Relationships are the foundation of our emotional well-being. They provide us with an opportunity to be vulnerable and open up to someone who will love us unconditionally.
However, it can be difficult to maintain a healthy relationship because we often change over time. This article provides practical ways for individuals to cultivate relationships that last.
The cultivating relationships quotes is a well-written blog post that discusses how to cultivate relationships that last. It also includes the text designing a life well-lived.
Unsplash photo by Chandra Oh
The act of cultivating, oh, the process of nurturing. “Work and attention are used to promote or improve the development of (a plant, a crop).”
I despise it when an article or speech starts with a definition. Nonetheless, I am. Because if we really want to speak honestly about the work and pleasure of relationships, this word, nurture, is the ideal, fundamental, basic notion.
Spoiler alert: Relationships are hard work, as shown by more than a half-century of excellent relationship research. You’ll have to put in the effort if you want a long friendship, a lasting marriage, extended family harmony, or simply a lasting and good connection with your neighbors.
And it’s typically more than you’d want, in ways you don’t want, and that may be inconvenient at times. However, if you refuse to work and attention to a relationship, it will deteriorate and devolve into chaos.
Oh, the anarchy. Yes, it’s a euphemism for a variety of relationship problems including lonely marriages, friendship breakups, divorce, neighbor conflicts, parent-child impasses, family dysfunction, the silent treatment, passive-aggressiveness… and/or any combination of the above.
I know (oh, how I know) that seeing relationships in terms of “maintenance” is neither glamorous nor enticing. However, embracing the fact that frequent maintenance is needed may help us make better everyday decisions. We approach and interact with our relationships differently when we approach each day with the awareness that they need deliberate and regular attention.
Relationships aren’t beautiful or seductive when seen through the lens of “maintenance.” However, embracing the fact that frequent maintenance is needed may help us make better everyday decisions. We approach and interact with our relationships differently when we approach each day with the awareness that they need deliberate and regular attention.
What does such tending to entail—cultivating and maintaining?
A wise-owl friend—a lady approximately twenty years my elder—shared her lived and observed reality (btw, she is a kickass, highly sought-after life coach) a little over a decade ago: At the core of any issue, suffering, or relationship tension is the presence of too much or too little of something.
I was interested as a social scientist, but I wasn’t sure it could be that easy. Nonetheless, I was fascinated enough to spend the next few years testing her theory—trying it on as a lens as I tried to make sense of whatever suffering was there in mine or others’ lives. What’s more, guess what? I believe she is correct (mostly). It’s both that easy and a little more complex, much like relationships. However, this is not always the case (that complicated).
Maybe it’s because the too much/too little hypothesis aligns with one of relationship science’s most well-established, well-studied, and widely accepted concepts: that human relationships are systems. Everything is linked and interwoven; all parts and components, including our emotional ones, are interdependent.
Keeping and developing long-term relationships is similar to maintaining and cultivating a healthy body—your most personal and valuable system. You’re already an expert in the field of systems! You already understand how and why our bodies need upkeep on a daily, hourly basis. And, as you probably well know, when we don’t receive enough of the stuff we need, our wonderful, sophisticated bodies will send us lots of messages.
We are built to be completely interdependent, thus illness (dis-ease) may result from too much or too little of almost everything. Is there a lack of water, nutrition, activity, or sleep? Too many drugs, mental stresses, and blue light? Our smart bodies will desire for a reset and will communicate this to us via inflammation, headaches, irritable bowel syndrome, sleeplessness, irritability, sadness, anxiety, and other symptoms.
Ironically (or is it? ), the more difficult system—maintaining good, long-lasting, life-giving relationships—is a bit more difficult simply because we aren’t taught how to do so often and clearly. What should we do more of, less of, and where should we spend our often restricted energies?
How do we hear the echoes of suffering, loneliness, and disconnection? Of discord, indifference, rage, and separation? What precisely do we do if/when we hear them? Is it possible to overcorrect by doing too much? Where do we need to do less (or feel less, disclose less, or offer less)?
Maintaining and developing long-term relationships is similar to keeping one’s body in good shape… Ironically (or is it? ), the more difficult system—maintaining good, long-lasting, life-giving relationships—is a bit more difficult simply because we aren’t taught how to do so often and clearly.
If you haven’t gotten training, coaching, or instruction on fundamental human connection skills—skills that research now shows will improve our chances of forming effective, long-lasting relationships by a factor of ten—you’re not alone. Most of us are taught the importance of looking to and caring for our own bodies from an early age, but we seldom discuss developing our relationship networks.
We haven’t always been taught why failing to take out the trash, empty the dishwasher, wipe off the counter after making toast, or looking at our phone may be viewed as disrespectful by our spouse or roommate. “What the hell!” I mean. Later, I was going to clear the dishwasher!” #eyeroll.
“They’re simply crumbs!” says the narrator. What’s the matter with you? You’re all twisted out of shape!” “I was simply checking to see whether an email had been returned. Continue speaking; I’m completely attentive.”
The good news is that it’s never too late to dedicate yourself to the work of relationship development and nurturing. Even little, positive efforts (a little more random praise) and a little less of the infectious negativity (apathy, criticizing, shutting down) may and will produce substantial changes and good results (woot woot) in countless areas of your relationships, according to research.
Interdependence, thank you! Learning how to make modest adjustments and efforts—a little less of X, a little more of X—can and will have exponential consequences in unanticipated ways. Oh, and they are talents that can be learned and used!
But where do you begin? Begin small. Begin here.
Here are six areas where you should concentrate your extra/less labors. Six things—some large, some fast, some demanding effort and vulnerability, some tiny and totally free—that I highly suggest if you’re willing to and want to develop any of your relationships over time.
Some of this 12 dozen comes from excellent relationship science; others come from my personal experience parenting a twenty-eight-year marriage, two (pretty awesome, if I do say so myself) children, now twenty and twenty-four years old, and the kickass women I get to call my inner circle of smart women (and a few good men).
Most are a mix of all of the above, as well as my own years of excellent treatment. Oh, and another spoiler alert: more counseling is on the agenda. I’m sorry/I’m not sorry.
1. Increased scanning to the right
It’s easy to get irritated in any relationship (job, marriage, housemates) over time. To first (and only) see what is incorrect. To be easily annoyed on a regular basis. “Is it really so difficult to close the kitchen cabinet doors?” “How many times do I have to tell you not to dry your jeans?” “I’ve told you a million times to turn off the hallway light when you leave the office!” However, scanning our surroundings and choosing to recognize what is going well requires just as little time and effort.
Then savor it—as in, say it aloud. “Thanks for cleaning up the kitchen last night,” says the narrator. I was exhausted, and your assistance was much appreciated.” “Thank you very much for picking up the lovely card for Mom’s party.” Scanning our surroundings and choosing to recognize what is going well requires about the same amount of time and effort. Then savor it—as in, say it aloud.
It’s infectious to feel respected and appreciated. Others are more inclined to look at others (you) with a similar lens when they feel affirmed: they are more likely to right scan more and scold scan less when they feel affirmed. And, because to dependency, that praising and positivity breeds more complimenting and positivity, spilling good feelings into all aspects of your relationships.
2. There will be less “happy” nonsense
No, I’m not suggesting that you settle for unhappy relationships and accept long-term pain. What I mean is that many of us consider “happiness” as an inflection point when choosing long-term partners or remaining in a relationship or marriage. “Well, I’m simply not pleased, therefore this can’t be right,” we say. I’m leaving!” Nate Bagley, a relationship expert, puts it best:
“The goal of marriage isn’t to be happy. The purpose of marriage is to help you grow.”
To be clear, you can both create and discover pleasure and satisfaction in your relationships. When natural disharmony occurs, though, you’re more inclined to believe you’ve missed or failed (“I’m out!”). What should you do instead? Adopt a mentality of progress.
3. A more growth-oriented attitude
Adopting a “growth mentality” in and toward relationships is one of the most significant changes we can make, altering the way we make both little and large decisions in our relationships dramatically. Carol Dweck, a Stanford researcher who developed and researched the concept, puts it brilliantly:
“All of these things can be cultivated, according to the growth mentality. You, your spouse, and the relationship as a whole are all capable of change and development. Instant, complete, and everlasting compatibility is the goal in the fixed mentality. It’s as though it was meant to be. It’s as though you’re riding out into the sunset. As in, ‘they lived happily ever after.’
One issue is that individuals with a fixed mentality expect positive things to happen on their own. It’s not as if the couples will work together to solve issues or learn new abilities. It’s that this would miraculously happen as a result of their love, similar to how Sleeping Beauty’s coma was healed by her prince’s kiss, or Cinderella’s wretched existence was changed by her prince.”
One of the most important ideas I’ve embraced in my own relationships is to view our relationships as continuously developing, not as a destination to which we reach and then enjoy the benefits of uninterrupted giddiness and unshakable bliss. Oh, and research shows that it works, and that the attitude affects/improves other aspects of our life as well. (Once again, interdependence!)
4. There is less numbness
There will be ups and downs, sometimes at the same moment, if we are really putting in the effort to develop and maintain life-giving, genuine connections. It’s not fun, particularly when there’s too much of one thing (pain, disagreement, stonewalling) and not enough of the other (joy, gentleness, openness). It’s tempting to attempt to make pain go away while you’re in it. To be able to withstand it. But we must avoid succumbing to the allure of numbing oneself to the less pleasurable emotional labor of partnerships.
Of course, drugs are often used to numb: large quantities of the feel-good sugar, ice cream, chocolate with a side of an extra gin and tonic or three. Alternatively, a large cheesecake with a cool beer (delicious!). We also practice the art of numbing by engaging in other dopamine-boosting activities such as binge-searching Pinterest or Instagram; hours on Twitter; the delightful and funny time suck that is TikTok; and then I have to keep up my Snap streak!
Yes, the same brain chemicals—the same feel-good hormones—are released by human contact, chocolate, exercise, and/or cuddling a warm, cuddly infant or dog that we receive from our screens (each of which I strongly recommend, at the right time and not all at the same time). In one of the most-watched TED Talks of all time, expert Brené Brown explained:
“We can’t numb feelings selectively. We numb the good feelings when we dull the painful ones.”
Isn’t it a painful truth? And how can we identify and be honest with our numbing habits while learning about our relationship systems at the same time? Perform (additional) therapy.
5. More treatment is required
One of the reasons I recommend excellent therapy to everyone is because it is one-on-one education on the most important subject in the world: YOU. You’re the one who fixes yourself. Others aren’t fixed by you.
However, when you enter a relationship with another/s as your most authentic, ever-evolving self—willing to keep doing the work of vulnerability, accepting responsibility, and learning about how you show up/don’t show up in interactions—you will (thank you, interdependence) see benefits in multiple areas of your life, your relationships, your health…everything.
Therapy may be done alone, with a partner, or with your family. Yes, getting near to oneself may be frightening. However, a lack of self-awareness and a proclivity for blaming provide fertile ground for instability.
Bonus: If you’re lucky enough to have a good therapist, they’ll probably recommend additional relationship rituals. Of course, I do as well.
6. Add to the routine
More rituals of bonding, specifically. Creating deliberate methods of frequently getting together—even remotely, if necessary—to share, laugh, chat, drink drinks, exercise, rest, play Animal Crossing, and enjoy your common passion with Schitt’s Creek in friendship, family, marriage, and even professional relationships: These little rituals provide chances to focus on your relationship and each other on a regular basis.
Connection rituals don’t have to be costly, time-consuming, or huge… When it comes to ritual, size doesn’t matter; purpose and meaning do. Connection rituals do not have to be costly, time-consuming, or enormous; in fact, micro-rituals are frequently more sustainable over time. On your way to work, you may make a five-minute call to your elderly mother.
When you get home from work, maybe you and your spouse always embrace for the count of twenty. Maybe every evening, with all devices turned off and out of sight, your whole family spends five minutes to speak out loud two things that went well and one thing that didn’t (and, if you’re with your spouse or partner, you finish these little talks with a twenty-second kiss!). When it comes to ritual, size doesn’t matter; purpose and meaning do. Esther Perel, a well-known relationship therapist from across the world, puts it best:
“The ritual is what distinguishes the commonplace and banal from something more exalted, separated, and sacred.”
My own study has shown that rituals of connection serve a variety of purposes in maintaining relationships, including giving an intangible feeling of “We can do this!”
And what about that feeling? It’s one of those things that you can’t have too much of, particularly when you cultivate a feeling of wefulness while keeping in mind that it, too, will ebb and flow. (Thank you, interdependence, yet again.)
Are you ready to get started? Three cheers (maybe more!) for nurturing your connections.
Cultivating a relationship with someone that lasts is not easy, but it can be done. It takes time and effort to build a lasting connection with someone else. Reference: cultivating relationships synonym.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do you cultivate a relationship?
To cultivate a relationship, you need to be patient and understanding. You also need to be willing to put in more work than the other person is willing to do.
How do you make a relationship last a lifetime?
I am not able to answer this question.
Whats the secret to a long-lasting relationship?
There is no secret to a long-lasting relationship. The key to a successful relationship is communication and compromise.