Keep in mind a relationship is a mirror in which you can see yourself, not as you would wish to be, but as you are.

Relationships can bring out strengths you never knew you had, but they also expose hidden weaknesses and flaws. That’s why building healthy relationships starts with reflection and self-awareness.

Here’s what you can do to build healthy relationships and support the people in your life:

1. Figure out your core beliefs
If you don’t trust someone, it may be because they’ve betrayed your trust in the past or shown a pattern of suspicious behavior. But the problem could also be on your end. Your core beliefs and previous experiences could make you see betrayal even when there’s nothing there. Exploring those core beliefs and building self-knowledge sets you up to approach relationships in an informed and intelligent way.

2. Cherish each other’s vulnerabilities
In the early stages of a relationship, you might want to be your best self and hide your insecurities. But after a while, you start to open up and show who you really are. Whenever someone is vulnerable with you, show them they can count on you by avoiding jokes and negative comments. Express support and let them know you care.

3. Ask for help when you need it
Asking someone for help is difficult. But healthy relationships involve give and take. When you seek help from someone, whether that’s emotional or otherwise, you’re offering them an opportunity to support you — and chances are they’ll be more than happy to take it. This also shows the other person that they should also feel comfortable doing the same when they need it.

4. Protect the relationship from stress
Stressed-out people have little energy left over for their relationships, which means constant stress can wear out your connections over time, whether that’s internal fighting or external hardship. One way to avoid this is to talk about past difficulties as battles that you overcame together. Researchers call this process “glorifying the struggle.”

5. Show appreciation
Expressing gratitude is a simple way to improve relationship satisfaction. In fact, it may even trigger a virtuous spiral in which receiving appreciation makes you more likely to appreciate your partner. Find, and take, opportunities to show your gratitude, whether that’s kind words or a gesture of thanks.

6. Set aside time to talk about your hopes and fears
The infatuation at the beginning of a romantic relationship is full of happy hormones. But that intensity can wear off over time. Make the effort to continue learning about each other and sparking those feelings of newness and excitement. Hopes, fears, and plans change over time, so have regular discussions to stay on the same page and discover more things you love.

7. Fight with intention
Conflict is powerful. It can either break relationships or make them stronger. But handling conflict maturely can be extremely difficult, especially if you feel defensive. Show the other person you care by acknowledging the need they’re expressing, even if you don’t agree with it, and focus on constructive solutions.

Listen actively and try to see the fight not as you versus the other person, but as you and the other person versus the problem. If either of you becomes overpowered by emotion, pause and take a time out. Giving yourself space for emotional regulation can offer the insight you need to approach the problem proactively.

8. Embrace your differences
Everyone’s personality is unique and changes over time, which means you and the people around you will always have differences. Regularly recognize your complementary strengths and weaknesses, and appreciate what each of you brings to the relationship. Show the other person you value their perspective.

9. Communicate and maintain healthy boundaries
Try to communicate your boundaries proactively, whether those concern how much time you can spend with them or your level of emotional intimacy. But sometimes, you only become aware of a boundary after someone crosses it — so if they do something you’re not comfortable with, explain it clearly.

And in the same vein, stay alert to any indications that the other person is setting boundaries, even if they’re subtle. Don’t be afraid to clarify verbally and ask what they need from you. Healthy couples, friendships, and familial relationships give space to talk about boundaries.

10. Check in regularly
Even in healthy relationships, you’ll sometimes fail to communicate. If you’re ill or going through a busy period, you might not pay attention or realize you’re neglecting someone. Check in regularly with the other person to find out how they’re doing, what’s on their plate, and if there’s anything you can do to help.

11. Be a good listener
Listening creates a feeling of togetherness and aids a creative thought process. If you can listen actively and without judgment, you’ll deepen your relationships and solve problems better together.

When it comes to conflict, listening to the other person doesn’t mean you have to change your opinion — or even agree. But it’ll help you understand and connect to them, which in turn can help you find common ground.

12. Learn how you each like to give and receive affection
According to 5 Love Languages author Gary Chapman, there are five main ways people like to receive affection: acts of service, gifts, quality time, words of affirmation, and physical touch. You might feel good when your friend verbally praises you, while your friend might feel good when you’re doing an activity like going on a walk together. That means your love language is words of affirmation, and your friend’s is quality time.

If you don’t know how you like to receive affection or how to verbalize those feelings, consider doing a love language quiz. Then you can give people the attention and effort they deserve, the way they prefer it.

13. Have fun together
Strong relationships are hard work – but they shouldn’t always feel like work. Schedule time to explore, try new things, and do activities you and the person you care about both enjoy. Spending your free time working on your relationship shows you both that you’re eager and willing to put in the effort.

Improving a connection and finding what works for both of you is a beautiful thing.

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