11 Ways to Build Healthy Personal Relationships

If you're honest, you'll probably admit that the world has left you jaded by Disney movies and failed relationships.

You have been made to believe that when you fall in love with the right person it is supposed to be easy from day one -- until the day you die.

You've been told that you just don't fight with good friends. That you just get along.

Which is absolutely wrong. 

And believing this fairy tale nonsense is costing you happiness and fulfillment.

And some great relationships.

You have to face it — relationships take work. All of them.

In truth, there is a secret to successful relationships that’s really not a secret at all.

It’s the commitment to doing something every day to make the relationship thrive.

It doesn’t have to be a huge gesture. Even the smallest things can make your relationship a bit more healthy. Here are a few of those:

1. Listen to Hear

Most people listen, but only so they know how to respond -- with a funny anecdote or a defense their terrible behavior.

Take time to hear what your partner, friend, or family member is trying to tell you. Then try to see things from their perspective before responding. Be present in the conversation.

Get rid of distractions and be all in. That means your phone too.

Let the person who is talking know you are listening by maintaining eye contact and nodding your head. Repeat back to them what you heard for clarification.  And calmly talk about the subject at hand.

Almost anything can be worked out with effective communication.

2. Speak Softly and Effectively

When something is bothering you in a relationship, it is best to get things out in the open. It is not best, however, to do it when you are in the midst of your feelings about it.

If you are angry, upset, or disappointed, it is best to give yourself enough time to think clearly before bringing up the sore subject. This allows you time to process what you want to say -- even if you have to write it down -- and it allows you to give your partner time to prepare for a conversation.

By the way, you can start that conversation with a simple: “I have some concerns I want to share with you”.

When you speak from your emotions, you are likely to say things that will most assuredly destroy your long relationship. So think before you speak. And speak softly.

3. Quality over quantity

It doesn’t matter what relationship you are building, spending time together is essential.

Living with your partner and trying to spend time with kids, enjoy friends, or an aging parent, requires a focus on what really matters. The quality of the time you spend.

Cooking dinner while your child sits at the table doing homework is definitely time spent together. Teaching your child to cook dinner with you while laughing and having fun is quality time spent together.

See the difference?

Living with your partner and seeing them every day and going to bed with them every night is time spent together. Knowing your partner had a rough day and asking them if they want to talk about it before bed is quality time spent together.

See the difference?

Just because you are next to a person, doesn’t mean that they appreciate that time.Making the effort to bring quality time to a relationship is key to extending the life of that relationship.

4. Be trusting

Everybody has a past. We all have a tendency to take the bad events from our past and project them on to those around us. We project past hurts on to our current relationships and beat ourselves up with “what if it happens again?”

And that makes you not want to trust. Anyone. 

You remember what you were like as a teenager and question every decision your kids are making because you don’t trust they are doing the right thing.

Relationships cannot be built around distrust.

Sure, it’s easier said than done, but trust has to be given. You have to believe that your child, your partner, your friend, or your parent has every intention of doing what they tell you.

Expecting the worst in your relationships from the start is likely to give you exactly what you were most afraid of.

So give trust in your relationships. Be bold enough to trust.
 

5. Admit and Apologize

If you have broken someone’s trust, don’t cover it up with a lie. Don’t try to place the blame somewhere else. Admit that you were wrong. It shows respect, empathy.  

And it shows the other person that their feelings mean something to you.

Not only that, it opens the lines of communication to talk more freely about the expectations of the relationship. Everyone feels better after an apology.

Your conscience is clear and they feel valued knowing that you did something hard -- because the relationship matters.

Be quick to admit your mistakes. And if you are truly sorry, say it.

6. Have more respect

It doesn’t matter who it is directed at, you have to give respect to get respect.

If you’ve ever walked into a room of angsty teenagers, you know this first hand. The tone you use to start a conversation is going to be thrown back at you in multiples.

That goes for every relationship. People give what they get.

If you speak at barely a whisper to someone, they will automatically adjust their tone to meet yours. The same is true if you are loud or angry. When you go into a relationship with respect, that respect is given right back to you.

People who respect each other value each other. People who respect each other trust each other. Isn’t that what you want in your relationships?

7. Honesty is absolute

Being open and honest is one of the most important elements in any relationship.

When people don’t know the truth, they will make up their own. And that’s never a good thing.

The last thing you want to do in life is to wake up with a stranger. Or to think your best friend is someone they are not.

The truth always finds a way to come out so it’s best to be honest from the get-go.

More importantly, you can’t truly be loved by someone if they don’t honestly know who you are or what you stand for.

8. Show Affection

How often do you tell people “I love you”? Is it a habit you are in? Do you say it regularly? Is it just another phrase you use with people like “how are you?” or “have a good day”?

Saying those three words everybody cherishes is great, but what are your actions saying?  

  • Do you show the people in your life how important they are?
  • Do you take time out to give your kids a hug?
  • Do you touch your partner as you walk by?
  • When was the last time you walked hand in hand with someone that you love?

Affection has a way of making even the worst day better and it only takes the smallest of gestures. A light touch. A smile from across the room. A kiss on the cheek.

People need to know that no matter how much time passes, they are still being seen and adored.

9. Encouragement and Appreciation

“You’re doing great.” “You are awesome.” “You’re the best person for the job!” “I couldn’t have done this without you.” Words of encouragement and appreciation make a big difference.

If people work and work and work with no appreciation for what they are doing, they really have no incentive to keep doing it.

Say thank you when someone does something nice for you -- and mean it. Leave a love note by the coffee maker. Write a thank you in lipstick on the bathroom mirror. Put a note in your child’s lunchbox and tell them you think they are great.

Text your teen that you trust them and you are proud of them. People love being appreciated for things they are already doing. And appreciation leads to a snowball effect of more amazing things being done.

10. Playfulness

It’s easy to forget about having fun when the bills are due or when things aren’t going the way you had hoped or planned.

But a little bit of playfulness can change the whole landscape of a relationship. It’s never good for any relationship when both parties are in a bad mood. It doesn’t matter if it’s a parent/child partnership, a husband/wife or two best friends.

There has to be one who is up when the other is down -- because two downers make for a very long night and a very miserable life.

Make time to be playful. Life goes by too fast to take every part of it too seriously. Take time to laugh and joke.

11. Learn the love language

Everybody has a predominant “love language.” For some, it is physical touch. For others quality time. And still others require words of affirmation, acts of service or gifts.

Gary Chapman writes about them in his book "The 5 Love Languages." And everybody has one. When you know your partner's love language or your child’s or your friend’s, you can better show them that you care for them with actions they automatically accept as proof of love.

By the way, you have a love language too. If you want to know what yours is, you should take this short quiz. (I did. And my results were pretty eye-opening).

Learning all the ways to show someone you care and that you love them is crucial in maintaining healthy relationships. And absolutely worth the effort.

In truth, none of these suggestions are huge surprises.

You already know what you should be doing for the people who mean something to you. But sometimes you need a reminder of what you aren’t doing.

Consider this that reminder.  For when you need it.

You cannot foster healthy relationships with neglect. So what are you waiting for? Pick a few tasks from the list above and get to work on what matters most.

Dan Waldschmidt