Good, fulfilling relationships do not have to include human beings…or do they?
Relationships are the “stuff of life.” They make even the most trying and stressful days worth it, since we know that at the end of those days, we have someone special that we can enjoy feelings of closeness with.
Relationship is defined as “the way in which two or more concepts, objects, or people are connected, or the state of being connected.” Connection is sought out by everyone – every living thing – at all times and in all ways.
Imagine how sad life would be if we didn’t have those connections – those relationships – within our lives? One of my most treasured connections throughout my life has been with my pets. My current dog – Richard the boxer mix – is not at all shy about seeking out connections, especially physical ones! If I’m just sitting in a chair or on the couch, he will jump up on the couch and snuggle up next to me. Often, he ends up nearly behind me in his effort to connect!
Part of our relationship is his understanding that whenever I’m sitting still, he is allowed to be near me. He has made that physical connection a habit and seeks it out whenever possible. My part in our relationship is the agreement that I welcome that connection with him as well. It makes me happy to have him near, and it makes him happy to be near me.
Numerous studies on various groups of people from all walks of life have found that one of the most common factors attributing to an overall sense of happiness and wellbeing is having quality and satisfying relationships.
Spending time and being intentional in your efforts to make your relationships – with humans and with pets if you have them – more satisfying can be one of the best investments you can make in your own happiness!
Follow these steps to help make your relationships (human and animal) the best ever:
- Spend time getting to know your partner. This simple yet effective strategy is an answer to all of those who spend time worrying about whether or not their partner likes them. This time could be better spent getting to know your partner and finding out things you never knew about them.
Taking time out of the day to ask your partner about what’s going on with them can bring you two closer and set the foundation for a more intimate relationship. It’s important to be patient, as your partner may not open up to you right away.
You can start by talking about light topics such as hobbies and interests before delving into deeper, more emotionally significant content. Give your partner a chance to “get settled” after what might have been a challenging day before peppering them with questions that might require more introspection than they are ready for.
With animals, it’s about the time you spend with them, since they don’t communicate in English. The time and attention you give them translates into love for them – and that’s all they really want. Ensure that you are taking care of their physical needs – food, shelter, safety – and treat them the way you would like to be treated.
- Don’t shy away from your differences. Many partners seem to think that they must be completely compatible in every way. This is simply not the case.
Some of the strongest relationships are made up of people that have significant differences in likes and preferences. Acknowledging the differences between one another can help to make a relationship more exciting and interesting.
How boring would life be if the person we were with liked everything that we did? We might as well be dating ourselves!
Our animals and pets are very different from us – true – but there are striking similarities as well: we both want attention and affection. What is it that makes your pet happy? Long walks are just as good for you as for them, and healthy food is the same. Often the changes we make to keep our pets healthy increase OUR health as well.
My dogs have been my most consistent and beloved walking partners, and in my efforts to lose weight and be healthier, they have been my inspiration.
- Show love to your partner. It’s so easy to get caught up in the routines of our busy lives. We may ignore or be short with our loved one without even realizing it. That’s okay – it happens.
However, being aware of those time so that you can take steps to compensate can make the difference between a relationship that slowly drifts apart and one that brings you two closer than ever. Don’t fall into the trap of taking your partner for granted – because they don’t complain does NOT mean they are not negatively affected.
Our pets can’t really tell us verbally that they feel neglected, but it will likely show up in their behavior. Acting out, a change from energetic to morose, or other clues will be there to tell us when they are feeling left out.
- Schedule time to be with your partner. This is one of the most important ingredients to a lasting and fulfilling relationship.
Sometimes, in your busy life, setting aside specific time to be with your loved one may be the only time you two get together. Be intentional about building and maintaining the connection between you.
Making time for each other doesn’t have to be a difficult process. Hanging out one night with your partner and comparing schedules will help you both easily recognize and free time you both might have.
You should also schedule time to be with your pets – sometimes just sitting quietly with them on the couch – one of my dog’s favorite things to do – and stroking their ears or fur and speaking quietly to them can do wonders for their emotional wellbeing and for yours.
- Listen to your partner. Although your day may not have been a whirlwind, your partner’s very well may have been. Lending a judgment-free and understanding ear to listen to the trials and tribulations that your partner has faced throughout the day can be therapeutic for both of you.
Everyone wants to feel listened to and this can help go a long way towards adding a deep sense of satisfaction to your relationship. Give your partner the luxury of time and priority – let them know that they matter to you and request the same from them. You can work together to give each other what’s needed.
Make sure to “listen” to your pets as well – while they cannot tell you in words how their day went, and it may be a less-active day than yours, spending time with them is equally important. Check them out physically to make sure they haven’t incurred an injury, or that they haven’t gotten bitten by an insect that might harm them. Watch their habits and actions and notice when things change.
Follow these steps and you’ll be well on your way to more satisfying and fulfilling relationships – human and animal alike!