7 tips to improve your relationship

Since Valentines Day is approaching, let’s talk relationships. Relationships can be difficult to manage, whether it is a spouse, significant other, parent or friend. It is hard not to be hurt when you perceive that someone wronged you in some way. Here are a few things to remember when sensitivity shows up and you find yourself angry at someone.

1. Don’t personalize. It rarely is about you. We all have a certain way of interacting with the people in our lives based on old hurts and experiences. Those ways are ingrained in us based on how we were treated in the past and how our view of the world developed. We tend to take things personally, but they rarely are personal. When you become upset with someone, take time to be curious to think about why you are so rattled by it. Is it triggering something from your past in some way? Is this really about you or more about how they respond to most people in their lives. Rarely does one act a certain way to just one person.

2. Don’t pre-get mad. I often talk about “beginners mind,” a concept where we don’t have any preconceived notions and look at something with fresh eyes. We tend to get annoyed at people before they even act, because we just expect them to act a certain way. I coined the phrase “pre-get mad” when I was with a friend and saw that she was starting to get annoyed with her husband before he even did anything. She was expecting him to do something wrong, so she was already annoyed! When I pointed it out, she was able to see what she was doing and proceeded mindfully with a new attitude.

3. Don’t make assumptions. We often assume we know all the facts about a situation, when we don’t. This is a little like pre-getting mad, but when we make assumptions it can cause a lot of unnecessary trouble.

4. Embrace imperfections and take responsibility. You knew all the qualities about this person when you first met, so try and remember what attracted you to them. Even though those things may now annoy you, accept those imperfections and love them anyway.

5. You can’t change anyone (long-term anyway). We are so quick to judge others and tend to think we know best. In reality, we have to trust that they know what is best for THEM, just like you know what is best for you. You are not in their shoes and it is overstepping to try and change that person. If someone doesn’t act how you think they should act, your only option is to change YOUR response and actions, and in turn, maybe it will change them. Also, if someone criticizes you try not to become defensive, and see if there is a shred of truth to it. Our egos don’t want to be bruised, so we will always fight back, but maybe being curious is a better way to go. Self-awareness can be obtained if we are not judging ourselves, but taking a closer look.

6. Have gratitude. Think about the positive things in your relationship, instead of comparing to others, the media or wishing things were different. Gratitude wins the day again, so appreciate what you DO have.

7. Act as if your dating. Do you want an immediate way to improve your relationship? Act as you would if you just met the person. That is when we put our best self forward and are mindful of our actions. After we have been together for awhile, we stop paying attention to our behavior and our default way of being comes out. When we are trying to win someone over, we pay close attention to how we act and speak. So, start to notice your words and behavior… and be mindful!

Here is one last bonus tip:
Put down the phone and fully listen when someone is speaking to you. Besides being disrespectful, its just rude! Happy Valentines Day.

Relationships are complicated, but if we are mindful and give them some attention, we just may be able to improve them. However, if you realize the relationship is toxic, emotionally or physically abusive and/or brings out the worst in you, it may be time to move on.

My next group meeting will address some of these points, but if you are struggling with your relationship, and need some perspective, come see me privately.