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Need to reboot your relationship? Here's how.

Don’t take your loved ones for granted – every relationship needs attention and nurturing.

SPRING IS A time of change. The evenings get longer, the temperatures finally start rising and people consider making changes in their lives. Apart from the obligatory home renovations, many people also use the springtime to focus on their relationships. It’s no coincidence that February and March sees an increase in people looking for relationship advice.

For that reason, spring might be the right time to rekindle your relationship, be that with your partner, a friend or relative. We are not advocating a ‘spring clean’ but, to borrow a word from the current political dialogue, this is a time to ‘reboot’ your relationships.

The after-effects of stress 

Investing time and effort in relationships is probably one of the wisest decisions you can make. It is especially important because many families and couples are still experiencing stress caused by the financial crash and the recession. Debt levels, unemployment and emigration are some of the main factors that have wreaked enormous emotional damage on many families across Ireland.

Despite the pick-up in the economy, we should not be complacent and underplay the after-effects of stress or the damage that has been done to relationships. For example, research published late last year as part of the Growing Up in Ireland survey showed that children in households that were under financial pressure were susceptible to emotional problems, even when economic conditions improved.

This suggests that it is vital for parents, spouses and friends to keep a focus on their relationships and to ensure that they are in good condition.

Don’t take communication for granted

So what is the best way to rekindle a relationship?

Good communication is the single most important factor to make this happen. It is also the cornerstone of any successful relationship, be that platonic or romantic.

Communication has to be two-way. You have to learn to listen and equally to make sure that you are being heard. No topic should be off-limits and no subject should be considered to be too trivial – just because you don’t think it’s important doesn’t mean someone else doesn’t.

Don’t take communication for granted and make sure that you work at it. It is vital to create a situation where your partner, friends or relatives feel comfortable laying bare their fears, concerns, desires and passions.

The old phrase ‘a problem shared is a problem halved’ springs to mind. Once couples or families are able to communicate properly they are able to face down any problems or issues together.

In turn, creating this environment automatically strengthens relationships because it makes the bond between couples and families stronger and once this bond is strong, they can provide support to one another and act as a team.

Time isn’t always on your side

It is also important for couples to set aside time as part of this process. Aside from the stress caused by the recession and the financial strain it has placed many families under, couples also have to deal with punishing work schedules, long commutes and have to spend time running households and looking after children.

This modern routine, especially where both parents work, doesn’t leave much opportunity for couples to spend quality time together. It is exactly those people who are worn out by the daily grind who need to prioritise their personal relationships, as all of their other responsibilities mean that they have inadvertently overlooked their partner.

However, this is the single most important relationship, so it stands to reason that it requires the most effort and investment. It is important that you don’t neglect it or push it to the bottom of your priorities.

Keep talking

Nurturing your relationship with your other half can take many forms; at its most basic, it can be a compliment about their appearance or a quick call during the work day to see how they are getting on.

Buying flowers or small gifts, treating your partner to breakfast in bed, going for a meal together will all help to rekindle your relationship with your other half. It is also helpful to find an activity that you can both enjoy together in your spare time.

Most importantly, though, if you want to rekindle your relationship, with your partner or your relatives, make sure to keep talking to one another.

Shane Kelly is spokesman for the Irish Association for Counselling & Psychotherapy.
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