Think about how it feels when someone genuinely wants to know more about you and your personal experience.... it feels pretty good, right?
Relationships thrive on the back and forth of sharing and receiving. You can show someone you love that you care by taking the time to get to know them on a regular basis. When we are out experiencing the world we will find ourselves with a constant opportunity of change. Each experience we have, whether its a challenge at work, something that resonated with us in an article we read, an exchange with a stranger… these experiences and interactions all carry the power to change us, even if its just a little bit. These changes in perspective can add up until we find ourselves with new ways of thinking (positive or negative). Often we get stuck in the story that we *know* the people in our worlds therefore we don’t really need to ask them about their experiences, we feel we probably have a good idea of how they feel. This is how relationships can become stagnant and feelings of distance can be created… if there is too much distance or stagnation for too long, you can even risk the death of the relationship.
Relationships don’t survive on their own, it takes effort from both parties to maintain the life of a relationship. Think of your relationship as a bonfire that you have built with the person you love… to get the fire started you both put in quite a bit of effort. That fire may be quite strong, but if left unattended the fire will begin to die out. You must tend to that fire. If you’ve ever built a fire you know that you must add elements to the fire - brush, branches, logs, etc. Think of of the brush and wood you are adding to your fire as asking questions and listening. For example, asking your partner how they are feeling and listening with genuine empathy and care can ensure the flame will gain strength. Checking in with our loved ones is part of maintaining the flames of the fire you built together. If we tend to the fire regularly it doesn’t feel like as much work as if you almost let the fire die out and you need to ‘save’ it.
It is by asking and having genuine curiosity about any person you love (partner/friend/sister) that keeps relationships strong and can ensure they will continue to grow. Without curiosity and asking of questions people can start to feel unimportant, ignored or even resentful. Take the time to ask someone you truly care about a question today. It can be as simple as:
“What was your day like today?”
“What are you looking forward to today/this week/this month?”
“How have things been for you lately?”
After you ask the question, listen with curiosity and empathy. Allowing the other person to share their feelings/experiences/thoughts is an opportunity to feel loved and heard, which in turn allows us to feel closer to that friend/partner.
If you are struggling with a relationship and want to learn new ways of communicating or connecting, counseling can help. Sometimes we all need a little support or suggestions in tending to our fires. Therapists are always a good resource available to you.
Melissa Grohs, MA, LPCC