How to Improve a Strained Relationship

We all have experienced a strained relationship from time to time. Whether it was with a spouse, child, or co-worker, dealing with a strained relationship can be a challenge. Taking the time to fix a strained relationship takes courage and finesse. Here are three suggestions for improving strained relationships with youth and adults alike.


  • Give affirmations

A simple acknowledgement can have dramatic results. This is especially important with young people. They want to assert their independence and autonomy. Just acknowledging that you have heard their point of view, regardless of agreement, can have a profound effect on how your growing young one feels about the relationship. For adults, an affirmation, such as “I see your point and understand where you’re coming from,” helps the other person feel heard and respected.

  • Use quality listening time

Quality time is quality-driven, not necessarily quantity-driven. Simply give your full attention to the person speaking. Put down your phone, close your computer, turn off the TV, and physically remove any distractions. Additionally, using eye contact, a nod now and then, and occasionally interjecting a clarification communicates that you are “with” the person—that you are not only listening but are also hearing what the person is saying.

  • Share quality activity time

Engage in activities together that are enjoyable. Think about what activities the other person likes, and strive to do more of those. This does not mean you should do things you hate; it simply means to give consideration to the other person’s likes and dislikes too. Some examples of meaningful activities are walking and talking; viewing the same video, DVD, or movie and then discussing it; playing a board game together; or eating out. These are simple approaches to togetherness.

Tip: A strained relationship can almost always be mended. Remember that close relationships are largely emotion-driven and that it is the little things in life that really mean the most to all of us.


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