This is the first part in a new series that I am releasing about improving relationships. Treating 6,000 different people each year in my outpatient clinic means that I get asked a lot of general relationship questions. In fact, relationships are one of the key factors to finding and maintaining happiness in our lives. This article is the first article in this series where I will focus on improving relationships.
First things first – stop assuming that you know how to have healthy relationships. Empty your intellectual cup. Accept new knowledge – be vulnerable and be open to new ideas. If what you were doing was already working perfectly, you likely wouldn't be reading this article. Accept this, accept that what you know, and what you are trying isn't getting the job done.
Let us begin.
The first key ingredient in having healthy relationships is a deep understanding of your partner. Accept that their life experiences have taught them differently than yours. Stop putting yourself in other people's shoes and trying to understand them from your perspective – it won't work.
Sit down with your partner and learn. The idea that I need to express here is to LEARN, not to AGREE. We learn by listening. Ask questions about beliefs, about upbringing, about culture and family norms growing up. Ask about religion, karma, and spirituality. Just listen. Ask questions when you get lost. But listen, truly listen. No judgment here – we are learning about our partner and where they came from.
Learning about your partners past is important, but we also need to understand their love languages. Some great resources are out there, such as the www.5lovelanguages.com quiz (free) to help understand how your partner expresses and receives love. Use these answers to better communicate with your partner, show them the love and to help receive their love even when it's in a language different than yours.
Start with these learning activities and take at least an hour or two to learn about your partner. Ask questions like:
Start here with learning about your partner.
Up next, communication! The next big step in healthy relationships!
Written by Brad Messenger, LMSW.