Simple Tips to Make Your Relationships Stronger

By Jessica Hicks

Relationships are at the core of our mental well-being. The people in our circles and the connections we share with them give us hope when we’re feeling low, help us feel seen and heard, and support us when times are hard. In fact, research tells us that having strong relationships can help buffer us from — and in some cases, prevent — stress and depression. 

We owe it to ourselves and our mental health, as well as the people we care about, to put time and energy into our relationships. Whether they’re a classmate, a parent, a sibling, a cousin, or a mentor, your childhood best friend or a new person you want to know better, it’s worthwhile to invest in your connections.

Take a moment to think of someone who means a lot to you or whom you want to get closer to, and check out ways to grow your relationship below.

Learn more about the power of friendship and ways to give and get support from the people in your life.

Reflect on Your Relationship

Spend a few minutes reflecting on your relationship. You can think through these questions in your head, write them down on paper or the Notes app on your phone, or another way that feels good to you.

  • How do you feel when you think of this person?
  • What makes your relationship work? What are the high points and strengths? What do you value in this relationship?
  • What is a challenge or growth opportunity in your relationship? 
  • How could you be more yourself in this relationship? Is there a way you could learn and grow in new ways?
  • How could you bring more of yourself into this relationship? How could you deepen this relationship, if you wanted to?

Based on your answers to these questions, you will likely have a clearer idea of how this relationship inspires you to be your best self. You might have also identified one or more areas, whether for yourself or in the relationship, you can work on. 

Scroll through the areas of interest below for some quick tips on how you can expand certain parts of your relationship. Or if you’re reading this article on a desktop, you can look on the left side of your screen and click directly to the tips that apply to you.

Have More Meaningful Conversations

Want your conversations to go beyond the surface level and feel more fulfilling? Try to:

  • Listen. Really listen. Do your best to stay present, put your phone away, and limit distractions. Focus more on listening than speaking, and look to understand what the person is saying rather than planning what you might say next. This is known as active listening
  • Ask open, honest questions. Lead with curiosity that isn’t based on an agenda, and wonder for the sake of wondering. What haven’t you asked this person about, or what’s a topic that’s interesting to them that you can engage with?
  • Practice “balanced sharing.” Sometimes, we turn the focus of a conversation to ourselves to relate to the other person. If this becomes a habit, it can make conversations feel one-sided. If your friend is sharing and you offer up a story of your own, be sure to bring the conversation back to your friend.

Feel More Connected When Spending Time Apart

It can be hard to spend time away from those you care about. Whether you’re in a long-distance romantic relationship or miss a family member or friend while away at school, there are many ways to connect. You could:

  • FaceTime and talk on the phone in addition to texting, sending each other things on social media, or however else you like to communicate.
  • Visualize your time with them. Just thinking about your partner, family member, or friend can be a form of connection. You don’t have to be actively talking or spending time in person with them to feel bonded — you can connect in your mind and in your heart.
  • Play games with them and share content with them. Play an online game and share your results, or send them an article you enjoyed.

Learn to Disagree While Staying Connected

Disagreeing while treating each other with kindness and respect takes practice. To get better at this, you could:

  • Use “I” statements. Share your feelings and point of view instead of placing blame. So, instead of saying, “You did (blank),” or “You made me feel (blank),” you might say, “I felt (blank) when this happened,” or “I noticed that I had a reaction when you did (blank). Can I share what was happening for me?” Describe your own experience — don’t describe theirs.
  • Know when to take a break. Stepping back from an argument can help you keep your cool, collect your thoughts, and prevent the conversation from getting too heated. You can do this by being honest that you’re feeling strong emotions and need to pause to recenter. Be sure to let your loved one know that taking a pause is not a disconnection — doing so will allow you to reenter the conversation in a more balanced way.
  • Stay in the present. Try not to bring up past issues. Stay on the current topic and take a moment to come back to the present when you feel yourself going off course.

Be More Present With Each Other

Do you ever spend time with someone, only to realize you didn’t feel like you were truly together? To practice being present with each other, you could:

  • Make time for in-person connection — even if it’s in small doses, like going for a walk or running errands together.
  • Put phones away and limit other distractions.
  • Check in when you know they’re going through a hard time. Maybe a difficult anniversary is coming up for a friend. You could text, “I know things are hard right now, and I’m thinking of you.” You don’t always need to tie an action to it — just let your friend know you’re there for them.

Talk More Openly About Your Feelings

It’s not always easy to talk about emotions, even with the people you’re closest to. Here’s how to practice this skill and encourage vulnerability in your relationship:

  • Do a quiz with get-to-know-you questions or try new conversation starters. These conversations will lay the groundwork for more authentic sharing when things are hard.
  • Get to know your own feelings first. This can make it easier to share with others. You could try journaling or using an emotion wheel for a few days to label your feelings.

Practice Kindness and Compassion

There are simple ways to infuse more care in your relationships:

  • Do something to help when your friend, family member, or partner is especially stressed. Take out the trash, unload the dishwasher, or something else that could make their day a little easier.
  • Make a small gesture to show you’re thinking of them. Something like picking up or making them their favorite drink or snack can make your loved one feel cared for and seen.
  • Practice self-compassion. Remember: You can’t be compassionate with others if you’re not compassionate with yourself!

Give Each Other the Benefit of the Doubt

Sometimes, it’s easy to jump to the worst-case scenario, but this can harm your relationship if it becomes a habit. The following are some ways to see the best in the person you care about:

  • Believe up.” In other words, don’t assume the worst — believe that the people in your life are doing the best they can, even when they make a mistake or disappoint you.
  • Take the lead in making plans if you know your friend or loved one is struggling. If they’re facing a mental health challenge or are just busier than usual, don’t take it to mean they aren’t committed to your relationship. During this time, you might initiate text conversations to check in or be the one to make the plans.

Have More Fun Together

Here are some actions you can take to make your time together more enjoyable and meaningful:

  • Do something without devices — even if that means putting them in a drawer for just an hour and getting out for a walk together.
  • Be in each other’s company without having an activity planned. See where the day takes you.
  • Do creative things that aren’t your go-to activities. Gaze at clouds, go to an escape room, or simply try something new you haven’t done together.

Search Resource Center

Type your search term below
Get Help Now

If you or someone you know needs to talk to someone right now, text, call, or chat 988 for a free confidential conversation with a trained counselor 24/7. 

You can also contact the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741-741.

If this is a medical emergency or if there is immediate danger of harm, call 911 and explain that you need support for a mental health crisis.