Relationships are amazing things. They are one of the best ways for us to meet our needs for emotional connection, intimacy, acceptance, appreciation and support. Not the only way, to be sure, but certainly one of the most efficient. So it would make sense that having a strong relationship would translate into getting those needs met consistently. So how do you get there? Is there a “relationship buff” that you can hack into your relationship to make it unstoppable?
Yes, actually! I have 5 for you right here!
(For the uninitiated: a “buff” is something that makes you stronger; while a “de-buff” or a “nerf” makes you weaker.)
It is unfortunately very easy to take for granted that our partners are available to help us meet our needs. Because of this, it is also dangerously easy to fall into the trap of believing that our partner is willing to help us meet our needs without any sort of benefit for themselves. This is where resentment builds up and eats away at the foundation of the relationship. To that end, I want to walk through 5 things that I can almost guarantee that your partner needs to hear today. Do these, and you will get that relationship buff you’re looking for!
“I Appreciate How You Do/Did _____”
While this may sound trite, showing appreciation to our partners for the things they do for us lets them know that we are paying attention. Healthy relationships do not require martyrdom, so there is not really a place for thankless jobs. It doesn’t have to be a huge thing, it can be as simple as noticing that they folded your laundry or made the bed in the morning.
Sharing our appreciation for our partners shows investment in them as a person, not just a performer of tasks. This is more than just saying “thank you.” Garbage cans in fast food joints can say “thank you.” Saying that you appreciate them and how they do something opens a window of vulnerability and lets your partner know that they are seen.
“I Want To ____ With You”
In long term relationships, it is really easy to take for granted that we have someone to go on all of our life adventures with. But saying “Why not try a holiday in Sweden this year?” is a very different request than “I want to see all of the interesting furry animals with you. Let’s go to Sweden and see the majestic moose!”
The key to this is intentionality, or letting your partner know that you specifically want to do this activity with them. Any activity can be done with anyone. Tell your partner that they are the one you want to be with.
“I Love ______ About You”
This goes along with the showing appreciation; but this one is less about seeing what they do, and more about seeing who they are. What is your favorite idiosyncrasy about your partner? Is it the way she sniffs books? The way his laugh echoes through the house? Think about who your partner is, and what it is about their character that attracts you, and then let them know!
We all go through life with that secret wish that someone would see us for who we really are and love us all the same. The more we show our partners that we love them, the more they will show their love back. This will, in turn, draw you closer together!
“What Do You Need? How Can I Help?”
This is a two-for-one, because these two go hand in hand. When we see our partners struggling with something, be it emotional or more tangible, our initial instinct is to help. Unfortunately “help” is a subjective thing. What person A might think of as “helping,” person B might see as “condescending.”
Generally speaking, people have a pretty good awareness of what they need at a given moment. So start by asking what they need, and then offer to help them. The key is to do this on their terms. If they can’t tell you what they need, just focus on empathizing. That is help in and of itself, and more often than not it’s all they need to sort stuff out.
There is a bit of theme in this post, and the word I would use to sum it up would be “appreciation.” In the same way that we help our partners meet their needs, they help us meet ours. It is exceptionally important to let them know that you are (1.) aware of the fact that they are helping you meet your needs, and that (2.) you appreciate them doing it. The more specific you can be with this one, the better. “Thank you for helping me meet my relational needs” is not going to be as impactful as something like “I was feeling really stressed at work today, and when I got home and saw that you had cleaned the kitchen I felt very relieved. Thank you for helping me.”
Now obviously we aren’t all counselors, so we may not have the emotional vocabulary to articulate our feelings quite like that. It’s perfectly fine to say “Work sucked today. It was cool to come home to a clean kitchen. Thank you for that.” Perfect words are not required for a perfect show of appreciation.
What are some things that you do to build up your relationship? Obviously a simple list of 5 whatevers isn’t going to contain every relationship buff out there! So share some of the things that you would like to hear from your partners, and let’s have a discussion in the comments! And as always, like, share, and subscribe if you like what you read!