Parenting

Building better relationships : 11 ideas for parents (and anyone who wants more love in their lives ❤️)

You’ll find a lot of posts on this blog about building better relationships with your children. Respect, love, trust and partnering with our children are common themes. But this post is a little different.

Today we’re looking at some life-changing, love-affirming ideas and resources that can radically revive our romantic relationships. Partnering with our actual partners, if you will 🙂

Some of the links included in this post may be affiliate links, meaning if you click through and decide to buy there’s a chance I could earn a small commission from the sale, at no extra cost to you. I am super picky about the links on my site and only share resources I believe will bring value to your life, most of which I personally use and love. Thanks in advance if you follow any of my links, I hope you find them helpful. 

If you want to change the world, go home and love your family.

Love begins at home… by taking care of the closest ones – the ones at home.

The words of Mother Teresa. Maybe. But whether her actual words, or paraphrased, the sentiment she shared was powerful and persuasive nonetheless.

And while it sounds simple, we all know, it’s not always that easy. Even when it comes to our children.

But our partners? We’re taking it up a whole other level here!

Now, I’m assuming for this post that love them you do 😍

But the tricky part might be acting like you do. That can be tough.

Often we’re a whole heap more pleasant to passers-by on the street than we are to those we love the most.

And to a degree that makes sense. It’s wonderful we can let our guard down with the ones we love, share our ups and downs and just be ourselves.

But sometimes our partners get a poor deal. Especially when we have children.

We pour so much of our energy and attention into caring for our children.

Often, it seems there’s not much left for our partners.

Yet it doesn’t have to be this way. The ideas and resources I’m sharing in this post are all devoted to building better relationships with our partners. After all…

Falling in Love is easy… But staying in Love is very special

So, let’s take a look at 11 ideas that can ramp up the romance, level-up the love and push up the peace in our homes. And in our world ❤️

Love as a conscious choice 

Happily ever after is not by chance. It’s by choice…

… a choice that you make every morning when you wake up

The Gottman Institute

This might seem like a rather unromantic place to start. Bombarded with perfect images of romance and relationships, in movies, on tv and sprawled across our social media feeds, the highlight reels of other people’s lives. It’s no wonder we forget that love is a commitment.

Love requires our effort and attention to grow. And we neglect it at our peril.

Love is a conscious choice we make, not a magical gift that’s bestowed upon us. It takes work to make love blossom, and it always takes effort to keep it around….but it makes us better for it.

E. B. Johnson

Of course, it’s difficult to imagine when we’re in the first throes of heady passion, besotted by our partners. It sure feels magical 🙂

Gorgeous and glorious. Those early sparks root deep and strong. Honoured to get up-close and personal with an all-access pass to our partners behind-the-scenes. We feel at home. Contented, connected and comfortable.

But we can start to get complacent. Comfortable gets jaded and dull. Everyday irritations begin to sneak up on us, clouding our vision. And we worry the magic is slipping away.

Yet we made a choice. Maybe it feels like a long time ago. But it was our choice. And we can choose again. We could always walk away.

Or choose to stay. And that might be just where the magic really begins.

In this beautiful post, Lucy reminds us of the honour of deep, life-long sacred union suggesting it can be utterly world changing because it demands such an incredible amount of vulnerability and deep, committed knowing of another human.

Yes, building better relationships takes a lot. And it can be pretty challenging work, for sure. But let’s get real here. This isn’t drudgery down a coal-mine, but some of the most fulfilling and satisfying work we ever get to do, paying dividends for our whole family for years to come.

Lean in closer 

So, what does this work look like?

There’s an old saying about absence and hearts growing fonder. Sure, we miss people when they’re not around and we look forward to seeing them again.

But it’s in the presence, not the absence that our relationships deepen.

We need time together to build better relationships.

Setting up routines and rituals that bring us closer can help –

Take a look at my post on 22 super simple ways to help our children feel loved for more ideas. Not just for children, these can work for anyone 🙂

But this isn’t just about date nights, or scheduling regular weekends away, although once in a while might be nice 😉.

When we’ve got so much else to do, the last thing we want to be thinking about is adding to our to-do lists. Keeping it simple can be immensely powerful…

Hold hands. Look into each other’s eyes. This can activate the parasympathetic nervous system and help you calm down, feel safe, and re-establish closeness.

The Gottman Institute

Why not make a commitment to kiss everyday? And be sure to hang onto those quick hugs for as long as you can for maximum bonding impact 🤗

Forget 50/50

Once we have children the family workload naturally grows. And if we’re not careful, so can resentment.

Thinking our partner isn’t pulling their weight can give us a sense of righteous indignation. We feel justified in calling them out, often with a whole heap of unhelpful judging and shaming.

Constructive conversations about who does what and when are vital to the effective running of our homes, someone’s got to get little Janey to football after all.

But problems can arise when we think we ought to divvy up our responsibilities equally. As if that’s even possible.

Not only do we all possess personal preferences, wants and needs, varying skill and energy levels, not to mention our physical and emotional resources. All of which can vary enormously, from day to day, even moment to moment.

But the tasks of family life are inherently complex, too varied and difficult to rate their relative significance, in urgency, importance or effort-required.  

Perhaps we need to reframe our thinking on equality?

To have a more peaceful, loving relationship that has the potential to last for a lifetime, don’t count and don’t measure.

Don’t divide anything “fifty/fifty.” Forget that concept. Give what you have…

If each of you gives as much as you can, your shared needs will be fulfilled more quickly, more easily, and more often.

Sandra Dodd

Assume the best

Resentment in a relationship is a recipe for disaster. And a powerful way to counter this is to assume the best.

A central theme of the work of both Pam Leo and Ross Green is the idea that we’re all doing the best we can.

I know, this can be a tough one to wrap our heads around.

Of course, we’re not always shooting for the moon, putting in our absolute best effort in every situation.

Rather, we’re all doing the best we can, in any given moment, with what we’ve got.

Be that energy, patience, information – none of us is trying to muck it up 🙂

We all make mistakes. And none of us want to be defined by them.

We’re all longing for the kinds of relationship where these blips in our character are seen as a tiny part of the whole, messy, and beautiful, imperfectly perfect package that’s us.

Even though each one of us feels this deeply, it can still be hard to give to others what we so desperately crave.

We might start with a positive intent, a commitment to see our partner in a favourable light.

But what then?

Anchors can help tie us to positive feelings –

  • a photo we love,
  • a gift or message we treasure,
  • or even a mental image, or memory that grounds us in the love we feel for our partner.

And if that’s not working –

  • try casting around for a different perspective. Perhaps, channelling our children, remembering their very existence depended on us both. And look through their eyes at the mama or papa they love 🙂

Trust the journey

We’re all on our own journey. Facing our own fears, healing our own wounds and wandering our own paths.

Every one of us with unique experiences, personal stories and personal perspectives.

Yet the concept of coming from the same place, or being on the same page is a common source of frustration in partnerships, especially when we have children.

Shared beliefs are likely to be at the bedrock of our relationships, but these are bound to change and evolve as we grow as people and parents. And just as our relationships with our children benefit from a focus on trust and respect, so too will our partnerships.

We won’t always understand each other.

But a willingness to accept our partner for who they are and meet them where they are. Rather than expecting them to be where we are. This can go a long way in helping us to reach a place where understanding comes a little easier.

Time spent together, especially sharing our thoughts helps, of course.

But words are not the only way to building better relationships…

You don’t have to say anything 

Conversation is a complicated coconut.

Striving to be heard, we don’t always listen as well as we might.

And in our most intimate partnerships, we’re presented with countless opportunities to work on this.

The chance to share our stories, without judgement, comment and interruption is rare. Yet it means so much.

Of course, we want to help. Offer advice, encouragement, an alternative perspective to help others find solutions and move on.

And we can, when we’re invited.

Otherwise, we can listen. Allow time and space so they can think out loud and make sense of their thoughts, knowing we’re on their team. Trusting they’ve got this. That might be the greatest gift of all.

Beware of the stories

You know the ones. Those stories we tell ourselves. Maybe we’re not saying them out loud, but they matter.

Many of them keeping us down. Making us feel we’re not good enough, or worthy of love.

Ditch those stories for sure. They’re not helping us or our relationships one bit.

But there are other stories we tell. About our partners.

Clocking up the grievances and rooting out the irritations. Digging up the same old arguments, keeping score and fixating on our own expectations. Ruminating on what they should have done, and what that tells us about their feelings for us.

These stories can poison our relationships and lead us down some dark holes.

What we need is some good old Jedi wisdom…

Many of the truths we cling to depend greatly on our point of view.

Obi Wan Kenobi. Star Wars Episode VI : Return of the Jedi)

Always remember, your focus determines your reality.

Qui-Gon Jinn. Star Wars Episode I : The Phantom Menace.

What we focus on, tends to grow. Nurture a focus on what you love about your partner, rather than calling out every minor irritation.

And remember the power of a reframe – there are likely so many more ways to look at any situation than that which first comes to mind. Letting go of our attachment to those first thoughts can free us up to see the world and our partner in a new light.

Be the energy you want to attract 

We can’t expect more from others than we are willing to give.

And the more we can be the kind of partner we would like to have, the more likely our relationships will improve.

Every action you take is a vote for the type of person you wish to become.

James Clear

Be grateful, hopeful, kind and generous. Not just for your partner, but for yourself.

Generosity makes you generous. Kindness makes you kind. Respecting others, and their ideas and their interests, makes you full of respect— respectful. These are little things that build up quickly

Sandra Dodd

But this isn’t about perfection, we don’t have to get it right all the time. Taking it slow…

One interaction at a time. Just make the next interaction a relationship-building one. Don’t worry about the one AFTER that, until IT becomes “the next one.”

Pam Sorooshian

It’s all about us 

Building better relationships begins with us. Taking responsibility for how we show up in our lives, and in our relationships. Taking responsibility for meeting our own needs and healing our own hurts. This doesn’t mean we have to do it all alone, but it has to start with us.

Ultimately, we have just one moral duty: to reclaim large areas of peace in ourselves, more and more peace, and to reflect it towards others. And the more peace there is in us, the more peace there will be in our troubled world. 

Etty Hillesum

And I know what you’re thinking.

Easier said than done.

If it wasn’t for everyone else, I’d be calm as a cucumber.

If they didn’t keep… [add in your irritation of choice]

And I get it. This isn’t easy. It’s tough work.

Getting our own house in order. Clearing our own airspace. And owning our responsibility, for the kind of person and partner we want to be.

But the rewards? Off. The. Scale.

If you’re not sure where to start, these posts might help –

Self-soothing checklists : the secret to raising our mood and energy levels fast

The trouble with worrying (and what to do instead)

And yet, it’s not really about us at all

We’re all standing at the centre of our own world. And naturally that skews our perception. We’re bound to emphasise our own significance in events as we seem to be at the heart of it all.

Not that I’m suggesting you’re not important. You most certainly are. We all are 🙂

Our part is pivotal in our own lives. Yet in the lives of others, it’s often far more peripheral. Even in our closest relationships. We care deeply about others, no doubt. And we think of them often, for sure.

But largely, we’re consumed with ourselves.

And while, this might seem a little depressing. It’s actually liberating. We’re free to stop taking everything so personally.

We can see that people are the weather.

Sure, sometimes the weather takes us by complete surprise. In devastating and disastrous fashion. And we need to get out of it’s way.

But mostly we just accept it. Aware we can’t change the weather. We’re not responsible for it. And we don’t have to defend it.

The weather isn’t out to get us. And neither are the people around us.

Other people’s reactions are not about us, they are about them…

If we’re at peace with ourselves, we don’t feel the need to spew venomous emotions on to those around us.

Chantelle Zakariasen

But that doesn’t mean we won’t get caught in a storm, or two. With so many of us full to the brim with hurt and pain, it doesn’t take much for it to spill over and soak the people around us.

Yet if we can see these downpours for what they are, an expression of another’s pain. Rather than taking them so personally, the less likely we’ll be to trigger our own pain. And the more our compassion will grow.

So, in some ways, it’s all about us and in others, it’s not about us at all.

But as parents, there’s someone else we need to consider. Our children.

But what about the children?

The quality of our relationships impacts our children on a daily basis. Not only does it impact our energy levels, our mood and our ability to show up for them.

Our relationships set the tone for the atmosphere in our homes.

And it doesn’t end there.

Our children absorb the ambience of our home into their very being. Constantly consuming the sensory messages around them, we never know what memories will stand the test of time. The more positive interactions they see, the better chance these will be the ones that last.

And deeper still, our children are mapping out mental models of what it means to be a partner. And whether they consciously reject, or repeat the patterns they’ve picked up from us, they’re bound to play a part in how they show up in their own relationships.

How we partner is how we parent.

Avital Schreiber Levy

And how our children may go on to partner and parent too. Our model matters.

Now, I know this post contains a lot of links. So, to make things a little easier, I’ve rounded up the best resources from this post, and a few more besides right here for your convenience. Enjoy building those better relationships 🙂

The Marriage Minute newsletter and Small Things Often podcast from The Gottman Institute

To The Radical Mama Who Wants To Save Her Marriage by Lulastic

Love isn’t what you think it is by E. B. Johnson

Becoming a Better Partner, along with thoughts on Spouses and Divorce (prevention of, for unschoolers) from Sandra Dodd

Hurt People Hurt Others, But They Hurt Themselves More by Chantelle Zakariasen

Why People Are Rude and Unkind (and Why It’s Not About You) by Avery Rogers

The Parenting Junkie YouTube channel – you could start with Avital’s Peaceful Partnering – Marriage and Co-Parenting playlist and check out the podcast too 🙂

If you have more resources to add to this list, please share the love and let us know all about them in the comments. Thanks for reading x

 

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