photo credit: Bruna + Rafael by danielmviero.com via creativecommons.org

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Last Updated on May 21, 2019

How to Communicate Effectively in Any Relationship

How to Communicate Effectively in Any Relationship

For all our social media bravado, we live in a society where communication is seen less as an art, and more as a perfunctory exercise. We spend so much time with people, yet we struggle with how to meaningfully communicate.

If you believe you have mastered effective communication, scan the list below and see whether you can see yourself in any of the examples:

Example 1

You are uncomfortable with a person’s actions or comments, and rather than telling the individual immediately, you sidestep the issue and attempt to move on as though the offending behavior or comment never happened.

You move on with the relationship and develop a pattern of not addressing challenging situations. Before long, the person with whom you are in relationship will say or do something that pushes you over the top and predictably, you explode or withdraw completely from the relationship.

In this example, hard-to-speak truths become never- expressed truths that turn into resentment and anger.

Example 2

You communicate from the head and without emotion. While what you communicate makes perfect sense to you, it comes across as cold because it lacks emotion.

People do not understand what motivates you to say what you say, and without sharing your feelings and emotions, others experience you as rude, cold or aggressive.

You will know this is a problem if people shy away from you, ignore your contributions in meetings or tell you your words hurt. You can also know you struggle in this area if you find yourself constantly apologizing for things you have said.

Example 3

You have an issue with one person, but you communicate your problem to an entirely different person.

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The person in whom you confide lacks the authority to resolve the matter troubling you, and while you have vented and expressed frustration, the underlying challenge is unresolved.

Example 4

You grew up in a family with destructive communication habits and those habits play out in your current relationships.

Because you have never stopped to ask why you communicate the way you do and whether your communication style still works, you may lack understanding of how your words impact others and how to implement positive change.

If you find yourself in any of the situations described above, this article is for you.

Communication can build or decimate worlds and it is important we get it right. Regardless of your professional aspirations or personal goals, you can improve your communication skills if you:

  • Understand your own communication style
  • Tailor your style depending on the needs of the audience
  • Communicate with precision and care
  • Be mindful of your delivery, timing and messenger

1. Understand Your Communication Style

To communicate effectively, you must understand the communication legacy passed down from our parents, grandparents or caregivers. Each of us grew up with spoken and unspoken rules about communication.

In some families, direct communication is practiced and honored. In other families, family members are encouraged to shy away from difficult conversations. Some families appreciate open and frank dialogue and others do not. Other families practice silence about substantive matters, that is, they seldom or rarely broach difficult conversations at all.

Before you can appreciate the nuance required in communication, it helps to know the familial patterns you grew up with.

2. Learn Others Communication Styles

Communicating effectively requires you to take a step back, assess the intended recipient of your communication and think through how the individual prefers to be communicated with. Once you know this, you can tailor your message in a way that increases the likelihood of being heard. This also prevents you from assuming the way you communicate with one group is appropriate or right for all groups or people.

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If you are unsure how to determine the styles of the groups or persons with whom you are interacting, you can always ask them:

“How do you prefer to receive information?”

This approach requires listening, both to what the individuals say as well as what is unspoken. Virgin Group CEO Richard Branson noted that the best communicators are also great listeners.

To communicate effectively from relationship to relationship and situation to situation, you must understand the communication needs of others.

3. Exercise Precision and Care

A recent engagement underscored for me the importance of exercising care when communicating.

On a recent trip to Ohio, I decided to meet up with an old friend to go for a walk. As we strolled through the soccer park, my friend gently announced that he had something to talk about, he was upset with me. His introduction to the problem allowed me to mentally shift gears and prepare for the conversation.

Shortly after introducing the shift in conversation, my friend asked me why I didn’t invite him to the launch party for my business. He lives in Ohio and I live in the D.C. area.

I explained that the event snuck up on me, and I only started planning the invite list three weeks before the event. Due to the last-minute nature of the gathering, I opted to invite people in the DMV area versus my friends from outside the area – I didn’t want to be disrespectful by asking them to travel on such short notice.

I also noted that I didn’t want to be disappointed if he and others declined to come to the event. So I played it safe in terms of inviting people who were local.

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In the moment, I felt the conversation went very well. I also checked in with my friend a few days after our walk, affirmed my appreciation for his willingness to communicate his upset and our ability to work through it.

The way this conversation unfolded exemplified effective communication. My friend approached me with grace and vulnerability. He approached me with a level of curiosity that didn’t put me on my heels — I was able to really listen to what he was saying, apologize for how my decision impacted him and vow that going forward, I would always ask rather than making decisions for him and others.

Our relationship is intact, and I now have information that will help me become a better friend to him and others.

4. Be Mindful of Delivery, Timing and Messenger

Communicating effectively also requires thinking through the delivery of the message one intends to communicate as well as the appropriate time for the discussion.

In an Entrepreneur.com column, VIP Contributor Deep Patel, noted that persons interested in communicating well need to master the art of timing. Patel noted,[1]

“Great comedians, like all great communicators, are able to feel out their audience to determine when to move on to a new topic or when to reiterate an idea.”

Communicating effectively also requires thoughtfulness about the messenger. A person prone to dramatic, angry outbursts should never be called upon to deliver constructive feedback, especially to people whom they do not know. The immediate aftermath of a mass shooting is not the ideal time to talk about the importance of the Second Amendment rights.

Like everyone else, I must work to ensure my communication is layered with precision and care.

It requires precision because words must be carefully tailored to the person with whom you are speaking.

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It requires intentionality because before one communicates, one should think about the audience and what the audience needs in order to hear your message the way you intended it to be communicated.

It requires active listening which is about hearing verbal and nonverbal messages.

Even though we may be right in what we say, how we say it could derail the impact of the message and the other parties’ ability to hear the message.

Communicating with care is also about saying things that the people in our life need to hear and doing so with love.

The Bottom Line

When I left the meeting with my dear friend, I wondered if I was replicating or modeling this level of openness and transparency in the rest of my relationships.

I was intrigued and appreciative. He’d clearly thought about what he wanted to say to me, picked the appropriate time to share his feedback and then delivered it with care. He hit the ball out of the park and I’m hopeful we all do the same.

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Featured photo credit: Kenan Buhic via unsplash.com

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