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21 Ways To Strengthen Struggling Relationships

21 Ways To Strengthen Struggling Relationships

All relationships go through phases, there will be good times and challenges. When you recognize that your relationship is in a rough spot, take heart.  Great relationships don’t happen by luck.  There are the specific skills and actions that strengthen our relationships.

Here’s your crash course on 21 Ways to Strengthen Struggling Relationships.

1. Make Your Relationship a Top Priority.

Relationships are like living things: they are either growing or dying.  Relationships grow and flourish when we invest and nurture them.  When relationships are struggling, it’s often a sign that they have been neglected. To strengthen a struggling relationship, you must make it a top priority of your time and energy.

2. Accept that Disappointment Will Happen in every Relationship.

Disappointment happens when our expectations don’t match reality. Two people will always have differences in their expectations. This means that disappointments will  happen in every relationship. We have a tendency to focus on the negative and we then use this “evidence” to reinforce the belief that our relationships are filled with disappointment.  Instead, accept that disappointment happens.  Choose to focus on the parts that have fulfilled your expectations and even brought unplanned blessings.

3. Don’t Make Derogatory Comments, Insults & Belittling Remarks.

The words you use are powerful. When you put down your partner or your relationship, you are causing damage. Choose to break habits that damage the relationship, especially when you feel frustrated and disappointed. Use words that show respect, love, and hope. Plant the seeds you want to grow.

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4. Don’t Stonewall.

Stonewalling is a passive-aggressive tactic that may seem neutral, but is very damaging. Whenever you ignore, stall, and refuse to participate, you are stonewalling. It is a power-play intended to break down the opposition. It keeps the relationship in a “me versus you” dynamic. For a relationship to survive, it must be an “us against the world” commitment.

5. Don’t Play the Blame Game.

This is a game no one wins. Even if you are successful in blaming all your problems on your partner, you still are stuck with all those problems and the feelings that come with them.  The only way to begin transforming your problems into solutions is to take full responsibility for the parts you play.  Stop blaming and start creating the relationship you want.

6. Let Go of the Desire to Fix or Change Your Partner.

William Glasser teaches in Choice Theory that the key to changing any relationship is to fully accept that you cannot change anyone except yourself.  The sooner you fully accept this as truth, the sooner you will begin to heal and grow together.  All of us long to be loved and accepted for who we are.  When your partner feels that you are not ashamed or disappointed, then he/she may feel supported to choose to change. Meanwhile, focus on changing and improving yourself.

7. Focus on the Qualities You Love & Respect in Your Partner.

Remember the moments and reasons why this person became special and important to you.  Trust that all those things are still true.  Close your eyes and hold those moments in your heart.  Allow yourself to feel again the love, pride, and respect that you felt.  Return to these moments to revitalize your commitment to strengthen your realtionship.

8. Believe That Your Partner Has Good Intentions.

Psychological studies have proven that once we become convinced of an idea, our brain will ignore and discredit information that contradicts what we believe. When we are feeling hurt and disappointed, we have a tendency to turn our partner into the villain. But if your relationship is going to have a chance to turn around, you must make room for the possibility that your partner can be your greatest ally.  Believe that your partner has good intentions, but the information he/she is acting on is incorrect or the impact is hurtful.

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9. Learn How to Forgive.

We have many misunderstandings about what forgiveness means.  Forgiveness does not mean you give permission for someone to mistreat you.  It means that you accept that we are all doing the best we can.  Surely if we knew better, we would do better.  When we disappoint and hurt each other, it’s not because we want to.  Forgive that your partner hasn’t learned better ways of loving you YET.  Forgiveness means you commit to letting go of the hurt of the past to allow for new possibilities in the future.

10. Learn How to Be Fully Present.

There is a difference between being in the room and being present.  There is a difference between hearing and listening.  Being fully present means that when your partner speaks, you don’t assume you already know what he/she thinks.  You begin to listen for what you haven’t understood yet.  You become a curious detective that sincerely wants to learn what is going on.  This is a completely different intent than listening to prove that you are right.

11. Make it Clear That You Want to Hear & Understand Your Partner.

Tell your partner, “I know in the past I may have not done a good job of listening to you.  I see that this has hurt you and me.  I must not fully understand what is going on.  I want to.  I want to understand who you are and what matters to you. I will keep listening as long as it takes.”

12. Ask Your Partner to Share.

Ask, “Are you willing to share with me? Whenever you’re ready to share, I’m ready to hear.  And I will wait until you feel safe,”  then practice being fully present.

13. Learn What Needs to Happen for Your Partner to Feel Loved & Respected.

We all have different rules for what needs to happen for us to feel loved and respected. Some people need to be told “I love you” many times every day. Others need to have one-on-one time for at least twenty minutes each day. A hand pat from time to time will suffice for others.  Ask your partner, “What makes you feel loved? What have I done that has made you feel close to me? What do I do that let’s you know I’m proud of you?” Then give your partner what he/she needs as frequently as they need it.

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14. Learn About Your Damaging Cycles.

Partners can fall into damaging patterns.  A common pattern is the pursuer/withdrawer cycle.  One partner will attack, nag, or chatter in a way to provoke a reaction from the other.  Then the other will withdraw, stonewall, or leave to avoid the discomfort.  The first partner will then pursue more, driving the second partner deeper into withdrawal. Obviously, this will only lead to frustration by all.  The only way out is to recognize what’s going on and talk about it together.  Name it, claim it, and change.

15. Draw Boundaries That Won’t Set You Up.

When your partner asks something of you, be honest about your limitations.  Going along with things that you don’t truly want sets you up to feel disappointed and resentment later.  You are responsible when you do that to yourself.  Your partner cannot read your mind.  Be honest and set boundaries that will serve everyone in the long run.

16. Respect Yourself & Express Your Thoughts/Feelings Openly.

You have the right to say what you think and feel. A relationship built on false information intended to please your partner will eventually fall apart. Strong relationships are built on trust and respect, which can only happen when both partners are honest with each other.

17. Beware of Keeping Secrets to Protect Your Partner.

We are often tempted to protect our partners by keeping secrets from them. This positive intention often falls apart as time passes and unexpected consequences come to light. It can be very difficult to know when to share “secrets.” As much as you can, try to be as open as possible.

18. Take Responsibility for Your Own Limiting Beliefs.

We all have limiting beliefs.  They are the small voices that whisper in the dark, trying to protect us, but keeping us stuck in fear.  “I’ll always be disappointed.” “Men can’t be trusted.”  “Women will only use you for your money.” Your limiting beliefs are not your partner’s fault.  You had those beliefs long before your partner came along.  Learn to identify your limiting beliefs. Be careful that you are not projecting your beliefs onto your partner.

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19. Be True to Your Word.

Trust will be weak in a struggling relationships.  When you say you will do something or share what’s true for you, your partner is going to trust that is true.  It’s ok for you to change your mind, but take the time to catch your partner up to speed. This allows your partner to grow and change with you.

20. Take the Time to Express Appreciation.

We often take it for granted that our partners will know we are grateful for them. When we don’t take the time to express these simple appreciations, we begin to feel taken for granted.  Thank your partner whenever he/she does things that make your life easier and better.

21. Daydream Together.

We enter relationships to build lives together.  We often get caught up in the grind of life’s logistics.  Take the time to daydream together and explore what possibilities you both hope for in the future.  Make goals and plans to support each other to live out your dreams.

How else can struggling relationships turn around? Which of these ways do you think is the most powerful? Leave a comment below to share your thoughts.

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Last Updated on August 19, 2019

How to Be True to Yourself and Live the Life You Want

How to Be True to Yourself and Live the Life You Want

We live in a world that constantly tells us what to do, how to act, what to be. Knowing how to be true to yourself and live the life you want can be a challenge.

When someone asks how we are, we assume that the person does not mean the question sincerely, for it would lead to an in depth conversation. So telling them that you are good or fine, even if you’re not, is the usual answer.

In an ideal world, we would stop and truly listen. We wouldn’t be afraid to be ourselves. Instead, when we answer about how we are doing, our mask, the persona we show the world, tightens. Sometimes even more so than it might have been before. Eventually, it becomes hard to take off, even when you’re alone.

Imagine a world where we asked how someone was doing and they really told us. Imagine a world where there were no masks, only transparency when we talked to one another.

If you want to live in a world that celebrates who you are, mistakes and all, take off the mask. It doesn’t mean you have to be positive or fine all the time.

According to a Danish psychologist, Svend Brinkman, we expect each other to be happy and fine every second, and we expect it of ourselves. And that “has a dark side.”[1] Positive psychology can have its perks but not at the expense at hiding how you truly feel in order to remain seemingly positive to others.

No one can feel positive all the time and yet, that is what our culture teaches us to embrace. We have to unlearn this. That said, telling others you are ‘“fine”’ all the time is actually detrimental to your wellbeing, because it stops you from being assertive, from being authentic or your truest self.

When you acknowledge a feeling, it leads you to the problem that’s causing that feeling; and once you identify the problem, you can find a solution to it. When you hide that feeling, you stuff it way down so no one can help you.You can’t even help yourself.

Feelings are there for one reason: to be felt. That doesn’t mean you have to act on that feeling. It just means that you start the process of problem solving so you can live the life you want.

1. Embrace Your Vulnerability

When you are your true self, you can better self-advocate or stand up for what you need. Your self-expression matters, and you should value your voice. It’s okay to need things, it’s okay to speak up, and it’s okay not to be okay.

Telling someone you are simply “fine” when you are not, does your story and your journey a great disservice. Being true to yourself entails embracing all aspects of your existence.

When you bring your whole self to the table, there is nothing that you can’t beat. Here’re 7 benefits of being vulnerable you should learn.

Can you take off the mask? This is the toughest thing anyone can do. We have learned to wait until we are safe before we start to be authentic.

In relationships especially, this can be hard. Some people avoid vulnerability at any cost. And in our relationship with ourselves, we can look in the mirror and immediately put on the mask.

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It all starts with your story. You have been on your own unique journey. That journey has led you here, to the person you are today. You have to be unafraid, and embrace all aspects of that journey.

You should seek to thrive, not just survive. That means you do not have to compete or compare yourself with anyone.

Authenticity means you are enough. It’s enough to be who you are to get what you want.

What if for the first time ever, you were real? What if you said what you wanted to say, did what you wanted to do, and didn’t apologize for it?

You were assertive, forthcoming in your opinions or actions to stand for what is right for you, (rather than being passive or aggressive) in doing so. You didn’t let things get to you. You knew you had something special to offer.

That’s where we all should be.

So, answer me this:

How are you, really?

And know that no matter the answer, you should still be accepted.

Bravery is in the understanding that you still may not be accepted for your truth.

Bravery is knowing you matter even when others say that you do not.

Bravery is believing in yourself when all evidence counters doing so (i.e. past failures or losses)

Bravery is in being vulnerable while knowing vulnerability is a sign of strength.

It’s taking control.

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2. Choose Your Attitude in Adversity

You can take control of your destiny and live the life you want by being true to yourself. You can start anytime. You can start today.

You can start with one day at a time, just facing what happens that day. Most of us get overwhelmed when faced with the prospect of a big change. Even if the only thing we change is our attitude.

In one instant, you can become a different person with a change of attitude. When you take control of your attitude, you become able to better understand what is around you. This allows you to move forward.

Originally, you may have had a life plan. It could have started when you were little; you were hoping to become a mermaid, doctor, astronaut or all three when you grew up. You were hoping to be someone. You were hoping to be remembered.

You can still dream those dreams, but eventually reality sets in. Obstacles and struggles arise. You set on a different path when the last one didn’t work out. You think of all the “shoulds” in your life in living the life you want. You should be doing this…should be doing that…

Clayton Barbeau, psychologist, coined the term “shoulding yourself.’[2] When we are set on one path and find ourselves doing something different. It becomes all the things you should be doing rather than seeing the opportunities right in front of you.

But in all this disarray, did you lose sight of the real you?

It may be in our perceived failures and blunders that we lose sight of who we are, because we try to maintain position and status.

In being who we really are and achieving what we really want, we need to be resilient: How to Build Resilience to Face What Life Throws at You

It means that we do not see all possibilities of what might happen, but must trust ourselves to begin again, and continue to build the life we want. In the face of adversity, you must choose your attitude.

Can attitude overcome adversity? It certainly helps. While seeking to be true to yourself and live the life you want, you will have to face a fact:

Change will happen.

Whether that change is good or bad is unique to each person and their perspective.

You might have to start over, once, twice, a few times. It doesn’t mean that everything will be okay, but that you will be okay. What remains or should remain is the true you. When you’ve lost sight of that, you’ve lost sight of everything.

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And then, you rebuild. Moment after moment, day after day. We all have a choice, and in this moment, that matters.

You can choose to have a positive attitude, seeing the silver lining in each situation and, where there is none, the potential for one. Maybe that silver lining is you and what you will do with the situation. How will you use it for something good?

That’s how you can tap into yourself and your power. Sometimes it happens by accident, sometimes on purpose. It can happen when we aren’t even looking for it, or it can be your only focus. Everyone gets there differently.

You can rise, or you can remain. Your choice.

When the worst happens, you can rely on your authenticity to pull you through. That’s because Self Advocacy, speaking up to let others know what you need, is part of finding the real you.

There is nothing wrong with asking for help. Or sometimes, helping others can help us deal with the pain of a hurtful situation. You decide how you’re going to help others, and suddenly, you become your best self.

3. Do What Makes You Happy When No One’s Looking

Being the best version of you has nothing to do with your success or your status. It has everything to do with your Character, what you do when no one’s looking.

In order to create the life you want, you have to be the person you want to be. Faking it till you make it is just a way to white knuckle it through your journey. You have the fire inside of you to make things right, to put the pieces together, to live authentically. And Character is how you get there.

If you fall down and you help another up while you’re down there, it’s like you rise twice.

Along with attitude, your character is about the choices you make rather than what happens to you.

Yes, it’s about doing the right thing even when obstacles seem insurmountable.  It’s about using that mountain you’ve been given to show others it can be moved.  It’s about being unapologetically you, taking control, choosing your attitude in adversity and being the best version of you to create the life you want.

How do you know what you really want? Is it truly status or success?

Unfortunately, these things do not always bring happiness. And aspects of our image or “performance driven existence” may not achieve satisfaction. Materialism is part of our refusal to accept ourselves as enough. All the things we use to repress our true selves are about being enough.

“Enoughness” is what we truly seek, but ego gets in the way.

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Ego is the perception of self as outer worth. It’s not REAL self worth.

Ego represses our true self with a new self— the self of chasing ‘“Am I ever enough?”’ questions. And instead of filling our true selves with self-love and acceptance, when we “should ourselves” and chase “enoughness,” we feed the ego or our image.

It’s important to realize YOU ARE ENOUGH, without all the material trappings.

Stanford psychologist Meagan O’Reilly describes the damage of not thinking we are enough. One of her tactics for combating this is to complete the sentence,[3]

“If I believed I were already enough, I’d ____”

What would you do if you felt you were enough?

By believing you are enough, you can live the life you want.

So many fake it to try to get there, and they end up losing themselves when they lose more and more touch with their Authenticity.

Final Thoughts

By being yourself, you are being brave. By acknowledging all you can be, you tell the universe that you can until you believe it too. The steps are easy, and you are worth it. All of it is about the purpose you are leading and the passion that is your fuel.

Being true to yourself is all about mastering how to live life authentically rather than faking or forcing it. Having the life you want (and deserve) is about being trusting in yourself and the purpose you are living for. Both need passion behind it, fueling it each second, or you will experience burn out.

When you are authentic, you can call the road you walk your own. When you live your life for you and not just the results of all your actions (faking it till you make it), you can let go of what you don’t need. This clarifies and pushes purpose to you, living for something that is greater than you.

You will find that making decisions based on what will actually achieve your goals, will help you attain the life you want, and your success with each step, will allow you to enjoy the process. Good luck!

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Featured photo credit: Ariana Prestes via unsplash.com

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