One often overlooked secret to better relationships

"Love one another and help others to rise to the higher levels, simply by pouring out love. Love is infectious and the greatest healing energy." - Sai Baba 

Of course I have my opinion on this one!  After all, I've been on the planet almost 60 years and as a therapist and coach, I've talked to lots of couples. I've also loved the study of communication skills and relationship skills.  In fact, it's no secret that as a world we are going to need to get much savvier about our communication abilities if we are to survive as a species, now more than ever.

So what I am going to share in this post covers ALL relationships, not just romantic ones.  Some may argue this secret only applies to situations where each party is equal, but I would argue that you should stand your ground and attempt to set this secret into motion with any relationship that is important to you, but only of course, if there isn't a potential for violence or a violent history. If you become violent, you need to get help and if you are in a relationship where the other has been violent towards you or has threatened same, this article doesn't apply. Seek out resources below.*

Okay, so the relationship you want to cultivate isn't violent or abusive, physically, sexually and/or emotionally.  It's just not as satisfying as you want.  This tip then can apply to you.

This secret includes the relationships you have with...

  • yourself
  • your co-workers
  • your spouse
  • your girlfriend or boyfriend
  • your child or children
  • your subordinates
  • your superiors (yes!)
  • your public servants (yes that includes politicians)
  • your pastor/priest
  • your god

So just what is this great secret?  It's not what you think.  In the past I would have said the most important relationship building skill is being a great listener or being honest.  Or using an 'I not you' message.  Or following some other complicated set of secrets.  Well, many of these are important but much harder to do.  Even marriage experts discovered when they study couples that they don't do good listening or 'I not you' messages very well.   And yet, some couples prevail. 

Right now at this time, I believe the most important communication skill all of us could do more of is 'just being there/showing up'.  You see, if you ask around the one common denominator you hear about people who are estranged is just that: that they have decided, due to some conflict or difference, NOT spend any time together.  To avoid each other.  That's how people become estranged, not because they fought or disagreed.  Sometimes it is one of the parties and the other tries but they are shut down by the other.

Relationships are like sex and any other skill: what you don't use, you lose.  It's simple: avoid someone and it gets easier to avoid them some more.  The next thing you know five, then 10 years have passed.

It's fine, even good advice and often important to 'take a time out' when it gets too heated.  But always agree to come back to it at some point, the sooner the better.  Again, this assumes you aren't physically violent with each other (or one of you is).

You see here's what I've observed happens: you show up and just hang with that person and eventually, after lots of small conversations, you CAN start to have bigger and then, tougher ones.  Maybe not at first.  But the more important conversations will never occur if you don't start with the small ones.  

What happens during those small conversations that makes the difference?  If each is truly being honest, patient and taking time and energy getting to know the other person, they start to see that some of their ideas about that other person were perhaps different from the reality.  You see, when we keep our distance from others, it's easier to judge them.  Get closer to them and those 'fables' get called out of the closet.

MOST IMPORTANTLY: Don't feel silly about seeking out the help of a third party either.  Way too many have let relationships rot on the vine due to not doing whatever it takes to heal them.  Sad isn't it?  Well, I'll bet you can name me at least one relationship you know like that.

I know that I have cultivated such a relationship with some of the special people in my life.  And the more I do it, the closer we become.  It has been worth it, just showing up.  It's not the only step you'll need to take, but it is the one that gets the ball rolling. It doesn't also mean that the other becomes the person you want them to be.  But that's not the point of relationships anyway, isn't it.

So what is the point of relationships?  That my friends is a post for another day!  Or, if you can't wait, I hope you'll share below in the comments section.

Or, if you like, check out the CNN article I came upon today that was the inspiration for my post!

*National Domestic Violence Hotline - A fantastic website awaits you, here with lots of education on healthy relationships, what is abuse, how and where to get help, etc.  1−800−799−7233 or TTY 1−800−787−3224.