“It is your reaction to adversity, not the adversity itself, that determines how your life’s story will develop.” – Dieter F. Uchtdorf
- Resilient relationships are able to handle the weight of conflict. They are stretchy like a rubber band, not fragile like eggshells.
- Practices of resilient relationships include showing up, seeing and being seen, sharing power, disagreeing well, and taking breaks.
- Healthy disagreement is especially important for relationships to be strong.
It’s easy to feel confident and secure in a relationship that rarely experiences conflict. Resilience, however, is forged in difficult times.
What is a “resilient relationship?” As a conflict and communication specialist, I define it as “relationships that can hold the weight of conflict and not break.”
In other words, resilient relationships are secure enough to grapple with the hard stuff. Instead of walking on eggshells, resilient relationships are stretchy like a rubber band. Rather than crumbling under tension, they are able to stretch, then spring back together.
Times Are Tough Right Now
In our current landscape of deep social and political polarization, many of us find that our bonds with our friends, family, co-workers, and neighbors have been strained by differences of belief around things like politics and religion. Over time, without intentionality and the right skills, these bonds can erode or break entirely.
A quick disclaimer: This article presumes you are pursuing a stronger relationship with someone who is relatively safe to be in a relationship with, someone who has your interests at heart. If that’s not the case, or if you’re unsure about your safety, please consult a helping professional.
5 Practices Of Resilient Relationships
People who build resilient relationships know that these relationships don’t happen by accident, and they don’t happen overnight. Resilient relationships may look different across the board, but they all have commonalities at their core. While we can pursue many positive ways of treating each other that keep relationships healthy, there are five distinct practices that help us create bonds that can withstand the strain of conflict:
- Showing up for each other
- Seeing and being seen
- Sharing power
- Disagreeing well
- Taking a break
If some or all of these practices are absent, the relationship will fracture or fade over time. All five are needed to build longevity. These practices don’t have to be practiced perfectly, but they do need to be practiced in order for resilience to exist.
1. Showing up for each other
In our media bubble, algorithm-driven digital world, it’s quite easy to surround ourselves with only people we agree with (and demonize everyone else). But if we want strong communities, families, and friend groups, we need to exchange and interact and brush shoulders with people from different walks of life.
It might sound straightforward, but we can’t have resilient relationships—or relationships at all—if we don’t make time for each other. Showing up means being intentional about these interactions.
2. Seeing and being seen
Seeing someone means making an honest, open, curiosity-driven inquiry into the center of who they are and what makes them tick. Seeing means pausing judgment and trying to first explore the ideas, values, and beliefs that our conversation partners hold—trying to understand how those things connect for them, even if we don’t agree.
It is possible to see someone without letting go of the strength of our convictions or opinions, without abandoning our boundaries. When we choose to see others, we are inviting them into a stronger relationship by honoring their humanity.
Being seen is the other side of the coin. As we do the work of seeing someone, we in turn invite them to see us. Being seen means letting someone into our world and letting them see what makes us tick. This means passionately and ethically articulating our stance while remaining open to the fact that our conversation partner may still disagree with us.
Being seen is an act of vulnerability and trust; it means letting someone pick up our opinions and test them, letting someone get to know us in the truth of who we are and what we have experienced.