Shaping, strengthening, and ending relationships

June 29, 2023

We all have relationships with friends, colleagues, families, and our partners. But what can we do to nurture our relationships? And what if a relationship has to be ended after all?

Likeminded Editorial Team

Table of Content

Each of us has different relationships – with friends, our family, colleagues, and our partner. We all know that these relationships are usually not self-perpetuating but need attention and care.

As many of us know, relationships require us to share feelings, needs, desires, and goals. This is how connectedness can be strengthened and differences can be resolved. But what specifically can we do to shape and strengthen relationships? And what should we bear in mind if a relationship is to be ended after all?

Learning to argue and communicate

Arguing is an important and normal part of a relationship. First of all, it is important that you do not see quarrels as something negative. After all, arguments are often unavoidable and can help bring conflicts to light, which you can then work on together.

However, for disputes tob e productive and not end in mutual hurt, it is very important to find good communication. Communication is fundamental to well-functioning relationships and together with your partner, you can learn it. You should keep the following in mind: 

  • Express your own needs and wishes honestly and appreciatively
  • Listen to each other and take each other seriously
  • Accept feelings and do not judge
  • Respect boundaries and keep agreements

Of course, it can still happen that the argument gets loud and feelings boil over. But that’s not so bad, because friction also creates warmth and situations can be improved through good arguments by making new agreements. This applies not only to romantic relationships but also to communication with roommates or in the family.

Balancing closeness and distance

Relationships often face the challenge of finding a good balance of closeness and distance. One of the most beautiful moments in a relationship is when you are very close to each other. But too much closeness can also make you feel restricted and cause you to lose sight of your own interests.

It's the same with distance. It can be wonderful to finally find time for yourself and your own interests and friends. Maybe you even start to miss your partner more and look forward to the next reunion even more. With too much distance, however, it can also happen that one feels increasingly alone or not sufficiently seen and cared for.

Everyone needs their own autonomy, but also attachment and security. How pronounced the needs for one or the other are differs from person to person. It is therefore all the more important that you find a balance together as a couple so that both of your needs for closeness/attachment and for distance/autonomy are met. Discuss how much closeness and freedom you want, and think together about how you can balance these needs.

Creating structures and free space

Fixed daily structures and the separation of different areas of life (free time, work, time as a couple) can help to balance closeness and distance. When you set aside fixed times to devote yourself to your work, your friends, or yourself, you ensure that you satisfy your autonomy needs. In your own time, only you decide what you want to do now. For example, do you prefer to relax with sports or with a good book?

Fixed dates with your partner give you both security and time to be close to each other. In the best case, even the time spent alone will lead to you being more attentive to each other again on your dates. When you tell each other what issues have moved you today and what worries may be weighing on you, you can find security and encouragement together.

How about an excursion or a dinner together at a restaurant? Here you can get creative and spend your time together the way you like it best.

Building understanding and teamwork 

Maybe you’re under a lot of stress right now because you have to take care of both your work and your kids at home, or because you have a big project coming up at work. Perhaps financial or future-related concerns are also affecting you.

These stresses should not be underestimated, because they demand an extreme amount of energy from us. This can lead to you or your partners having less energy and resources available than usual. It is therefore all the more crucial that you develop an understanding for each other. If you keep reminding yourself that the current situation is linked to underlying stress, this will help you to connect with each other.

To build understanding, it is important that you communicate well with each other. Share with each other how you feel, what demands are put on you from outside and from within, what you want and what you need, what you can give at that moment, and also what is perhaps not possible at that moment. Consider each other as a team that supports and backs each other.

Perhaps there are tasks that you can divide among yourselves to pass on to the other person? Maybe you just can’t manage to do the laundry in the evening, but your partner has a free time slot for it? Maybe your partner is so exhausted that he or she can’t watch the movie you‘ve been dying to see with you, but you arrange to go on a movie date on the weekend instead?

When you act as a team in your relationship, it will give you a whole new form of security and satisfaction. Realize that the great thing about a partnership is that neither of you has to do everything alone. You can manage this time together and together you are stronger!

Being friendly

Another piece of advice that seems simple at first glance is to make an effort to be kind to each other. In the midst of routine, everyday life and stress, this is often lost. 

To keep your cool even in stressful situations, it helps to keep reminding yourself that both sides in a relationship should treat each other conscientiously, considerately and dutifully.

Exchange with like-minded people

A very good way to relieve yourself is to talk about your feelings and worries with people who understand you and perhaps know similar situations. This can be good friends, but it also works in topic-specific online forums, e.g. here:

Professional help

If you feel very helpless and don’t know what to do, it may be time to seek professional help. You can do this on your own or together with your partner in the form of couples coaching, e.g here:

If you are looking for professional couple therapists, these databases can help you:

If you are in a very bad situation right now, outpatient psychotherapy might be the right thing for you. A description of the different methods, more information on finding a therapist, and a telephone consultation can be found here: 

Ending relationships

Many people who think about ending a relationship struggle with their decision. The following questions can help you gain more clarity:

  • Is the other person an asset to my life?
  • Would I be better off without the relationship?

If you realize that you would be better off without your partner and that he or she is not an enrichment in your life, this is an important realization that you should not ignore.

Important: This does not mean that the relationship always triggers only positive feelings for you and that you feel nothing but joy every day. Lows are also part of a relationship. These can help you to develop yourself and your relationship and enrich you in a different way than expected.

Remember, you don’t owe anything to anyone and you should also take care of your own mental health.

If you have decided to end your relationship, it is advisable to have an open conversation with your partner. Many people want to have such a conversation (or several) in order to understand the breakup, process disappointment, and bring closure. However, try to remember that you owe nothing to anyone and that you should take care of your own mental health.

A breakup conversation usually ends the relationship, but the breakup is often not over. It takes stamina and some grieving time to come to terms with the new reality. You can find more tips on this in our article “Loneliness after separation”. 

Are there cases in which you should definitely separate? A separation is strongly advisable in the following situations:

  • In case of violence in the relationship
  • In case of relationship problems caused by alcohol
  • In case of uncooperative behavior. That is when your partner deliberately does not respond to your wishes and shows no interest in improving the relationship.

Help with domestic violence

If you yourself have been a victim of domestic violence or have observed it, you can turn to the following contact points:

Help hotline for domestic violence: 08000 116 016 (available 24 hours a day)

Weisser Ring: 116 006 (available 7h-22h)

On-site help:

Help hotline sexual abuse: 0800 22 55 530
Help hotline for pregnant women in distress: 0800 40 40 020
Telephone counselling: 0800 111 0 111

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