for Nurturing Relationships
Cathy Morton, Ph.D.
Samaritan Counseling Centers
of the Mid-South
Relationships are fragile things and do
not blossom and grow without work. There are a number of basic
principles which, if applied, will strengthen any relationship.
These include making time for each other, good communication,
willingness to listen, compromise, and mutual respect.
can replace time for nurturing a relationship. Making time
for another demonstrates that the relationship is significant
to you. Although this seems like a simple principle, finding
time in a busy schedule can often be difficult. When you make
time for another, whether a friend or spouse, it shows that
you value the relationship. You are placing time with another
person as a priority over other activities. The quality of
the time is also important. When you spend time with another
person, give them your whole attention and focus. Do not let
distractions divide your attention. If you devote quality
time to the relationship, the other person will feel valued.
Beyond this, trust increases with time spent, and trust is
integral to a close bond.
communication will help you feel heard and will circumvent
misunderstandings. There is an easy formula to basic communication,
especially in conflict. The first step is to own your feelings
by saying, "I feel
(angry, frustrated, etc.) ."
When you state how you feel, rather than pointing your finger
at another, you get a load off your chest and you avoid putting
someone else on the defensive. This makes them more open to
hearing and responding to you. The next step is to name the
problem by putting your finger on the issue that is at the
root of your feelings. The final step is to suggest a solution,
preferably one that meets your needs and the needs of the
other person. Thus the whole phrase is, "I feel
and I would prefer
" This may sound a little stilted,
and it certainly can be elaborated upon, but when you are
at a loss, this formula can come in very handy. Remember,
you can also use it to share positive feelings, as in, "I
feel happy when you help me around the house, and I would
really love it if you would help me in the future."
is the reciprocal of good communication, and really listening
is harder than you may think. It is not just allowing the
words to come into your ears and awareness. Good listening
is about paying attention and hearing the feeling behind the
words. For example, if someone says, "I'm sick of this
house always being filthy!" it sounds, on the surface,
as if they are referring to housekeeping. Underneath, however,
they really may be talking about feeling tired, unappreciated,
and overwhelmed. If you can pinpoint the feelings behind a
statement-- saying, "You must feel tired (or frustrated,
or overwhelmed)"-- you can make the other person feel
is at the heart of any good relationship. This is because
any relationship involves more than one entity. No one can
have their way all the time, and no relationship is perfectly
divided in the area of compromise. Sometimes it is 50/50;
sometimes it is 90/10. If you enjoy the benefits of the support
of another, then you must be willing to be supportive.
is impossible to have a healthy relationship with someone
you do not respect. Sooner or later, it will show. Respecting
another person does not mean that you must believe the same
things; it means that you do not try to change those differences.
Being in a relationship with another also means that you respect
boundaries and privacy, and that you offer support but do
not press too hard.
these guidelines does not guarantee that you will have successful
relationships. It does mean that the relationships will be
better and more fulfilling. If you have read this and recognize
that one of these elements is missing from an important relationship
in your life, try adding that element. You may surprise yourself.
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