“My relationship isn’t always easy, but it means the world to me.”

“Falling in love is one thing. Staying in love and staying happy

with the person you love is another.”

“I want my relationship to be the best it can be, but sometimes I struggle with how to do that.”

“I love my partner, but sometimes, to be honest, he/she/that person drives me completely crazy!”

Romantic relationships are the source of so much pleasure in life, and yet at times, they also can be painful. Even the most loving and happiest couples face difficult times in their relationships. The Guilford County Healthy Relationships Initiative is here to help couples in our community build safe, healthy, and happy relationships. Our goal is to meet couples wherever they are and offer resources and information to help you take the next step for strengthening your relationship. So, whether your relationship is happy overall, but with a few challenging areas, or if your relationship is feeling a bit shaky right now, or even if you’ve started feeling that you’ve lost hope for your relationship, we’ve designed the resources in this toolkit to help you reflect on your relationship, connect with your partner through deeper conversations, and build up the tools you have strengthen your relationship.

 

Reflect: Reflection Activities

Self-awareness is often overlooked as an important key to happy, healthy, and safe relationships. However, building effective relationship skills isn’t just about learning how to interact with other people. It’s also important learning to manage your own emotions, reactions, and behaviors. In fact, you are the only person whose emotions, reactions, and behaviors you can control in a relationship. So, it’s important to learn as much as you can about yourself so you can do your own personal best to enhance your relationship. The Reflection Activities in this section of the Healthy Relationships Initiative Toolkit for Couples are designed to help you intentionally think through your views and attitudes that impact your relationship with your partner.

 

Connect: Conversation Starters

When you’re looking to deepen your conversations with your partner, it can be difficult to know where to start. For that reason, this Toolkit includes an extensive list of Conversation Starters to begin meaningful conversations with your partner. There are many ways to use these Conversation Starters, such as by spending a long period of discussing many of them, or simply addressing one at a time at a pace that works for you. Before you begin using them, consider the following suggestions:

  1. Set aside time so that your conversation won’t feel rushed. If you only get through one Conversation Starter at a time, that is okay! Your goal is to learn more about each other, not check off a list of questions as quickly as you can. Take your time, and be sure to minimize distractions during that time so you can focus on your partner and your relationship.
  2. Try to have your conversations in places that are comfortable for both of you. Some people may feel more comfortable talking in a place where you and your partner can be alone, whereas other people may feel more comfortable talking in a public place, such as a busy coffee shop or a local park. You don’t even have to be sitting to talk–you could take a walk together or even be lying side by side at the beach. The more you both feel comfortable, wherever you are, the easier it will be to focus on the conversation and each other.
  3. Commit to really listening to your partner. Once they’ve shared their thoughts on the Conversation Starter, try to reflect back to them, such as by saying, “What I just heard you say is ______.” If you didn’t catch everything the first time, ask them to say more for clarification.
  4. Be open to disagreements. Two people do not need to agree 100% about everything in order to have a healthy relationship. In fact, differences can help keep relationships interesting! If your partner says something that you don’t agree with, try to learn more about why they think the way they do.
  5. Use your Conversation Starters as an opportunity for self-reflection, as well as for learning about your partner. Some of the conversations may address topics that you’ve never thought much about before, so don’t be surprised if your views on the subject change while you’re talking about them!
  6. If you find it difficult to engage in a positive dialogue with your partner, and especially if this is a pattern over time, it may be a sign that you could benefit from counseling, including individual and/or couple counseling. To learn more about seeking a counseling, please read Tip Sheet #9: Finding a Couples Counselor.
  7. Finally, enter into deeper conversations with your partner with a commitment to kindness and respect. You both deserve to feel heard and understood. Having deeper conversations can feel strange at first. But, over time, if you engage in these conversations with kindness and respect, you’ll see how they can help to propel your relationship to a deeper, more meaningful connection to one another!

 

Build: Tip Sheets for Strengthening Your Relationship

Every relationship is unique, just as every person is unique. So, what works for one couple may not work for another, and one of the keys to a healthy, happy relationship is to try different things to figure out what works best for the two of you. In this section, we offer some basic tips to help you build a stronger relationship with your partner. These Tip Sheets focus on core relationship skills that apply to a broad range of relationship concerns. If you find that you need individualized help in applying these tips to your own relationship, or if you are experiencing problems in your relationship that don’t seem to improve when you apply these tips, please read Tip Sheet #9: Finding a Couples Counselor or visit the Services section of our web-site.

 

Note: This Toolkit was developed by Christine Murray.