Linda: Couples with great relationships have earned them by developing positive qualities that promote fulfilling partnerships. These couples state that they have created this largely through the learning and growth they have experienced in the course of their relationship. Many have told us that in facing these challenges, they have become the person that they are today. In the words of one person, “You can’t learn this stuff from books; it’s all on the job training.”
These people didn’t start with a list of characteristics that great relationships require. They all had to cultivate a variety of qualities that supported their commitment to creating the relationship that they wanted, qualities like: commitment,patience, honesty, courage,responsibility, generosity, vulnerability, and compassion. These and other qualitiescan only come through experience, practice, and intentionality.
The stories of the struggles that many couples have experienced, has affirms the belief that it’s not necessary to have it all together to create a relationship that thrives. We start with what we’ve got at the time. Our willingness to see the inevitable challenges that life offers as opportunities, rather than problems plays a big part in enabling us to grow. Cultivating these qualities is what allows us to become skilled partners.
Examples of Qualities and Practices That Can Strengthen Them
- Practice self-reflection and self-awareness.
- Slow down. You’re probably moving too fast.
- Spend time in solitude.
- Take personal and interpersonal risks.
- Tell the truth.
- Drawing boundaries.
- Going beyond the edge your comfort zone.
- Practice self-soothing in the face of fear or failure.
- Create a network of committed support in your life.
- Hold an intention and vision of positive change.
- Go for it 100%.
- Increase your pain tolerance.
- Persevere in the face of obstacles or difficulty.
- Build and restore trust in your relationships.
- Keep your word and your agreements.
- Resist the temptation to blame or find fault with others.
- Give up the victim mentality.
- Cultivate the attitude that everything is an opportunity.
- Lose your excuses.
- Keep in mind that responsibility is power!
- Walk your talk.
- Acknowledge, accept and honor yourself, including your shadow (the disowned, denied, or rejected aspects of who you are).
- Align your actions with your thoughts, feelings, words, and deepest values.
- Hold a high standard and don’t punish yourself if you sometimes fail to live up to it.
- View all delays and obstacles as opportunities to cultivate patience rather than seeing them as problems.
- Practice mindfulness rather than waiting mindlessly when things fail to go according to plan.
- Practice gratitude whenever you are provided with opportunities to practice patience.
- Be observant of, rather than reactive to your thoughts and don’t believe everything you think.
- Practice mindfulness.
- Learn from your mistakes and put corrections in to minimize the possibility of repeating them.
- Practice self-forgiveness when you do.
- Practice self-reflection, self-awareness, and self-acceptance.
- Commit yourself to telling the truth.
- Recognize and acknowledge the excuses and rationalizations that you use to justify lying and other forms of dishonesty.
- Be honest with yourself. Identify the ways in which you practice self-deception.
- Ask yourself the question “Am I really committed to being honest and if so Why?” Answer the question (note: Because I think I should” is not an acceptable answer. Your answer must be sincere, personal and heartfelt, otherwise it is “No”)
- Tell your friends about your commitment and ask them to support you in it. Then tell them how they can support you.
- Give things away, including things you want but don’t really need.
- Also give your time, attention care, concern, help, money, and love to others even if you don’t know them very well.
- When conversing, do less talking about yourself and more listening and responding to others.
- When you give, give without expectations of a return or else don’t bother.
- Distinguish investing from giving.
- Be more open and expressive with your feelings and needs.
- Resist the temptation to get defensive with others when they say things that trigger you.
- Make a list of at least ten benefits that you will receive from your commitment to cultivate vulnerability and post it in a prominent place in your home.
- Cultivate courage; you’re going to need more of it.
- Practice self-reflection.
- Show up as yourself rather than an image of the person that you wanted to be seen as.
- Solicit feedback from others as to how they see you and see if it is consistent with your self-perception.
- Walk your talk.
- Remind yourself daily that you are neither as special nor as insignificant as you think you are.
- Acknowledge the ways that you are dependent upon others and the things that you depend upon them to provide you.
- Express gratitude more freely and frequently to others.
- Practice asking for help and assistance, particularly if you are uncomfortable doing this.
- If you find yourself feeling superior to someone, find something about them that they do better or more skillfully than you, and acknowledge them for it.
- Apologize whenever you’ve done or said something that you think might have caused them distress or suffering even if you didn’t intend to or if it seems like it’s no big deal.
- Don’t take yourself so seriously.
- Spend time with others who have a good sense of humor.
- Watch comedies (good ones!)
- Attend stand up comedy shows or watch them on YouTube.
- Enroll in an improvisation class even if the thought terrifies you!
- Memorize some good jokes and tell them.
- Spend time with little kids.
Compassion and Self-compassion
- Reflect upon why you value this quality and how your life will be enhanced by cultivating it.
- Reflect on the question of whether or not there is anything in your own life for which you have been unforgiving and find out what it would take for you to forgive yourself.
- Notice when you find yourself judging another, and try to find something about them that enables you to see their humanity.
- Remind yourself that your lack of self-compassion is not a gift to others and that self-compassion is one of the most generous things that you give to those whom you love.
- Remember that your days on earth are limited and brief and that there’s no time to waste.
- Practice forgiveness to yourself and others.
- Solicit support from trusted friends when you need it
- Be in service to others who need what you can provide.
- Write letters of appreciation and gratitude to friends that you’ve been neglecting.
Identifying the qualities that are in need of further development will accelerate our movement towards the fulfillment of the goal of becoming whole. Engaging the practices on an ongoing basis will strengthen the development of those qualities. This is the direct path to great relationships.