5 Tips For Stronger Relationships

In the past couple of years I’ve met, and befriended, Cathy Miller on Twitter. We connected initially, when I asked her if she was a cousin from Michigan. That cousin went to the same high school I did, and I knew her long before I met her cousin, Carl, who became my husband.

When I contacted Cathy Miller on Twitter, I was hoping she was the long-lost cousin, but she is not. However, we have become good friends in that virtual world of Twitter. During the COVID years – gosh who would have thought we would be putting it in those words? – Twitter has become a place for me to socialize since I can’t do much of that in the real world.

In that process, I’ve also learned a lot. Much of it from Cathy’s blog that focuses on business practices. A recent post 5 Simple Ways You Lose Credibility Without Even Trying was a good one, and I liked what she had to say. I also liked the inspirational images she included, and she graciously agreed to let me post them here.

Before getting to the images, I want to share her message that applies to anyone, not just people in business. As you read through Cathy’s five points, think about how they can apply to building personal relationships.

Not only do I appreciate the tips and advice Cathy has on her site, I really like the way she presents the content. Always very readable and with graphics that make a visit visually enjoyable, as well as intellectually enjoyable.

Let’s consider each one of her 5 points and relate them to our personal lives.

Neglecting to respond

Do we respond to notes, cards, phone calls, and emails in a timely manner? I try, but will admit that I’m not perfect at that.

When we’re with friends and family members for a visit or dinner out, do we give them our full attention? Do we leave our phones and other devices in pockets or purses? That’s an easy one for me, as I’m not so connected to my smart phone that I have to check every notification ping. It amazes me, the rare times I’ve been out in the past two years to a restaurant, how people sit down and immediately pull out phones. I remember a time when phones were only at home, literally, unless one counted the pay phone on the wall of the restaurant. When the answering machine came along, we were assured we’d never miss an important phone call again.

Avoiding the truth

How honest are we in our relationships? Not that it has to be brutal honesty, as in saying, “Oh my God, what an awful haircut” when a friend changes hairstyles. Nor do we have to tell the people closest to us the brutal truth about everything.

A dear friend, who is also a writer, made that point when she told me how devastated she was that her husband had severely injured his back and had to have surgery, which meant she had to cancel an important speaking engagement. Her devastation was split between concern for her husband and a sharp disappointment at the professional setback for her. That speaking engagement was at an important event that had the potential to connect her to lots of new readers. She needed that boost in readership to ensure that her publisher would offer her a contract on her next book.

The timing couldn’t have been worse; and even though she knew her husband couldn’t pick a time to be incapacitated, she was angry, but she couldn’t tell him that. It would only be a terrible blow that would serve no good purpose. So she told me.

We decided that day that truth between life partners is important, but we have to consider why we’re telling that truth. Does it help the relationship, or is it a potential mortar attack. Which doesn’t mean we rationalize holding back all truth because it might be hurtful. We just have to ask ourselves whether we’re sharing said truth for the benefit of our partner, or just to vent, or to criticize?

I’m going to skip the third point Cathy made as I haven’t been able to tie it directly to personal relationships, but if any of you readers can, please do share in a comment.

Launching before ready

To me, it’s obvious how this applies to relationships. The caution is to not jump into a relationship too quickly and merely for convenience. Or because you’re madly in love with this person. At least you think you are, but you’re not sure. Commitments between two people should be well thought out before that proverbial jump.

Not practicing what you preach

To me, that primarily applies to parenting. As the current cliché goes, do we walk the walk or just talk the talk. Do we demand things of our kids that we are not willing to do ourselves, especially when it comes to making smart, safe decisions? Do we tell them to use alcohol in moderation while we’re stumbling around drunk? Do we tell them to treat people with respect and dignity while we harass a sales clerk for being slow to ring up our groceries?

It was interesting to see the following image on the blog after what Cathy had to say about practicing what you preach.

That quote from Kreeft takes some time to sink in, and it definitely applies to a broader scope than my examples above. It has more to do with social norms, and I think he is asking us to consider whether we’re putting our whole hearts and souls into the causes we support. For example, how strong is our commitment to civil rights, LGBTQ rights, children’s rights. and any others we support? Do we secretly wish all the clamor would just stop?

What a great bit of truth in that quote from Oprah. Like her, I believe we are stronger by facing into, and overcoming, difficulties in life. Consider this Chinese Proverb: “You are strong, tempered like steel in the fire and by the blows of the hammer of life. ‘Out of the hottest fire comes the strongest steel.'”

I’d always thought the phrase “we are tested by fire” came from the Bible, but I couldn’t find that exact wordage when I did a Google search. I found this: Malachi 3:3 “He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, and they will bring offerings in righteousness to the Lord.”

And this: Psalm 66:10-12 “For you, O God, have tested us; you have tried us as silver is tried. You brought us into the net; you laid a crushing burden on our backs; you let men ride over our heads; we went through fire and through water; yet you have brought us out to a place of abundance.”

The first time someone told me that I’m a very strong person, I almost laughed. Me? Until I started really reflecting on my life, I’d never considered that possibility. As I write in my memoir, which I may finish one of these days, “Maybe I did get some inner strength from my challenging childhood. It wasn’t nearly as challenging as people who have suffered great tragedy or violence or fear in their lives. I was never locked in a shed and raped on a daily basis. Nor was I beaten and raped by my father. But we are all a product of our upbringing, and, in one way or another, we have all been forged in fire.

“Mine was just a housefire compared to the forest fires that have scarred other people. Still, burns are burns and scars are scars. And they all hurt.”

They all make us stronger, too

What do you think about the points made by me and Cathy? Have you been strengthened by fire? Please do share in a comment.

And whatever you have planned for the weekend, be safe. Be happy. I’ll be helping one of my daughters medicate her cat, giving a shot. I’m channeling my years as a vet tech and the needle goes in under the skin easy-peasy. Other than that and maybe some time spent with a jigsaw puzzle, nothing too exciting for me on the horizon.

2 thoughts on “5 Tips For Stronger Relationships”

  1. Maryann, thank you so much for the gracious words. I am so happy you reached out long ago (even if I couldn’t be your cousin). 😊

    I have written before how most communication “tips” or good practices apply to all forms of communication- business or personal. I loved reading how you applied these to personal relationships.

    I can give you one for number 3. Ignoring mistakes we’ve made in our personal relationships (or failing to recognize them as problems) will surely lead us to repeating the same mistakes. Worse is concealing them, not only to others but to ourselves. We all make mistakes and we grow from them. Recognizing them, dealing with them, and working to do better makes for better communication and relationships. Don’t dwell on it by beating yourself or the other person up but learn and grow.

    1. Cathy, I think we decided long ago in a Twitter exchange that we could be honorary cousins, so I’m happy to have that connection.

      Love what you had to say for the third point in your list of five. That’s perfect.

      Thanks so much for letting me use some of the material from your blog.

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