Three Key Words to Successful Relationships

Written by Kayla J.W. Marnach

Is there a relationship in your life that is struggling? It can be with your spouse, child, parent, friend, or coworker. It doesn’t matter when the disconnect started or that it has been going on so long you can’t remember the beginning. The point is you are tired of the struggle and the relationship needs healing. God made us relational beings, so why are creating, and maintaining healthy relationships so hard?

Each person is made in the image of God and He created us to have emotional needs. Did you know that the fall was not the first crisis on earth? It was that man was alone.

The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone.

I will make a helper suitable for him.” Genesis 2:18 NIV

Often relationships are broken or struggling because of an unmet emotional need or expectation. Negative behaviors display a need and when you can meet the need, the behavior can change. In the list below, from your point of view, which need do you feel your troubled relationship is missing?

  1. Acceptance: being willing to continue loving another in spite of offenses

  2. Admonition: constructive guidance

  3. Affection: expressing care and closeness through physical touch and words

  4. Appreciation: Expressing gratefulness through thanks and praise

  5. Approval (Blessing): Express favorable opinion or commendation, affirmed

  6. Attention: Appropriate interest, concern, and care, entering another’s world

  7. Comfort: Give consolation with tenderness

  8. Encouragement: Urging toward love and good deeds

  9. Instruction: Modeling, equipping, and training in how to live

  10. Respect: Valuing and regarding another highly, treating another as important

  11. Security: Harmony in relationships; freedom from fear or threat of harm

  12. Support: Coming alongside and gently helping with problems or struggle; help carry the load *HCBC Marriage Clinic

When conflicts arise, disengage and quiet yourself. (Deep breathing changes the brain chemistry, so be sure to take them during trying times!) Once you are ready, in a calm manner, clarify what you feel is the issue. (Feelings are not facts. Feelings can change, facts do not.) Then, ask them what they need. Once the need is recognized and acknowledged it can be discussed and met in an appropriate way. You also must state what you need after they have expressed themself. Relationships must be two-way to be healthy.

There are relationships that must be severed, especially when abuse occurs, but when done with forgiveness, the chains are broken and we’re free to learn and grow from the experience, no longer bound in hurt and pain by the relationship. We can forgive, but that doesn’t mean we have to trust. I forgave my cousin who threatened my sister and damaged my mother’s home, but I didn’t trust him. I had clear boundaries where he was concerned. That is being wise. It is through loving God and following Jesus that all things can be made for good, and that means relationships, no matter how difficult.

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him,

who have been called according to His purpose. Romans 8:28

To keep the communication and expectations clear, check in and ask/answer:

  1. This week, I felt more ___ (accepted, loved, respected, supported) when you ____.

  2. How am I doing with my commitments to you? (from a prior discussion)?

  3. Is there anything I have said, done, failed to say, or failed to do that has caused a hurt, disappointment, or sadness in you this week?

  4. Are there any other concerns or topics (physical, emotional, or spiritual) you want to discuss now: or schedule a time in the next week to discuss?

It’s important to ask children these questions as well. Often, we tend to overlook our actions and their needs.

So, what are the three key words to successful relationships?

  1. STOP and reflect on the unmet needs

  2. SHARE with clear communication your feelings

  3. ASK what you can do to meet their unmet needs

Once that becomes your mindset, relationships will be the blessing they were created to be.

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for the people you put in my life to help me love, grow, and learn. May I always be Your hands and feet, sharing the love and understanding You give to me. Amen.

BONUS: Ask your spouse, child, co-worker, etc.: “What can I do to make your day better?”

I asked my husband this over a period of weeks and it has strengthened our relationship and helped meet and understand our expectations. Now, he asks me!