7 Steps to Good Relationships

Improve Relationships

The joys and pains of relationships are never as pronounced as during Holiday periods. With Thanksgiving and Christmas fast approaching, use these seven steps as building blocks to strengthen your relationships. You'll have a more satisfying and joyous Holiday period, and so will those close to you.

Although the approaching Holidays provide an immediate incentive, there are also long term benefits to be gained. Reputable studies show a strong correlation between happiness and high quality relationships. It's therefore in our best interests to nurture and build strong relationships for this Holiday season and beyond.

From many articles and studies of the characteristics of strong relationships we can distill the following list of seven important steps or components; think of these as relationship building blocks.

  • Commitment
  • Freedom
  • Respect
  • Support
  • Equality
  • Healthy conflict resolution
  • Trust

Committed Relationship

Fundamental to a strong relationship is commitment. Commitment to making the relationship strong and healthy is the foundation on which it can grow. Relationships take work. They take effort. Like life itself, relationships are dynamic, ever changing because we are ever changing. A strong relationship requires continuous nurturing, and that takes commitment.

Commitment to the relationship means unconditionally caring about maintaining and improving the relationship, even during times of anger or disappointment. There may be times when you aren't even sure you like the other person, but if you're committed you'll spend the effort to sustain the relationship during tough times.

Freedom to Be Me

Freedom may be the toughest component of all to implement. But it may also be the most important after commitment. All humans desire freedom; more than desire, freedom is a drive we have to be ourselves. From the two-year old who proclaims, "I can do it myself!" to the twenty-two year old who forgoes the family business to go her own way, we all want freedom to do it our way.

While we each crave and value our own freedom, we often have just as strong a drive to control others. Call it a carryover from parenting or a way of assuring our own freedoms, controlling another person is a sure way to weaken and damage a relationship.

Granting another person the freedom to be themselves, to stretch and grow or to wither and stagnate, is the ultimate result of love--unconditional love. The freedom inherent in unconditional love may sorely test our own feelings of self confidence and self esteem, yet it's so important for us to realize that we bring people toward us when we let go of any inclination to control.

Respect Others

Respect, R-E-S-P-E-C-T as Uretha Franklin sang it, is a critical component of freedom. It's the partner of freedom in that respecting another person's competence and individuality provides the positive support so important to freedom.

A contrast makes this point: suppose someone grants you the freedom to follow your dream with an underlying current of disrespect. It might sound something like, "Go ahead if you must, I'll be right here after you've chased that dream." In other words, the person thinks you'll fail and you'll come crawling back.

The same scenario with respect might sound like, "Go ahead, I know how important this is to you and I support you 100%. I know you can do it!" Obviously, we'd all like to hear this latter response because of the inherent respect and support it conveys.

Support Those You Care About

Support is an important factor in any relationship. As we stretch ourselves, as we encounter rough spots and obstacles, a supportive relationship gives us strength and reassurance. Support rejuvenates and re-energizes. Aren't we all attracted to people who are supportive of us?

Treat Everyone as an Equal

Equality is the enabler that says we're both equal partners in this marriage, partnership, or friendship. A parent-child relationship is fine for teens and below, but among partners, friends, and adult children and their parents, without the underlying recognition of equality, respect is limited, support is more controlling than supportive, and commitment is probably more toward control than growth.

Learn Healthy Conflict Resolution

Healthy conflict resolution is a component that smoothes the rough edges of relationships. Rough edges will occur. There will be disagreements, differences of opinion, and even disappointments of behavior. A knowledge of techniques and dedication to resolve conflicts with respect, support, and equality can actually strengthen a relationship. Unstated is the recognition of "look what we've gone through together. We're strong."

Trust is a Relationship Glue

Trust is an attitude that could have been the first step mentioned. For without our inherent trust of each other, we will be unable to grant freedom, to treat each other with respect and equality, and be supportive. Some say that trust is earned. But trust must be an assumed attitude that is fundamental to commitment to the relationship. If someone distrusts you until you prove trustworthy, you cannot provide the freedom, respect, and support that nurtures and strengthens a relationship.

Obviously, the seven steps of a strong relationship do not come serially, one after the other. They are all important and must be simultaneously present. It is helpful, though, to consider them as step by step tools for building a strong relationship. And commitment does come first, as the foundation for stable and strong relationships. When we commit to something, it happens.

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