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Lonely? Relationship Stress?

Maybe you’re lonely, or feeling unloved. Maybe someone is driving you crazy.

But whatever it is, relationships can affect your well-being more than almost anything else.

Some aspects of relationships are out of your control. You can’t make someone change. But there are some things you can do that have a high probability of improving the relationship.

I want to share the best of what I’ve learned from my training in relationship coaching, from my years of ministry, and from over 40 years of marriage.

1. Be intentional to spend quality time. It’s amazing how many of us are sad because we don’t feel close to someone, yet we don’t do our part to get with them, or call or text them. Don’t worry about whether they reach out to you. Doing so may not be their strength, and it may not mean that they don’t care.

2. Nurture the relationship. A relationship is actually the connecting point of one soul with another. Thus, you have to find ways for connections to take place. See their soul. Listen well. Do something you both enjoy. Serve them. Flirt, if it’s a romantic relationship. Open up and be vulnerable. Have good talks.

3. Avoid the energy drainers. Just as a relationship can be nurtured, it can also be damaged. Figure out what you do that sucks the life out of it. Tell the person what they do that makes it difficult for you. (But choose your battles, because it’s also important to bear with one another in love.)

3. Set ground rules. Sit down together and define what is not okay (e.g. no cussing, no name calling, no interrupting, no raising voices). Expect to negotiate. The ground rules will be what you both agree on. Later, if they forget, humbly remind them of the agreement. (Or they may remind you!)

4. See and believe in their best. It can be so easy to see someone’s flaws and what they do wrong. Reflect the heart of Jesus, who saw Peter as the “rock.” (Mt 16:18) Live out Philippians 4:8 and think about whatever is true, noble, etc. in the person. Remember that “love always hopes.” (I C 13:7)

5. Value the relationship over being right. Sure, there are times when it’s important to stand up for what’s right. But the issue is often not as important as the relationship is, and when you make it about determining who’s more right, it can damage the relationship.

7. Use reflective listening. Don’t jump in and reply with your side. Instead, show them you were listening by summarizing what you heard. Then, ask a question, like “tell me more,” or “help me understand.” After that, you can give them your perspective.

8. Express thanks and praise often. If you get in the habit of doing this, you’ll likely be amazed at how the dynamics of your relationship change.

9. Take ownership of your happiness. Don’t take ownership of theirs. Don’t expect someone to make you happy. Your happiness is your responsibility. Don’t feel like it’s your fault if someone is unhappy, or like you have to do something to make them feel better. (I know it's complicated, but think about this.)

10. Tell yourself, “This is not that.” Don’t let your emotional baggage rule the relationship. Just because something happened in the past doesn’t mean that it’s happening this time.

11. Find a way to have good talks. For some reason, this is difficult. Yet it's a game changer. So make it a priority. Go on walks together. Go out for coffee. Put the kids to bed on time. Do a devotional book together. Schedule a phone call.

The truth is that you weren't created to be independent, but interdependent. Each relationship is a connection, and how you treat someone will affect you as well. Don't allow yourself to get in that downward spiral of treating others as they treat you. Be a force for good in the relationship.

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