“We loved with a love that was more than love.” – Edgar Allan Poe
Valentine’s Day is almost here. Typically, around this time of year, we hear all about how to better our intimate relationships and focus on our lovers. While the romantic aspect is fun and super important around this time of year, I want to include everyone–whether or not we have an amorous relationship to focus on. We all have important relationships we can work on and improve–be it with our sibling(s), parent(s), friend(s), neighbor(s), etc; I want to offer six suggestions for how we can prioritize and strengthen those relationships.
When I talk about prioritizing relationships, many of us may initially and erroneously think it will require a great amount of time or money or effort. The following six suggestions are absolutely free of charge; they will simply take some planning and rearranging of your time and focus, but they are powerful ways to prioritize any important relationship:
- Check in with each other. During the day, we can send a text, a slack, a DM, a Marco Polo, a snapchat, an email, a google chat, a picture, a reel…whatever (!) to the people important to us. We can give them a call on our way to/from work or in between our other responsibilities. When we do this, we are letting them know we are thinking and care about them. It does not take long to do these things, but it sends an important message that we care about them and want to prioritize connecting with them over the other things we could be doing with our time.
- Give undivided attention. How many times have we been with a friend, family member, romantic partner, etc, and felt slighted because the other person is distracted by the TV, their phone, another person, or something else? When we are with our important people, let’s be with them. Chip and Joanna Gaines sell a cute leather pouch that they themselves supposedly use to place their phones in during mealtimes. This ensures they are all present and fosters unity and connection. When we are one-on-one with someone, let’s prioritize our relationship with them by putting everything else aside and giving them our full, undivided attention.
- Listen. This might seem like a silly or unrelated way to prioritize relationships, but I will preface by saying–everyone wants to be heard. Friends, lovers, family members alike–everyone simply wants to be heard! Whether it is in the space of a disagreement or simply the context of sharing opinions, listen to what the other person has to say! Our understanding of, interest and engagement in our important people’s lives and opinions is an indicator of how much we value the relationship with them. When we listen to their perspective, we demonstrate that we value them!
- Schedule quality time. The best way to prioritize, strengthen and improve any relationship is to spend quality time together doing something both parties enjoy. This may be a girls night, fishing for the guys, a romantic date, etc. It could be anything! Plan a time to really connect and make meaningful memories together. Yet again, the mere act of planning this shows we prioritize the relationship because we are spending time together instead of doing something else. Planned quality time is an amazing way to prioritize any special relationship in our lives!
- Talk about talking. Any solid relationship is founded upon good communication. Friends, family, lovers…we all need a safe place to talk about what we are thinking, feeling, needing, etc. Even two of the manliest brothers I know need to be able to talk about their relationship and improve their bond in order to fully show up for each other. So, let’s show the people we care about that we value our relationships by talking about what is going well, what needs improvement, why we value them, etc. Open dialogue is the key!
We live in a day of cancel culture. If (WHEN) someone offends you, the world tells you to cut them out. One final, bonus suggestion is the following: WHEN we have a conflict or confrontation with someone we care about, be patient with them. Instead of avoiding them or cutting them out of our lives completely, let’s be patient with them and their shortcomings. We can go back to the previous suggestions in this list and work on prioritizing the relationship by checking in with each other, giving undivided attention when we are together, making sure we are spending quality time with one another, listening intently to what they have to say, and talking about how both parties can better show up for one another. Relationships are hard to maintain, but humans thrive on meaningful connection. It is worth it. These five suggestions are the perfect recipe to prioritize any important relationship in our lives. Let’s do it!
Happy Valentine’s Day to all!
Melissa Cluff is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist based in North Texas, providing face-to-face and telehealth therapy options to clients in Texas.
- Cluff Counseling: The Most Forgotten of the Human Needs
- The Knot: 115 Relationship Quotes to Make Every Couple Feel All the Feels
- Psychology Today: 9 Tips for Making Your Relationship a Priority