5 Ways to Improve Relationships

Brian M Murray, MS, IMH

Relationships are all around us and they exist whether it is marriage, friendships, in-laws and coworkers and chances are there will be challenging times when we try to find ways to get along with each other. At some point there will be conflict within a relationship but it does not always have to be this way. When relationships become dysfunctional, finding ways to navigate through those can be challenging. Being around others who are healthy can bring value and joy to life. Lifetime friends and special people we identify with in our families can generate feelings of appreciation of both what we receive and what we are able to give. Healthy relationships are built on give and take and not all take and not all give. While there are numerous ways to evaluate a relationship, here are 5 ways that can help enhance relationships.

1.      Do you trust each other? Let’s face it, if there is no trust in any relationship then developing anything significant is halted at the trust gate. Trust puts a limit on how far a person is willing to allow another person into their life. Trust often puts up a wall that says “hold on right there, that is far enough until I get to know you better.” This is especially true in intimate relationships such as marriage. If someone gets married to another person out of feelings of obligation or guilt of disappointing the other person and trust is still an issue then guess what? Trust remains an issue. There have been situations when people have been married to each other for years with one partner still not trusting the other and live a life that is very veiled or what some may refer to as “living a lie.”


2.      Do you respect each other’s opinions when they are different? While this may be difficult to do when cheering for opposing teams or who to vote for in politics, this is more about the context or foundation of which the relationship exists. There are countless times when one person’s way of viewing situations in life does not match others. When this happens it often becomes grounds for dismissal of a friendship or even divorce. An example of an unhealthy way of viewing someone’s opinion is to evaluate the person as a “hater” just because they do not agree with you. A more healthy way says “I don’t agree with your view or opinion, but I respect you anyway regardless.” It goes along the old adage, “can we agree to disagree?”   


3.      Do you encourage each other’s hobbies and leisure activities? Healthy encouragement can go a long way to build relationships. Being critical of what other people do create hurt and anger and becomes destructive. People who are genuinely supportive of each other want the other person to have fun and do things that bring joy and excitement to their lives. Sometimes this can inspire others to want to join in on the fun.



4.      Do you problem solve without name calling and put downs? Calling another person names is about tearing the other person down. It is a form of bullying and it is an attempt to control and take possession of the other person. Solving problems is about reconciliation and helping each other overcome an obstacle. Name calling and putting the other person down only creates feelings of resentment and anger and solves nothing. Disagreements become manageable when each person takes responsibility for their actions and move into a direction of equal balance in the decision making process.


5.      Do you allow each other their personal space? Having time to read, journal, listen to music, exercise and any other activity where a person needs time alone is critical in a relationship. This is about having “me” time. Being able to draw limits between the self and the world around us can bring a sense of calm and peace in our lives. It reduces stress and anxiety and brings a general sense of well being.

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