How To Build a Strong Relationship

One of my favorite teachers during High School took one day a year to set aside all other lesson plans and talk about how to build strong relationships in our lives. I’ve never forgotten what he said, and I think it’s only fair to share with others what has changed my view of the world. There were only three pointers to his advice, and I’ll tell you what I thought and he thought about each one of them.

  1. Turn Small Annoyances into Endearments
  2. All Give no Take
  3. Don’t Worry about the Money

Turn Small Annoyances into Endearments. This doesn’t mean ‘if he/she’s being abusive or cruel or otherwise malignant, deal with it. Nonononononono. That’s not the sort of thing you classify as a small annoyance, that’s a major, serious situation and must be treated as such. But I’m talking about the little things–pet peeves, doors left open,  bedside stashes of candy (who, me?), and to-do lists lying all over the place. Things that could end up bugging a party in the relationship to no end for no reason. Well, if it’s something quirky about them–or even not so quirky, just them–why not appreciate it? Why not smile when you walk in to see every drawer in the kitchen open, or the garage door still up three hours after they’ve come home? If it’s something that makes them them, why not laugh a little and think ‘they’re so cute, I love them’ instead of frowning? It takes less muscle power, and you’ll feel a lot better too.

All Give No Take. Not to be confused with All Give No Get, this principle helps keep a relationship in an upward spiral rather than a downward slide. You can still get a lot out of a relationship without taking it, and it’s much better to have it willingly than to have grabbed it by force. Basically, the all give no take principle is one of action. Rather than getting after someone for not taking out the trash, forgetting to pick up the jam or not having dinner ready on time, it’s much more effective and edifying to offer to do it yourself. I’m not saying lie down and let them walk all over you–but any relationship is largely based on trust, and that’s much easier to come by when both parties are prone to offer service for one another. Remember, communication is key: know what your expectations of each other are, but when in doubt about whether or not it’s their responsibility, just take the initiative and serve them. You’ll get a lot more in return.

Don’t Worry About the Money. If you’re married to a gambling addict and have gone bankrupt because of it, please by all means seek the help and support you need to help them. If you’re in a similar circumstance to that, likewise–but don’t let it ruin your marriage. In those and less extreme circumstances, do not let money become the source of arguments or bad feeling. Supporting yourselves and living a healthy lifestyle is important–but it’s worthless if you’re left empty emotionally or worse, scarred from bitter words and heated arguments. As a general rule, worrying doesn’t help much of anything–as it doesn’t get the problem fixed and only aggravates emotions on both sides. When finances get involved, worrying can turn destructive. Budget well, communicate–always!–but don’t take it out on each other.

I loved his advice, simply because it made so much sense to me. Obviously advice can be taken to extremes or interpreted wrongly, but each of these tips really resonated with me. Obviously, any one of these are easier in theory than they are in practice. But the only way to get there is to start trying–today. Hank Smith, a favorite speaker of mine, says that the only way to get anything done is to kill the ‘future me’ myth: if you stop thinking about doing it in the future and start instead today–right now–this minute, then great things can start happening. Of course you won’t be perfect at it, but you will have started. And that’s what’s most important, because you can’t get anywhere until you’ve taken your first step.

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