How to Keep Relationships Strong

It's no secret that having close ties is good for us. According to one study to come out of the University of Michigan, "engaging and investing in close relationships are associated with a variety of psychological and physical benefits." Close friendships lengthen lifespans, lower incidence of chronic illnesses, and of course, help to promote happiness. "Social relationships provide us with a sense of control and purpose in life and are a source of self‐esteem—all of which buffer against the negative health effects of stress," says the study's abstract. Whether you're thinking about improving a romantic relationship or a friendship (or both!) here are some ways to keep connected.

On the romance front:

A recent article in Psychology Today examined the effect of something called the Gottman predictor. John M. Gottman, Ph.D., a renowned relationship therapist, came up with a few criteria that could determine, at an accuracy rate of 90%, which couples would make it, and which wouldn't. Hard work is at the root of this success, but there are some forms of work that will reap more relationship-longevity benefits. Here's a cheat sheet about what successful couples are doing to stick it out: 1) They know how to handle conflict without getting too personal. They don't attack their partners, but rather discuss things calmly without getting too heated. 2) They seek help early. Keep hitting the same relationship bumps over and over again? Seek out a counselor to help you get to the root of your problems—and don't wait the average 6 years to get said help. 3) Be flexible. If your partner needs help getting the house ready for a parent's visit and you have plans, try to work around your plans to pitch in. These small tasks build up to a big support system over time. 4) Keep standards high. Hold your partner to good behavior from the beginning, and the relationship will be sturdier over time. 5) Learn to repair and exit the argument. You don't have to have the last word! Sometimes it's important to back-down and compromise. Give a little, get a little. 6) Focus on the bright side. Blanket negative statements won't help anyone feel better, ever. Be gentle and focus on the positive. Instead of, "You're such a slob!" try "It makes me feel so much better when you help with the dishes after dinner."

On the friendship front:

Friendship, as with romance, is most successful when respect can be shown to one another. Here are some tricks to continuing to strengthen the bonds that tie us together. 1) Continue to confide in one another. Psychology Today wrote in an article about friendship that "the gradual erosion in emotional intimacy can weaken even the strongest of friendships." If you can't make time for some of the deeper topics that built your trust and friendship in the first place, your friendship may begin to suffer. It's important to move beyond small talk. 2) In order to do that, you need to carve out the time. Try something simple like taking a long walk together if you both like to get out and exercise, or cook dinner and let the evening wander on. 2) Remember their birthday! Okay, not everyone is a big birthday person, but reaching out to your friend in a way that goes beyond the minimal Facebook shout out will make them know you're thinking about them. 3) Be supportive about your friend's pursuits. Does your painter friend have an art opening coming up? Don't skip it. Did they start a new dog-grooming business? Champion their services and get the word out.

In both instances of relationship building, romantic relationships and friendships, the most important thing is to be present for them. Enjoy the moment. Put your phone down and hear them out. Pay attention, and be gentle. You show up for them, and they'll in turn show up for you.

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