Relationships can be hard. All relationships take effort, not just romantic relationships. Whether it be a friend, a family member, or a coworker, having great relationships take work. Sure relationships might seem to be a lot of effort at times, but most of the best things in life are! Just like many other things in life, I truly believe you get what you put in when it comes to relationships.

Here are four ways to be intentional in your relationships in order to make the most of them.

1. Learn about love languages

Our love language is how we express and receive love. There are five love languages: Gifts, acts of service, words of affirmation, physical touch, and quality time. Your love language might be gifts, and because of this you may think you’re expressing love to your friend or spouse by giving them gifts. However, they may not see it that way because that is not their love language. Learning about the love languages has been an amazing tool for me in my relationships and it has saved many marriages!

If you want to learn more about love languages, I highly recommend the book The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman.

2. Put in the effort

If you are constantly thinking that school, work, alone time, working out, etc. is more important than your relationships, you will not be putting in the effort it takes to create lasting relationships. In turn, your relationships will be unfulfilling for both you and your partner/friend. It’s not that your other priorities are not important,  but if you want to have satisfying relationships, there should be a healthy balance amongst all of your priorities.

3. Go deep

You may find some interesting things in the shallow part of the ocean. Some shells, some small fish, some seaweed… but the shallow part is where it’s comfortable. But all of these things have been seen before. It’s way more interesting to delve deep and discover all the rare ocean life found in the depths of the sea. These are things rarely seen by human eyes. It’s not easy to get there, but it is definitely worth it.

Going deep in your relationships creates strong bonds, develops trust, and alleviates the burden of dealing with things all on your own. The strongest friendships are the ones in which you can feel free to talk about your deepest struggles, values, and dreams. This allows you to see someone for who they really are. Next time you are with your friend, family member, or partner, go beyond the shallow end by asking questions about passions, life goals, and obstacles.

4. Lay it all out there

Hiding things in your relationships can lead to a buildup of resentments. If there is something your friend has done or said to you that you feel is really affecting your relationship, it might be best to bring it up in a non assuming way. They may even be unaware of what they did and this conversation can help them and you grow and learn. On the flip side, if you’re the one who was in the wrong, forgive. Avoid blame and criticizing as this only leads to more resentment and distance. This is not easy to do, but in the long run it will be worth it.

I feel that it’s also important for me to point out that we should be able to recognize when things need to come to an end. It’s not fair to you or the other person if you’re staying in a friendship or a relationship that’s just not working. Toxic relationships can really hurt you and others and sometimes your own well being is more important than trying to make someone happy all the time. It takes strength and wisdom to recognize and end these kinds of relationships, but sometimes that’s what it takes to help you live your best and most fulfilling life.

If you want to go deeper in a relationship, or want to reconnect with an old friend, try these 4 tips and notice how your relationship changes.

Do you have any tips for strengthening relationships through living intentionally? Let us know in the comments below!

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