I find that the longer I work with couples on improving their relationships what keeps coming up consistently are the basics, especially creating a feeling of safety and respect. Get this right and you will go a long way toward creating a more stronger relationship.
Show Respect and Create Emotional Safety
Any healthy relationship whether romantic or platonic is always based on feelings of respect for each other and a feeling of emotional safety in order to risk being vulnerable. If you say you truly care for or love another person then acting respectfully toward them is really the minimum you need to be doing. What do I mean by that?
- Showing respect to another person is being honest with your partner about your thoughts and feelings is a way to show them respect.. If you have a difficult time talking about your feelings or other sensitive issues it’s worth it to schedule a session with a therapist to ask for help. If you find that you can’t (or won’t) be honest, then you have some individual therapy to do. A relationship without honesty doesn’t have a strong foundation.
- Eliminating behaviors that shame, blame, criticize or judge them would be another way to respect them. Being accountable for your own thoughts, feelings and behaviors, (which is all you can really control anyway!) is another good step. No one can make you think, feel or act in any particular way, so start by paying attention to how you talk about yourself and own your own reality.
- LISTEN to them. Focus on them when they speak because they are risking being vulnerable with you and sharing who they are. Pay attention to all the times you are tempted to either interrupt them or are already formulating a defensive answer to what they are saying in your mind.
When they are done speaking, spend some time restating what you understood them to say. “So, what I heard you say is…”This will communicate to them that you really heard them and is immensely satisfying. They will get the message that they are important to you and it will give them an opportunity to clarify things you did not get it right.
- Another way to show your partner you respect them is to SAY SO in other ways such as complimenting them, or telling them all the ways in which you appreciate who they are. Make a list of all the things you appreciate about them and take time out each day to tell them.
- And finally, be aware of your own needs and start learning how to communicate them to your partner without demanding. Your partner was not put on this Earth to fulfill all your wishes.
Start your request with the words “Would you be willing to …..”, this will send a clear message to your partner that you acknowledge they have a choice to say, “Yes,” “No”, “maybe”,” I’ll think about it”, or “I need more information/time to make up my mind.” This also communicates your respect for their autonomy as a capable and independent adult.
Assess where your relationship currently stands in terms of a feeling of mutual respect and safety.
Rate your own feelings of safety and feeling respected on a scale of 1-10, 10 being you both feel extremely respected and safe to be vulnerable with each other. If your score is 6 or below, I would say it’s time to roll up your sleeves and begin working on some of the less than helpful habits you may have adopted.