Five Ways to Improve Your Relationship

When I work with coaching clients, I’ve found that often our first couple of sessions end up being about clearing up relationship drama in their lives.  Often, we’re so wrapped up in what our partner is doing, or not doing, that we can’t even start to focus on what we want or need to do in our own lives.

When asked to make one wish, most people automatically ask for “more money!”  We all want to be happy, and most have us have bought the idea that money equals happiness.  Ironically, research consistently shows that more money (beyond the basic comforts) actually makes people less happy in the long run.

So, if more money can’t guarantee happiness, what will?

Study after study tells us: Healthy, happy relationships.

Your relationship with your significant other, when it’s good, can be the highlight of your life.  A difficult, stressful relationship, on the other hand, can actually be hazardous to your health.  Hostility in intimate relationships is associated with heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, sudden death, and can suppress your immune system.

Here are 5 things you can do to immediately begin to improve the quality of your relationship:

1) Tend Your Own Garden

How much time do you spend thinking about, or complaining about, what he or she is doing wrong?  Catch yourself when you do this, and stop.  Consciously turn your focus, at that moment, to what would be the best thing you could do, right now, to look after yourself and your own life.   If they’re late coming home, stop stewing and seize the moment to do something you need to do, or enjoy a great book or movie.  Smile and say hi when they get home.  If they don’t want to attend an event with you, smile and go out and have fun on your own, or invite a friend to go with you.  Refuse to let it get you down!  These are just a couple of examples.  The key is not to let anything they do phase you or wreck your own peace and enjoyment of life.

2) Learn to be Happy, No Matter What They Do

If your happiness depends on what another person does, or doesn’t do, that’s a sure recipe for misery.

(None of the information in this article applies, though, to those who are being verbally, emotionally or physically abused; if that’s your situation, get professional help immediately)

Decide to be happy, no matter what.  Find, or create, things about your life that you enjoy, and focus on them when things get tough.  So many people begin to identify with our misery, the “I’ve been done wrong” drama.  If you’re in that kind of rut, own the fact that you, and you alone, are in charge of how you feel about your life.  If you need to change something, change it.  Make a commitment to yourself to be happy, no matter what.  (People often resist this at first, they identify so much with being the “righteous” partner who is constantly offended, it takes a lot of work on my part to pull them out of the role that they simultaneously curse and love at the same time – after all, there’s a certain satisfaction in being “right” all the time)

3) Listen to Your Body

Be aware that hostility and resentment hurt you more than they do the other person, especially if you keep feeling resentful, even when the person’s not with you! Learn to recognize signs of tension and poor health in your body: stomach pains, neck or back pain, headaches.  At the first sign, assess the situation and do something that helps you immediately feel better (note:  lashing out at your significant other does not count!).

4) Own Your Own Buttons

If your partner knows just what to do or say to set you off, don’t blame them for your reaction. You can’t control what someone else does, but you can control what you do.  Learn to recognize your own “hot buttons”, and notice yourself as you start to react.  Stop, go to another room, do something silly, whatever it takes to interrupt your reaction.  This really works.  I’m not suggesting you leave the room and slam the door – instead, take a deep breath and say something like “I’m going to go into the other room for a few minutes, I’m starting to feel upset and I really don’t want to say anything that might hurt us.”  Sometimes being silent, and refusing to respond to barbs and button-pushing, can really help, as long as it’s not the classic “silent treatment”, which is really just a show of anger.

5) Focus on What’s Good

Make a point of focusing on what you like about the other person, and what would be good to improve in your own life.  When you focus on the good things, in the other person and your own life, the other person will often begin to miraculously improve on their own.  This is the most incredible phenomenon of all.  Many people think the other person will never change, unless they insist that they do and repeatedly tell them where they’re failing.  Ironically, they often won’t change until you decide to leave them alone, accept them as they are, and focus on your own life and happiness. I’ve seen this happen in the lives of coaching clients all the time, it truly works.

Of course, if you’re consistently struggling in your relationship, getting some professional help and advice (either for you or the two of you) is a wise idea. Regardless, keeping these points in mind will hopefully help things to go more smoothly.

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41 Comments

  1. Smitha Y. says:

    I have to say that this article really reflects well on relationships. I think that we really teach people how to treat us. People learn by example – they subtly pick up on cues determined by how we treat ourselves. I think that what Susan says in her article is really key… when things are not going so well in our lives – it’s time to stop and refocus on ourselves and our own happiness. Our happiness is our own responsibility!!

  2. Rhonda R says:

    I have recently subscribed to your emailings… I love the article on codependency and the referral to a 12 step program…. CoDA… I am a fellow journey “woman” 🙂 in recovery from codependency… I am encouraged and inspired by your articles….
    with gratitude
    Rhonda R

  3. Angie says:

    i have to say you really know your stuff. i am really going to try this and talk to my husband. i want to thank you because it’s everything i feel and more, and what i think will benefit my marriage, i am going to read this to my husband in hopes that he will stop interrogating me and look at his reaction if he doesnt go to another room then i will. thanks again. 🙂

  4. Catherine says:

    Thanks for this article. I needed the reminder to look for the good things in my spouse. This is sometimes a challenge for me because of the hurt I have experienced from the things my spouse has said to me. I try to forgive, and move on, do things that make me happy and lifts my soul, and then the behaviour is repeated again, and I am hurt and drained again. Is it possible for a person to change their behaviour without asking them to change? As a married couple, shouldn’t we be sharing life together as opposed to just working on my own happiness?

  5. Jesus says:

    😉 i think ima gonna follow this frum na on

  6. kailo says:

    I wish this had all the answers. It’s good advice for sure but all 5 things are only really one thing. To fix a relationship sort yourself out…

  7. Josephlyn Landrau says:

    thank u so much for this. i know that at the end of the day god is the only person that can give me the strength. i love my husband so much and i want to keep our relationship healthy i’m not in any type of verbal abuse but things are being thrown in my face that are very hurt full. But i’m going to put my all in this and work on it because i love him every much. Thanks again i really loved your article..

  8. sem says:

    follow ur heart.i know exactly most of u had readin it

  9. Jay says:

    This is the first post that I ever read that really helped me in the sense that there are actual steps to follow. You know exactly what you are talking about and how to describe it. Thank you so much for this!

  10. AllenWebstar says:

    You cover very important points in this article which is very useful, very well presented. We are changing as world is changing but some feelings and mind never change. So we need to to keep balance in between them. Recently i’ve write article to save relationships, please read when you will get time. http://www.squidoo.com/20-ways-to-save-relationships

  11. jasmine says:

    I’m gonna try it BCUS I love mi boyfriend ini wanna make things work 🙂

  12. Umerali says:

    Finding happiness all comes down to one thing, and that’s honesty. Honesty with yourself first and foremost about who you are in the truest sense, and what your needs are as opposed to your wants.I meet all kinds of people from all kinds of backgrounds, and I do this all day, every day. Many of these people I get to know as people, and it never ceases to amaze me how many of them have sold out. Sold their souls in the name of money, & perception. I call it that I’m kind of a big deal syndrome. They work jobs they hate, to buy shit they don’t need, and marry people they don’t like, and have kids they don’t want in an effort to keep up with the Jones. They fall in love with these conceptions of what the perfect little life is, and how they’re viewed by others, but when it comes down to brass tacks, their lives are as big a mess as anyones.I know it sounds a little tree huggerish , but I don’t think it’s possible to ever really be happy, until people know themselves, and what it is that makes their engine run smooth. That’s what life is, it’s about finding purpose, and reason to be here .it’s purely functional. Once we find our function, and are honest about what we need in life as opposed to what we want, I honestly believe that happiness is inevitable

  13. someone says:

    im trying to do this to save our relationship and build up more trust in our relationship. it means te world to me :zzz

  14. kasha says:

    – I am kasha i lives in uk and i was in a serious relationship with my ex guy for three good years.. One day we were in a dinner party, we had a little misunderstanding which lead to a Quarrel and he stood up and left me at the dinner party. i try to call him but he was not picking my calls so after than i contacted my brother and told him about it,my brother so much love me that he had to see him on my behalf,he told my brother that it is over between us.. my ex guy called me and was asking me to forgive him and come back to him. i was very surprise it was like a dream to me,so ever since we have been happily married with one kid my lovely baby(Ceslav)…i wish you the best of luck…

  15. love is crayz says:

    I’m going to talk to my boyfriend and the dad to my kids we are having lots of things going on so I’m going to try this to work it out with him

  16. Crystal says:

    Thank You So Much For This Because Me And My Boy Friend Go At All The Time About Whose Cheating Because He Is Known For It But He Made Up His Mine That He Is Ready Too Settle Down And So Am I So Thanks Because I Really Needed Some Advice About This!!!!!! 🙂

  17. collins says:

    my finace said i cheated but i really didnt cheat i helped a friend get her relationship straighten out the only thing i didnt do is tell her that was what i was doing and she found out about it on facebook and texts and she said i lied i could have told her but the truth is i cant really talk to her because she doesnt talk to me about thing so now this relationship has went real sour i still with her but its so bad i hate going home I REALLY LOVE HER and i want to fix this how do i please help[U]null[/U] :cry

  18. Melissa says:

    Dr. Biali I agree 100% with what you say, but it’s just hard to live it out. How can I take the first step to recovery when I feel so wronged?

  19. Dr. Susan Biali says:

    Hi Melissa, I don\’t know what your situation is, there are some situations where the wrong is simply too big and you need to move on. In order to determine what\’s best for your situation, it may help to speak to a professional, such as a counselor. If the wrongs aren\’t huge or severely damaging, I remind myself of the ancient words on love: \”Love keeps no record of wrongs\”. Very hard to do, but worth it.

  20. Greg says:

    Melissa, I seem to be the person that is damaging the relationship. I have had a previous record of lying as well as other mishappenings. I truly love my girlfriend and my mistakes were pure idiotic. I was at a point where we were on the same level of trust but i feel that now we are no longer together. I have spent 5 years with her and can’t imagine life without her. we aren’t married but i was planning on getting engaged in 5 months. what can i do to prove that i am trustworthy and hones.

  21. Lizzy D says:

    Thank you Dr. I find myself being the often offended partner and the “always right one” as well. I do hope these steps help me and my partner! :sigh :sigh

  22. ann says:

    I just had another blow up with my hubby of 18 yrs. I just got angry and insecure and embarassed him at the pool in front of people at our apartment complex! I dont understand this the 2nd time ive done this. He says its over now.im so stupid. I didnt mean it but i lost my temper again .im a failure

  23. Dr. Susan Biali says:

    Hi Ann, I’m so sorry to hear this. I can relate as I have a pretty hot temper and can get frustrated easily, it’s something that often upsets me about myself and can be hard in a relationship. This may seem a little weird to say, but I actually started praying for help in being more patient and less reactive, and apparently I’ve gotten a lot better : ). Don’t give up! You may also want to see a counselor to help you understand why you get angry or insecure, often buttons are being pushed that are from your past that are so automatic you don’t even know what’s happening. Bless you, Susan

  24. ram says:

    share the things to make them happy….but not create the thingssss

  25. Resource says:

    This article has been nothing but helpful. I got a lot on my mind lately that i tried talking to a friend i confide in, but with this article i just think i’ve got all the answers i ever needed. I’m strictly taking the direction of “re-evaluation of personal virtues” and of course i have also made a little promise to myself.
    Thanks again Dr. Susan for the tips.

  26. Kathy says:

    I loved your article. I’ve actually been trying exactly what you said about changing my reaction/attitude, or not reacting as he would expect. He is passive-aggressive. How can I just let comments go, when he says things to make me crazy on purpose? When he spins things around to make it seem that I am the one that is trying to hurt him? It’s really hard. I’ve read books on how to react and it helps a little, but I just don’t know why I stay. We’ve been together 4.5 yrs. He’s says I’d be throwing those years away if I left, but it’s him that has made no effort to just be “nicer” to me. I really don’t ask for much and when I do, he’s angry and cusses and acts like the world is against him. Yuck. I wish he’d just grow up. He’s 53!

  27. anonymus says:

    [B]null[/B] :cry hi, me and my partner deeply love each other but the things are not working so well
    he gets angry on me on a negligible matter
    even i get much pissed off
    he and i we both r over possessive but no thing helps us!
    pls help me to get outta this mess

  28. Enlightened Reader says:

    Thank you for this.

  29. Black Beauty says:

    I’ve been dating this guy for 3 years and living with him for a year and a half. He told me that he wanted his own place and he felt like he was at a stand still in life. I have never, never done anything to hurt him. My entire family adores him deeply. My kids think he’s the world greatest (no that’s not their father). He has moved all of his things away from the house. We still converse daily. He knows I love him dearly and I’ve always been truthful to him. My parents will go out there way to do things for him and keep him happy. I don’t know why he doesn’t want to be love truthfully. My daughter even said that he was heaven sent but now he’s a different person. The devil has won another battle in Georgia. What do you suggest because I’m truly in love with him.

  30. kafita says:

    I will want you please tell me more about yourself before we go on with this conversation,i am a man that need to get to know more about the opposite side before moving on.so i will be very happy to know more about you if you can answer all my questions with all honesty of heart…

  31. RayJamieson says:

    These points are good but There’s even more to it. Start closer to home, even before you start looking for a partner or trying to mend a relationship. Start working on yourself. Being as attractive as possible means you are going to attract a better person to you! Make someone think you are worthwhile having a relationship with. The best way I have found to do that is to create a great, supportive environment around yourself AND within yourself, because relationships are for many people, the scariest thing they will ever do in their lives. That means mentally, emotionally and physically, create a safe environment where you feel good, supported and safe!
    When you have a confident attitude, with a secure emotional base, created from a daily diet of confidence building activities setting up your day, reviewing your day’s activities (whatever they were) in the evening and celebrating the little successes you had, you are so much better prepared for whatever life throws up at you!
    The other side of it is that relationships can also be painful, it doesn’t always work, and having a safe place to come home to, even a safe place in your heart and mind, is better than feeling abandoned and lost and alone at those times.
    This was my experience and I wrote lots more about it here – http://www.lifechange90.com/better-relationships/ – it worked for me and I now have the love of my life, we are totally committed to each other. It’s just a pity it took so long for me to learn this – I wish I’d known it in my twenties!

  32. 2426 says:

    🙂 m very happy dat i hv gt a best buddy as my boyfriend n as my husband m sure he is my life but now currently m in a fixed situvation i.e he is thinking dat i must be very happy n i shouldn be boared of him n he is asking me to fanticie about other guys ,is dis normal cause i noe der is no requirement of such thing in my life n its nt good for health family life.so wat should i do. 😕 :sigh

  33. jlock says:

    OMG!!! You just explained ALL the things i’ve been doing wrong in my relationship. i’m going to do things differently and see if i get a different outcome. thank you very much. i’m glad i came upon your page. 🙂

  34. Katarina Williams says:

    Hi, I am speechless for the help I had from You …Everything has changed for good….no… for Great…I would never realise that I got back my Best Friend back after all the bad things I did and said… Well, I JUST WANT TO THANK YOU FROM THE BOTTOM OF MY HEART FOR ALL YOUR HELP AND PATIENCE… Talk soon… I WISH YOU ALL THE BEST !!! Thanks a lot for your help!

  35. SANDIP SINGH says:

    I ALWASY FEEL JEALOUS WHEN MY G.F TALK WITH OTHERS AND FOR THIS OUR RELATIONSHIP IS GETTING BAD

  36. john mensah says:

    my name is john mensah I hv been in a relationship for over 5years now, before we start she told me she is a virgin which I was so happy, and I also promise not to date any woman again until we will get marry but now I found out that me waiting for the right time to come she is busy haven affair with another man and I finally catch them hand to hand what should I do now?

  37. tazzY says:

    Hey me and my fiance had a huge arguments cz he choos his family over me and his child he never make time for us just for his family what should I do cz I love this man with all my heart I knw men can make u hurt cz I soo hurt HELP!!!!!

  38. nick says:

    :cry :cry :cry :cry :cry

  39. Sanam says:

    This is the best piece of advice I have come across to save a relationship. I am guilty of doing all of this but at the same time I try not to, that’s the first step isn’t it? To know where you are going wrong. Thank you for this post!

  40. brytani says:

    You’re in a tough spot.
    If you’re on the verge of divorce…
    Or if your wife is cheating on you…
    Or if your marriage JUST PLAIN ISN’T WORKING…
    Then this is the most important letter you’ll ever read in your entire life!
    You want the truth, so I’m not going to sugar-coat it for you… DIVORCE is one of the WORST THINGS a guy can go through. It’s Never Too Late to Save Your Marriage…But You Have to

  41. Monica says:

    I lost my boyfriend because of my temper. Now he is dating another girl and I want to give to the relationship another try because after reading your article I realized how wrong I was and how much I better I could do it if he give me another chance from the many he already gave me. I asked him to try one more time and he told me that how many times we are going to try- that I will never change. My heart is broken because he means everything to me. Now I want to call him again to tell him about this article and why I know I can do better. Please tell me what else I can tell him to get him back.

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