8 ways to strengthen your relationship
Jack and Agnes have been together for several years.
Self-proclaimed "fitness junkie" Jack has always had living a long and healthy life as his number one priority, ever since his father died early on from a heart condition.
Agnes, on the other hand, is what others may call a "social butterfly." With a calendar hardly empty, Agnes hardly shys away from social gatherings and constantly keeps in touch with close friends.
Luckily, Jack and Agnes, two individuals with their own set of interests, began their relationship already accepting and respecting this reality – until it reached a point wherein Agnes could no longer do so.
It's not "working out"
Because of the extensive training her husband Jack had recently been taking in preparation for a triathlon, Agnes began to grow resentful – both of the time taken away from her, his races, and even his goals.
"I feel left alone," she'd sullenly tell herself. "He already works long hours, and then chooses to spend his free time at the gym, and not with me."
With this negative reality already running through her head, Agnes, in return, began to distance herself from her relationship and from Jack. She booked her calendar to the brim, turning to friends and nights out instead.
"I'm not a priority anyway," she'd say, fueling further her internal pity party. "I feel unattended to."
And so, with both parties out of reach, the silence grew longer, more deafening, and an inevitable rift began to happen.
The passive-aggressive downfall
Weeks passed by, and Agnes, suddenly and shamefully, realized her passive-aggressive, counterintuitive ways. She decided to do what other couples often fear to do – to communicate.
Agnes told Jack everything, openly and honestly communicating every concern, only to be greeted by an incredulous reaction from her husband.
"What? I thought all along that you didn't even need me!" Jack said. “You’ve always been so independent, and that’s what I loved about you from the start – your self-reliance and strength.”
With the ice already half-broken, Agnes and Jack immediately apologized, reached for their phone calendars, and began making concrete date plans, compromising according to each other’s schedules – like starting the evening earlier instead, so that Jack could still train at night.
Jack even offered to take Agnes running during his off-months, agreeing to run at a slower pace that would match Agnes'.
Simply put – compromises were made, needs were met, and the individuals involved were respected.
How? The simple act of open, two-way communication – Agnes was honest with her feelings and expressed them rationally, while Jack kept open a non-judgmental, non-defensive listening ear. This ultimately helped to strengthen and secure better Jack and Agnes' healthy and happy relationship.
Although already in a long-term committment, this didn't – and will not – spare Jack and Agnes from the challenges and difficulties a relationship entails.
How about you? How's your current relationship going? Steady? Rocky? Budding? Non-existent?
Whatever the state, there is always room for improvement.
"It's normal that as relationships evolve, people do too, and so do our lives. The stressors in our daily lives make us distracted," Lissy Ann A. Puno, psychologist, relationship counselor, and author of Stay Connected, said.
"The fast-paced, distracted, smartphone-reliant quality of life can pull partners away from eachother, even unintentionally."
A truth hard to deny, Lissy Ann reminds couples – young, old, new, long-term – that reminding ourselves on how to actively keep a relationship thriving and strong is key to its success.
With that, Lissy Ann breaks it down for us into 8 simple, essential C's:
“To be a 'centered person' means you are healthy, unique, and accepting of yourself, while also being able to open up and accept another,” Lissy Ann explains.
Translation? Love yourself first, and the rest will follow.
Cliche as it sounds, this psychologist-approved piece of advice holds true – knowing first who you are, your needs, the best ways to meet them and how to communicate them will greatly benefit any relationship you may have.
“This centered-ness is not manifested in a self-indulgent, self-entitled, and dysfunctional way that always demands to get its way,” Lissy Ann makes it clear. It's knowing what you deserve – what you're willing to accept and compromise on.
Being centered is important, because knowing yourself well helps to clear any emotional baggage, and we all know how toxic emotional baggage can be, right?
"Couples with emotionally stable backgrounds and some maturity are able to work out a relationship that is more satisfying than not," Lissy Ann quotes author Emily Brown.
"A trait that can help you stay in a relationship is curiosity," Lissy Ann says. What does this mean? Try to look at your partner – his/her mannerisms, interests, passions, habits, background – with a new set of eyes and a gentle curiosity.
Connection is a vital pillar to any relationship, Lissy Ann says, and staying "emotionally close" is a way to achieve this. “Emotional closeness comes from sharing deep thoughts and feelings with one another,” Lissy Ann said.
She advises to go beyond superficialities – to dig deeper, bring about meaningful conversations, and spend undivided time with one another whenever possible.
"When first dating, to care for another is quite easily and spontaneously given," Lissy Ann says. "But as years go by, it tends to be forgotten and neglected."
Care is at the foundation of any healthy relationship, Lissy Ann says. It is also one of the most basic tasks every partner must fulfill. "Just be conscious of proving this intention through small, daily actions," she adds.
Mark your Calendars.
Make regular time for each other, and schedule these dates in print (or via app).
Calendar events you look forward to doing together – whether it’s just a walk around the park, a coffee break, a B-rated movie, or a fastfood run – what matters is safeguarding couple quality time, sans technology.
Another cliche but basic truth: communication is key. Knowing how to communicate properly is crucial in learning how to live and relate with one another.
However, how we do so is just as important, so don't forget to stay respectful, rational, and honest.
"Couples who do not have skills or the knowledge to talk about or resolve problems, struggle with the issues as best as they know how. For many of them, extramarital affairs are part of the journey in their search for a good relationship," Emily Brown says.
To cherish is to “value,” Lissy Ann says.
When we value someone, we hold this person close to us, treat them with tenderness and affection, nurture them with care, protect and support, and ultimately, stay faithful.
Commit to being committed.
As a relationship grows in time, so does the need for a deeper commitment.
Life changes, people and their needs will as well, and pressure and stressors will strike. However, as long both partners continously commit to understand eachother better as the years go by, you'll be just fine.