We’ve compiled some of our favorite ideas, facts and expert advice to strengthen and cultivate healthy, happy relationships in almost every aspect of our lives.
Love is a flower—you’ve got to let it grow,” Beatles legend John Lennon said. In truth, it’s perhaps the most beautiful flower we could ever plant (no green thumb required). We have to water it with affection, fertilize it with compassion and shelter it from the storms of everyday life.
Here are 4 Ways to Strengthen the Relationships in Your Life:
Journal with your spouse. Find a journal—anything will do, including a basic spiral notebook—and take a few minutes to write to each other. Remind your spouse why you love him or her, whether it’s generosity toward those in need or unfailing ability to make you smile. Ask your spouse out on a date. Most of all, keep your writing positive and focused on each other. When you do, you’ll end up creating the ultimate mood-booster and a family heirloom that generations to come will read and cherish.
Send a greeting card. Sending a text message or email is a quick, easy way to say hello to a friend or relative, but sending a physical greeting card shows thought and effort and love. Plus, your recipient can post your card on his or her refrigerator or desk as a daily reminder of you and your relationship.
Collect ticket stubs. Remember when you enjoyed the evening under the stars and listened to your favorite band play? Or when you saw that awful movie together? Keep the ticket stubs from wherever your life as a couple takes you, collect them in a glass jar and place it visibly in your home. When you add new tickets to your collection, take a couple of minutes to look at the other stubs in your jar and reminisce about the fun you’ve had together.
Plan the ultimate family fun day. Mark it on your calendars. Treat it as seriously as you would a work meeting or soccer practice, and escape the commotion of life for a day of family fun. Get the entire family involved in the planning—surprise the kids with a short day trip; attend a local festival; or maybe even spend the day at home baking, watching movies and building a fort. Your family fun day doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg; it’s more about the entire family spending time together, creating memories and laughing.
Take it From the Experts
How can we communicate more effectively with our loved ones?
“For more than four decades I have been privileged to share the five love languages with people around the world. Understanding this concept gives individuals the information needed to effectively express love. By nature, we do for our loved ones what we wish they would do for us. We assume they feel loved. When they eventually say to us, ‘I feel like you don’t love me,’ we are surprised. The problem was not our sincerity. The problem was we were not speaking their love language.”—Gary D. Chapman, Ph.D., author of The 5 Love Languages series
What are some of the relationship-building benefits of the family dinner?
“In today’s fast-paced, technology-steeped culture, having family dinner is the most doable way to hang out together; there are few other settings where the family gathers….Family dinner provides a way to connect…a time to unwind, to check in, to laugh together, to tell stories. These benefits don’t depend on you making a gourmet meal, using organic ingredients or cooking from scratch. Food brings the family to the table, but it is the conversation and the connection that keeps the family at the table and provides the emotional benefits.”—Anne Fishel, Ph.D., author of Home for Dinner: Mixing Food, Fun, and Conversation for a Happier Family and Healthier Kids
What is the single most important thing we can do to improve our relationships with our children?
“Our relationships with our children improve the most when we work on our relationships with ourselves. When we find ways to be happy and calm and present, we are warmer and more responsive to our children, better listeners—and more consistent disciplinarians.”—Christine Carter, Ph.D., author of The Sweet Spot: How to Find Your Groove at Home and Work
How do we use play to make our relationships stronger?
“If you get into a win-lose situation, ‘I have to win and the other person has to lose,’ you are in an irresolvable situation. If on the other hand you can play with the others’ ideas without reacting to them and they can play with yours, you usually can arrive at a solution or compromise, a creative way of unifying these two differences.”—Dr. Stuart Brown, author of Play: How It Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul.
How can we create long-lasting, happy relationships?
“Relationships thrive when there is an investment in an emotional piggy bank. Without a balance of positive feelings for each other, there is little to draw on during difficult times. The best way of allowing these positive feelings for each other to grow is to not deplete them. If you can have fewer negative emotions and reactions with each other in the first place, it can help preserve your positive resources.”—Daniel Tomasulo, Ph.D., MFA, MAPP, author of Confessions of a Former Child: A Therapist’s Memoir
Just the Facts
Be an Active, Constructive Responder
Fact: Martin Seligman, Ph.D., says our responses to our partners can turn a “good relationship into an excellent one.” Use positive emotions when engaging with your partner by genuinely smiling, touching and laughing. Source: Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-Being
Fact: Research suggests that your future spouse is less than three degrees from you in your social network. So, go out and be social—you have a 68 percent chance of meeting your soul mate through someone you know. Source: Connected: The Surprising Power of Our Social Networks and How They Shape Our Lives—How Your Friends’ Friends’ Friends Affect Everything You Feel, Think, and Do
Happy and Healthy
Fact: According to psychologist Ed Diener, Ph.D., close relationships influence our happiness and health. Being in a relationship with someone who shares mutual understanding, caring and validation can greatly improve your life satisfaction. Source: Happiness: Unlocking the Mysteries of Psychological Wealth
Fact: Studies suggest that people with higher levels of wellbeing are more likely to eventually find marriage partners than those with lower levels. Also, they are more likely to have stronger marriages. Source: The Oxford Handbook of Happiness
Laughter Is the Best Medicine