No one teaches us relationship skills. We are just supposed to meet someone, like them, be attracted to them, fall in love. The rest is supposed to work itself out.
It’s not that relationships don’t work out. It’s whether or not we do. Here are 10 relationship skills I want all couples to know.
Relationship Skills #1. Empathy.
Empathy means putting yourself in someone else’s shoes and imagine what it must feel like to be there. Especially when you disagree or when you can’t relate to them. Try to put yourself in their shoes. Familiarize yourself with their world. Ask questions, be curious, leave your judgement and Ego aside.
Empathy is essential to creating a safe relationship. You can’t get to happy without going through safety first. Empathy is a skill you can learn.
Relationship Skills #2. Listen.
Develop listening skills. Don’t interrupt. Be patient. Listening means shutting up. Let your partner talk without feeling pressured or ignored. Be involved. Listening is active not passive. It involves paying attention, remembering, organizing thoughts and being open-minded all at the same time.
Relationship Skills #3. Be positive.
It’s a harsh world. We get criticized by our bosses, parents, co-workers and even friends. Most importantly we criticize ourselves. No need to bring more criticism home. You can choose to focus on what’s working, on what our partner is good at, what they can do well, what they excel in.
Point out their best attributes, their wisdom, their strength, their greatness, their awesomeness. Be proud of your partner, thank them for their little acts of kindness and generosity. Praise them for their successes and turn their failures in a positive opportunity for learning and growth. Be their cheerleader. Lift them up.
Relationship Skills #4. Don’t take it personally.
When he chooses to watch the game with his buddies instead of hanging out with you it’s not you he is rejecting. When she says she’s too tired to have sex, when he is too distracted or stressed by work, when he forgets about something you planned or when she doesn’t like to hold your hand in public, it’s not about you.
Even when your partner cheats, it’s not personal. Stuff happens. We make mistakes. It’s not a reflection on you. Our partners are individual human beings with an independent will and identity and they make mistakes. Learn to hold on to yourself and be unruffled in your self-confidence. This can be a difficult but not impossible.
Relationship Skills #5. Turn toward.
When your partner shares something that is important to them, pay attention. Turn toward them physically, mentally, emotionally. This doesn’t mean you agree with them or even understand why it is important. Still, turn toward them.
If you turn away from what’s important to them, the opportunity may never present itself again. Next time they will think twice about sharing with you because they remember what it felt like to be ignored, shunned, ,criticized or mocked.
When you realize you have turned away unintentionally, correct as soon as possible. Apologize and then turn toward. Pay attention to what’s important to your partner even if you consider it to be minor, irrelevant or stupid. Know that when your partner bids for your attention he/she is looking for validation, approval and acceptance.
Relationship Skills #6. Team work.
When your partner complains about his/her boss, co-worker, friends, parents, take their side. Show them you are on their team, loyal to them. Even if they are in the wrong, deep down they know it. They don’t need you to point it out.
There is nothing worse than feeling alone in a relationship. We want to be with a significant other because we don’t want to face the world alone. Don’t turn against your partner. They do not need a mother or a father. Treat them with respect, dignity, trust and confidence that they can handle their stuff.
Relationship Skills #7. Radical Acceptance.
As much as it feels that way, your partner is not an extension of you. Let go of your need to control. Letting go is a very important skill for peace, sanity and joy.
You need radical acceptance: fully accepting the things you can’t control. Get honest with yourself about who your partner is and be prepared to fully accept them for who they are. They may learn new skills and even change significantly because you came into their life. But some things will never change. Accept it.
Relationship Skills #8. Ask for what you need/want.
Don’t assume your partner knows what you want or need. They can’t read you mind. Learn to figure out what it is exactly you need or want and be able to articulate that assertively. Don’t expect them to know and then get pissed when they don’t give you what you expect. Take responsibility for your avoidance and lack of communication.
Relationship Skills #9. Diversify.
This will sound weird but…your partner is not enough. You can not meet all your needs through one relationship. If put all the weight of your happiness on one relationship you will end up frustrated or disappointed.
They say it takes a village to raise a child. Well I say it takes a village to maintain a happy relationship. You need friends, co-workers, family, neighbors, community, meaningful and fulfilling work, hobbies, etc.
Relationship Skills #10. Patience.
At one point you’re going to get frustrated with your significant other. It will feel like they are moving waaaayyyy too slow and you don’t understand why they can’t just do what you need them to do. You’ll wonder if they really care about you and even question whether you should continue to be in this relationship.
Practice patience. Everyone goes through their own process of change and growing up. You can’t rush things. And you can’t place a timeline on someone’s growth.