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Resilient relationships, how to get them

Resilience is a bit of a buzz word right now. We are told that we need to build resilience, to be resilient in life, so how can we find resilience within our relationships. Resilient relationships are able to handle conflict. Resilient relationships are flexible, not fragile, collaborative, not controlling and there is a feeling of confidence and security that feels good.

What is a "resilient relationship?"

It’s a secure relationship that can withstand conflict and stay intact, even if the participants don’t always agree. Resilient relationships are secure enough to withstand tough times, instead of crumbling under stress. Resilient relationships bounce back from stress and tough times.

Times are Hard Right Now

Life is hard for big chunks of society right now. We are all more divided politically and socially, than we’ve ever been and this all adds to everyday stress we all experience. This polarisation can cause strain in our friendship and family bonds. Over time, strain on these bonds can cause relationship to break down completely.

Practices of Resilient Relationships

People who build resilient relationships know that these relationships don’t happen by accident. Resilient relationships all have common features at their core.

1. Being there for each other

2. Being present

3. Sharing power

4. Disagreeing well

5. Taking time off

If some or all of these features are absent, relationships can fracture over time. All five features are required to maintain a relationship over time. These practices don’t have to be practiced perfectly, but they do need to be practiced in order for resilience to exist.

1. Being there for each other

This is making time for each other, regardless of whether we always agree with each other. For strong communities and families to exist we need to mix and mingle with people from different walks of life and with different views. We won’t have resilient relationships if we don’t make time for each other.

2 Being Present

Being present means making an honest, open inquiry about who we are and what inspires us. Being present means leaving the judgement behind and try to explore any differing values and beliefs. that our conversation partners hold. Try to understand how those things connect for that person, even if we don't agree. Listen to that person, really listen to them and afford them the same time you’d expect them to give you. When we choose to be present, we allowing ourselves to show our own vulnerability and inviting that person into a stronger relationship.

Being present is an act of vulnerability and trust; it’s letting someone get to know us in the truth of who we are and what we have experienced.

3. Sharing power

Sharing power means equality and the absence of domination or control. Sharing power means making space for each other and allowing all of our voices to be heard. When everyone has a voice, it builds a solid foundation of resilience. When someone feels they don’t have a voice or that power has been taken from them, it can create anger in the relationship. Especially when we believe we are right, no one wants to think they are wrong or their beliefs are being challenged negatively. Sharing power means inspiring others, not controlling; persuading, not punishing.

Sharing power can be hard but resilient relationships can only happen if everyone has an equal seat at the table.

4. Disagreeing well

Relationships are resilient when they can hold the weight of conflict, instead of running away from disagreement we have to learn how to disagree in a healthy way, engaging with each other on tough issues in ways that make us stronger, together. Disagreeing well also means not forcing our opinions or resolutions on someone else.

We need to ask our partners questions that we are really interested in, questions that we want to hear the answer to and a genuine interest in the persons viewpoint and any complexities attached to that viewpoint.

When we allow ourselves and others to make mistakes and change our minds, without shame, we reduce anxiety and animosity in relationships. Feeling constantly judged is not good for relationships.

A great conversation partner can disagree with us on just about anything but the disagreement can challenge us and sharpen us in positive ways. When we seek to challenge those around us, and we allow others to challenge us, we open the door to seeing, learning, and teaching things that we would otherwise miss out on, we see an alternative viewpoint

Resilient relationships give us the confidence to tell the truth because we know the relationship is stable enough to handle honesty. We tell the truth when we feel safe and secure in our relationships and being open and truthful is the key to maintaining a resilient relationship.

Express gratitude and thanks for those who disagree with us in healthy ways, because healthy disagreement is a mark of resilience.

Disagreeing well is one of the most important skills we can learn in the pursuit of resilient relationships.

5. Taking time off

Dealing with conflict and stress requires a lot of resources. We expend time, energy, emotions, and resources to navigate tough situations.

This can be exhausting, especially if it is prolonged.

If we go too long without taking a break, it might start to seem like we spend all our time talking about the relationship instead of having one. Sometimes it might seem like the only thing that keeps us in community or our relationships, is our disagreements so it’s important to look after ourselves and implement some self-care.

Resilient relationships need to bounce back. At a point, we need to take a break from the complexities of relationships. The relationship just needs to be a relationship so we all need a break from conflict to recharge ourselves.

No one is obligated to try to build a resilient relationship. We can stay in our bubbles and refuse to speak to anyone who disagrees with us but consider that something is lost in this polarisation. Community matters, our personal health and the health of our society are dependent on the strength of these bonds. When we work together to build resilient relationships—to show up for each other, see and be seen, share power, disagree well, and take breaks—there are few conflicts that can break us or our relationships.

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