I would venture to say that right now you have at least 10 relationships in your life.
Obviously, I am not just talking about romantic relationships. We also have relationships with our parents, our children, our co-workers, maybe an ex-spouse, etc.
When one relationship is out of whack it can affect all of our other ones as well.
Here are 6 simple ways to make sure that each of our relationships is fulfilling and positive (most of the time).
These tips can work just as well for dealing with your spouse as with dealing with your next door neighbor.
1. Live Without Expectations
Expectations are resentments waiting to happen. When we expect someone to do something, or make us feel a certain way and they don’t we usually feel let down, disappointed, and resentful.
One of the biggest expectations out there is the happiness expectation. Especially with romantic partners, we want someone (really, we expect them to) make us happy.
Then when the shiny newness of the relationship wears off and we start feeling unhappy again (because we have not figured out that we need to make ourselves happy), we resent them for it. We feel they are to blame.
I know it sounds bleak but don’t expect anyone to do anything for you. Even on your birthday. If you want a special day, create one for yourself. Go ahead, make the reservations at your favorite restaurant, buy yourself flowers.
Plan a great day for yourself and if other people do something special for you, then that only makes it even more wonderful.
It sure beats sitting at home, resenting the fact that you are not being treated as the queen you are.
Don’t expect others to find something important just because you do.
For example, in my house the door to the garage gets extremely dirty. Every time I go out the door, I notice the dirt.
It used to bug me all the time. I would think why doesn’t my husband do something about this, he goes out just as much as I do. Is he just waiting for me to do it?
So every time I went out the door, a little deposit would be made in the resentment bank.
You know what I finally realized? It doesn’t bother him, at least not as much as it bothers me. It I want it clean, then I should clean it. It doesn’t matter whose chore it technically should be. Clean it, get it over with, feel better, and move on.
2. Set Boundaries
Boundaries are about you. They are not to be used as punishment. They are about protecting your peace.
Maybe discussing politics with your father always leads to a fight. You could set a boundary that you will no longer discuss politics with him.
Decide what you will do if the boundary is crossed. Maybe go for a walk, change the subject, or cut the visit short.
The next step is to inform the other person about the boundary beforehand.
You might say something like “Dad, I love you and you know I want to spend time with you. However, whenever we discuss politics it always turns into a shouting match. That is why I have decided that I can no longer talk about politics with you. If the subject does come up, I will change the subject or leave if I have to.”
3. Put Down the Magnifying Glass and Pick Up the Mirror
We seem to have no problem finding faults in others. We could probably make a list of the things that bug us about our boss, our spouse, our brother, etc.
Here’s the thing though. If there is repeated pattern of behavior that bothers us about somebody, we need to look inside ourselves.
Usually a characteristic that we find off-putting in someone else is also something we are trying to deny about ourselves.
You may be saying “no way, I don’t act like that at all”. Okay, you may not manifest it in exactly the same way. But I bet if you take the time and dig deep you will find a relationship to something you don’t like about yourself.
4. Use “I” Statements
Ever notice when we are having a heated conversation with somebody we throw around a lot of “you”s.
You did this to me. You made me angry. You are a jerk.
When we use the word “you” in this way, we are making accusations, blaming, and giving away our power by making someone else responsible for our feelings.
Take responsibility. I felt hurt when this happened. I am angry. I don’t feel respected by what happened.
You are in control of your feelings. Don’t give that power to someone else. Choose how you want to let their behavior affect you and then own up to it.
5. Bite Your Tongue
It can be incredibly hard, but try to not immediately react when someone does something that pisses you off or makes you feel uncomfortable.
At least pause long enough to take a breath and plan how you are going to respond.
Remember the THINK tool. Is what I am about to say Thoughtful, Helpful, Intelligent, Necessary, and Kind?
If not, maybe take another breath and either come up with something that is or say you need a longer time out before you continue the conversation.
If a situation is bothering you, ideally give it 24 hours before you bring it up. In 24 hours it may not seem that important anymore.
And if there is something that you believe is really hurtful to the relationship and may effect whether you continue in it or not, try to give it even longer.
Come up with a date in the future. Maybe a month, maybe six. And then let it go. If the issue is still present on that date then by all means take action.
It’s surprising how many things that we think are urgent and devastating in the moment don’t matter at all in six months’ time.
6. Don’t Take it Personally
I’m sorry to tell you, but not everything that happens is because of you.
Not everything that somebody says to you is a reflection on you. It is a reflection on them. On what kind of mood they are in. On how their day went. Etc.
Everybody is dealing with their own stuff and sometimes you just happen to be in the line of fire when it hits the fan.
The best thing to do is just give them some space and continue on with what you were doing.
They will cool off. Maybe they will apologize. Maybe not. Just don’t let it eat you up inside.
You may have to set a new boundary. Like “for my own good, I will hold off on having a conversation with my husband until after he has had his cup of coffee in the morning.”
Relationships are complicated. Some more than others.
This is just a small sampling of the things we can do to keep our relationships fulfilling and positive.
The most important thing is the effort. As long as we are striving to improve then that means we still care.
About the Author: Nicole is a Mediator, Conflict Resolution Coach, and founder of SerenityAfterDivorce.com where she aims to bring peace to divorced families. To find out the biggest mistakes women make after a divorce, grab her free special report.