8 Ways to Cultivate Positive Relationships

These practical tips are sure to boost the meaningful connections in your life

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- Posted on Feb 28, 2019

8 Ways to Cultivate Positive Relationships

We have been taught from childhood that—in the right relationship—love is effortless. Once we find Mr. or Mrs. Right, our relationship will mature into a beautiful bond shielded from arguments, tears or frustration.

The truth is that every committed partnership, friendships and work relationships included, goes through—what I like to call—puberty, full of pimples and ugly haircuts. How we navigate through that formative stage, however, determines the level of intimacy we will later enjoy. Here are eight ways to cultivate positive relationships in your life.

1. Communicate, don’t assume.

Assumptions are the termites of any relationship, eroding the communication that is the foundation of trust and vulnerability. You may think you know exactly what your partner is thinking—enough even to finish his or her sentence. However, it is impossible to fully know what’s going on inside their head.

Cast aside your assumptions and articulate your feelings as best you can, with as much detail as possible. Ask your partner to do the same. Resist the urge to judge the other’s feelings. Replace any “right” and “wrong” categories of emotions with an umbrella of unconditional acceptance.

2. Listen.

American-German philosopher Paul Tillich once said, “The first duty of love is to listen.” It demonstrates respect. Giving a person our wholehearted attention is bestowing the gift of time, a precious pearl in our multitasking culture.

While we can accomplish more if we put a friend on speakerphone, as we fold the laundry or clean up our desk, we lose some of the connection. We are best to imitate Mary in the Gospel of Luke, who sat at Jesus’ feet listening to what he had to say, as opposed to her sister, Martha, who busied herself in the kitchen preparing a meal for their guest.

3. Practice manners.

We know to say please and thank you, but there are other courtesies that generate a sense of appreciation and respect between partners.

For example, call when you are going to be late, greet your partner at the beginning of the day, check in periodically to say “I love you,” say good night before bed, have dinner together or let your partner know why you won’t be home.

Shakespeare once said, “He does not love who does not show love.” Try to express love in small ways every day.

4. Affirm your partner.

In her book For Women Only: What You Need to Know About the Inner Lives of Men, nationally syndicated newspaper columnist Shaunti Feldhahn synthesizes what she learned from interviewing more than 1,000 men about their needs. One key finding is that men crave affirmation. When they receive encouragement and support from their partners, they become much more secure and confident in everything they do.

Jed Diamond says much the same in his piece for Stand Magazine. “We long for that safe harbor where we don’t have to pretend to be something we’re not in order to be chosen,” he writes. “We long for someone who sees us for who we are and wants us anyway, who can hold us and touch, not just our body, but our hearts and souls.” Be that person. For your male or female partner.

5. Use good body language.

Research shows words account for only 7 percent of the message we communicate to a person, while our body language (55 percent) and tone of voice (38 percent) do most of the talking.

We may carefully craft our phrases, however, our memo is lost on the other person if our speech isn’t consistent with our posture, hand gestures and tone of voice. Make sure your body and tone of voice match the intention of your words.

6. Know each other’s love language

According to pastor and author Gary Chapman, emotional needs are met in five ways: words of affirmation, quality of time, receiving gifts, acts of service, and physical touch. You need not waste your time penning a lengthy love letter if your partner hears “I love you” more directly in a folded load of laundry. Familiarize yourself with your partner’s love language so that you can communicate love and appreciation most effectively.

7. Do an activity together

Friedrich Nietzsche once said, “It’s not a lack of love, but lack of friendship that makes unhappy marriages.” A meaningful friendship is critical to all primary relationships, not just marriage.

Participating in an activity together is a great way to foster a playful connection. Not only do you discover common interests, but you bond in an environment away from work, the kids, or responsibilities at home. Consider signing up for a cooking class, visiting a museum, or training together for a 5K. Venture outside of your comfort zone and try something new.

8. Pray together

A friend once told me that when you invite God into your relationship, you create a braid that protects your union from fraying. This third string of faith becomes a unifying force in the partnership, joining the strands together in a deeper commitment.

In her piece When Two Pray, Stormie Omartian writes, “Just as physical intimacy reaffirms your oneness, so does praying together. When you pray as a couple, you are not only communicating with God, but also with each other. You can learn so much about one another by sharing prayer requests and listening to each other pray.”

My husband and I have recently benefited from the power of praying together. I sometimes envision the braid that is being woven during our moments of petition before God.

Any relationship that is meaningful requires work. In striving to be kinder, more considerate people, we nurture the bonds of lasting friendship and deepen our intimacy with one another. We also transform ourselves – we become better people. Listen, communicate, affirm, and pray. These are the seeds that will 

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