If you are reading this, it may mean one of three things: one, you are dating someone; two, you are in a romantic relationship (congratulations); or three, you are someone who is curious about improving the quality of your relationships, whether they be romantic or platonic. The good news is that this article can address all three scenarios. While these five tips may be addressed more towards couples, they can be used to improve the quality of interpersonal relationships across the board.
1. Slow it down on social media to improve your relationship
Millennials are part of the social media generation. When we start dating (or start any kind of relationship, really), many people have the need to post about it on social media. Although posting up a simple status, picture, or checking in at the movie theater may be harmless, these actions lead the way for a big-picture dialogue about the role of social media in a relationship.
A study found that Facebook can be a source of conflict for couples, specifically over privacy. We all know at least one person who likes to post somewhat personal details of their lives on Facebook through long rants. Or even worse – they post ambiguous one-liners clearly directed at someone, but published
as a public status for their younger brother, high school chemistry teacher, and aunt in Arkansas to see. By doing this, it is essentially creating a humiliating spectacle not only out of the partner, but of the relationship in itself.
Oversharing on social media can infringe on your partner’s desires to keep details about the relationship intimate, or at most, within their inner circle. Of course, Facebook often includes people beyond your inner circle. While a simple Tweet or Instagram picture may seem or be harmless, be sure to have a conversation about your desires on how public you want to be on social media before you make that relationship “Facebook official.”
2. Communicate – clearly and effectively to improve your relationship
Texting has its perks; it can be an efficient way of checking up on someone who might have been sick yesterday night, or a quick way to confirm dinner plans with them. However, texting is often utilized for more than just a quick conversation. Today, it is used as a substitute for face-to-face interaction.
When texting or messaging, we can miss out on many cues that come handy in a physical conversation. Some of these cues include:
Remember, don’t guess that your partner will “get the hint”. Some people have a hard time reading in-between the lines in person – you better believe that they have a harder time doing it over text.
Another guideline would be to have important conversations in person. If your parents are interested in meeting your partner, it would not be wise to tell them or talk about it over your Twitter Direct Messages. Of course, this should not be used as an excuse to avoid talking about important, time-sensitive information. However, it is advised to use your best discretion when relaying important information to your partner. Is it important that they know right away, or is it something that can wait a little, and be discussed later in person?
More importantly, be in the present moment. Put down your phone, tablet, or laptop when you’re having a conversation. Seeing a person pick up their phone while you’re trying to have a conversation with them is dismaying and off-putting. It makes the person talking feel self-conscious and unimportant.
It doesn’t have to be your phone, either. Whether it be picking up a book, or turning on the TV, all of these things are disrespectful, and interrupt the flow of a conversation. If you want to establish clear and effective communication, part of it means that you have to be a respectful listener as well.
3. Knowing one another’s Love Language helps improve relationships
The 5 Love Languages are a concept developed by Dr. Gary Chapman. They outline five ways that people demonstrate and receive affection. It should be noted that for some people, the way that they demonstrate love/affection, and the way that they receive it may be different. The five love languages according to Dr. Chapman are:
Although it may not be a tried and true method of understanding relationships and communication, it gives us a profound look into the idea that people give and receive affection and love in different ways. At times, we are often frustrated with our partners, friends, or family members, because they fail to live up to our needs, or vise versa. Through this, people can end up feeling neglected in their closest relationships.
However, this idea of having Love Languages is a helpful reminder that different people feel validated in different ways. Being in a relationship with someone may mean going out of your way to make sure that person feels valued, and is shown affection in the way that means most to them.
4. Identify and combat the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse to improve your relationship
Dr. John Gottman is one of the leading researchers in the psychology of marriage and relationships. He is also the founder of a concept titled the “Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse”, which describes four patterns of interactions that can be destructive to relationships. Although this concept was developed and studied in the context of marriages, it brings up valid points that can be utilized far and wide across different relationships.
According to Dr. Gottman, the Four Horsemen are:
Along with the Four Horsemen, Dr. Gottman also formulated their respective “antidotes” to combat these issues at hand:
Do you argue about the same thing with your partner over and over again? Think about the points mentioned here, and evaluate the substance and interactions within the argument. What are you really arguing about? What is being said, or not said? What is being done, or not done?
5. Respect one another’s boundaries in a relationship
It is important to understand that setting boundaries does not necessarily mean distancing yourself from your partner. Instead, it means respecting the idea that people have their emotional, mental, social, or physical limits, and when they become overwhelmed, you take a step back.
Dating is just the first step to working towards a fully committed relationship. You are mutually agreeing to invest into one another, which can mean getting to know one another’s backgrounds, characters, and values. When you are dating, understand that it does not mean that you are fully committed to one another. Your date is not obligated to answer to every text you send.
Although the desire to constantly talk and get to know the person may be strong, know that there will be plenty of opportunities to know what they like to do at 11:35 AM once you are in a committed relationship with one another. For now, understand that the person might not be fully comfortable sharing every single detail of their lives with you. And if you are still curious, Facebook and Twitter exist for that reason.
The same can be said in friendships and romantic relationships. At times, we feel comfortable with someone to the point where we may disregard their boundaries, or even just the idea that their boundaries exist. While it may seem awkward to address boundaries with someone you are already close to, you can still look out for expressions of discomfort. As a good partner, friend, or sibling, you should keep these boundaries in mind, and also talk about any behaviors that may be pushing your own limits.
A little goes a long way in a relationship
For some of you, these points may have seemed like common sense. “Of course I wouldn’t attack my partner’s character–I’m in a relationship with them because I like them.” However, you would be surprised at how easily these small relationship-downers can be laced into everyday, seemingly harmless aspects of our relationships.
Take note of, or even address small concerns that you can see as producing larger problems in the big picture. While this does require you to look into the future of the relationship (which may scare some people), voicing your concerns early on, and establishing a relationship based on understanding and communication is a reliable way to start and build a healthy relationship.