3 Tips to Instantly Improve Relationships

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There are some great articles out this week that I highly recommend checking out.

Over at Verily Magazine, Kara Eschbach and Monica Gabriel respond to an article in The Atlantic that touted “Boys on the Side,” as a good strategy for women seeking to pursue career first, love second. Sheila Gregoire, Courtney, Jennifer, and Darlene Schacht have collectively focused this week on helping women revamp their marriages by speaking words of praise towards their husbands.

What does this have to do with us who are young adults, many who are single and not yet married?

We have grown up in a hook-up culture that encourages us to compartmentalize sex, to carefully separate our head from our heart, and to view the opposite sex as a means to an end. Too many of us are building habits that are ultimately going to sabotage our future relationships.

What we learn from the hook-up culture is completely different from how we need to treat our spouse, whether future or present.

That is, if you want a successful marriage built on intimacy, communication, trust, and mutual respect.

So what can be done today that will change how we do relationships and set us up for stronger marriages down the road? Whether single or newly married, we can all work to improve in at least one of the following.

1. Focus on the majors, not the minors Sadly, it’s often easier for me to pick out what someone is doing wrong, where they’re failing, or falling short rather than focusing on what they’re dong right. Rarely are they huge, catastrophic failures. If I’m honest with myself, I’m often focusing on that other person’s sliver of imperfection to avoid facing my own flaws.

Everyone does things that will frustrate us. Welcome to living in a world with 7 billion other people. I cannot control what they do, but I can control how I choose to respond and whether or not I will allow the small irritations to grow me as a person or get under my skin.

2. Encourage more than you critique Who is one person you interact with on a regular basis? Perhaps it is a roommate, a spouse, a boyfriend or girlfriend, a coworker, or a family member. As the saying goes, “Familiarity breeds contempt.” The more time you spend with them, the more you get to know them, the good, the bad, and the downright annoying. It can be tempting to criticise them under the guise of wanting to correct them so they can ‘grow’ as a person.

This week, make a point to encourage them, to focus on the positive, and reinforce what they’re doing right. I’ve found when I intentionally speak words that build rather than destroy, that other person begins to wear on me less. Perhaps it’s because they are starting to believe the good about themselves and seeking to live more towards the positive that I’m reinforcing. Often, it’s because I am no longer focusing on their flaws, but instead seeing them in light of what they add to my life.

3. Forgive quickly How many of you have been hurt, wounded, and disappointed by people in your life? Sadly, that is the casualty of being in relationship with living, breathing, free thinking, and imperfect individuals. When we open ourselves up to care about someone, whether it be a friend, a family member, a spouse or even someone we’re ‘just hooking up with,’ we’re also making ourselves vulnerable to being hurt.

It’s easy to hold on to that pain, to keep track of the offense, and to allow bitterness to take root.

Fight it.

Fight it hard for it will end up destroying you more than that other person. Especially if they don’t even know they’ve hurt you! Forgiving does not mean that other person will instantly repent of their wrongs, or stop doing what is hurtful. Neither does it mean that you by necessity have to stay in that relationship if it is verbally, physically, emotionally, or sexually abusive. Forgiving them will set you free to move on, to begin to heal, and to restore what has been hurt in you.

Is there someone you know you need to forgive? Just as important, is there someone you need to ask for forgiveness?

The most imperfect person I know is the one that stared back at me from the mirror every morning.

As quick as I need to be to forgive, I need to be just as quick to ask for forgiveness when I have offended, disappointed, slighted, or wounded.

In order to be in close relationship with others, we will need to be people who learn to speak praise towards others, to discern the major from the minor, and to forgive often and quickly.

How much do we need that ourselves from those around us?

What is one aspect from above that you can focus on this week? What have you found works to strengthen your relationships?