How to Build Resilient Relationships

Resilience is the ability to bounce back from challenges with inner strength. Resilient relationships have the ability to bounce, flex, and stretch during challenging times. How do we develop resilient qualities in our relationships?

My wise elder friend and her husband modelled resilience during their 60+ year marriage. When my husband and I celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary, my friend told me, “That’s a nice start, Dear.”

Now, after 37 years of matrimonial bliss, my husband and I have developed some flexing and stretching muscles in all our relationships.

Long-term relationships, life-time friendships, and family relationships take commitment to work through disagreements and find greater harmony.

Here are a few of my favorite insights and resources for building resilient relationships, whether with a family member, a friendship, or a romantic partnership.

Disclaimer: Certainly, if a relationship feels unsafe or the other person lacks interest in improving the relationship, that’s a separate issue. Focus on your own wellbeing first.


Would you rather be right or be happy?

Win/lose power struggles actually become a lose/lose game. Someone might feel a momentary satisfaction at being right, but at what cost to the other person’s self-esteem? At what cost to relationship intimacy?

Ask yourself: Does it really matter? Can you take the high road? Choose to create an environment where the relationship can thrive.

My kids and I sometimes disagreed about what they could and could not wear outside the house. I defaulted to my learned parenting wisdom: if it’s not dangerous, illegal, or immoral, say Yes. I might not like the kid’s choice. The kids made choices I certainly would not make myself. But I preferred to be happy and to maintain a healthy relationship with the kids, rather than be right.

Occasionally, I’ve experienced the satisfaction of hearing, “you were right about those shoes. I had to take them off and dance barefoot.”


Choose your attitude

When my daughters were young, I decided that I wanted them to grow up with their father in a household filled with love. To achieve this, I committed to keeping the marriage happy. I realized early on I can’t control or fix my partner. I only have control over my own thoughts, words, and actions.

One of the tools that made a difference in my relationships was reading John Gray’s classic, Men Are From Mars – Women Are From Venus. Reading that book gave me an attitude adjustment. I was judging the masculine energy in my life as wrong. I thought men should be more like women. Reading the book helped me appreciate both masculine and feminine qualities. I started to value my husband for who he was, even when he responded differently to situations than I did. I learned to appreciate the strengths and contributions he made to our daughters’ lives even when they differed from mine.

We don’t always agree, and, at times, we agree to respectfully disagree. But I choose to focus on an attitude of gratitude for what’s working in the relationship. And that has made all the difference.


Take Space – Make Space

Show up as your best self as often as you can in your relationships. Some days our best is better than other days, so give yourself some grace and forgiveness when you’re not at your best. Agree you will do better next time.

Take space in your relationships to show up as your best self. Speak from your heart. Share your truth. Express yourself in ways that you feel seen and heard.

Make space for your partner to do the same. Stop talking and listen. Share your truth, then ask thoughtful questions and listen to their truth. Is their truth the same as yours? Can you find something to appreciate in their truth, so they feel seen, heard, and valued?

Ask questions with curiosity when the conversation gets uncomfortable. Try to understand their point of view. Create a safe place for them to be seen and heard and they will be more willing to listen to you.

My daughter and I practiced a three-minute listening exercise. She got to talk for three minutes without me interrupting. I had to bite my tongue not to comment or ask questions. When her three minutes were up, she thanked me. It was a win/win encore that left us both feeling seen and heard. The small action of listening with an open heart and without judgment felt like a gift. Then, she was willing to listen open heartedly without comment to me for three minutes. Win/Win.


Marriage Advice from Long-term Couples

We can learn more about strengthening relationships from long-term couples. I enjoyed an article, 25 Pieces of Marriage Advice from Couples Who Have Been Together 25 Plus Years. Here are three more of my favorite words of wisdom from the article.

Bite Your Tongue

When tensions get high, give yourself time to cool off before talking about something emotionally upsetting. Say, “I can’t talk about this right now. Let’s talk about this later today.” Then, follow through and schedule a conversation. You’ll be in a better place mentally and emotionally.

Don’t assume

One night, I assumed my husband intentionally ignored me when I said good night. I went to bed feeling annoyed that he was focused on his computer and not paying attention to me. In the morning, I still felt a little salty. Then, I found out the rest of the story.

He was reading an email from a friend whose daughter was attacked. The friend canceled their appointment because he was flying to Nairobi to care for his daughter.

My heart opened. I understood that my husband had been feeling compassion and empathy for his friend and was thinking about his own daughters. I suddenly felt compassion and empathy rather than annoyance. I learned, don’t assume.

Nurture the Friendship

“Remember that your partner is also your friend.” I agree. My husband and I set aside time to enjoy each other as friends doing fun activities. We look for things to celebrate together, enjoy silly milestones, and profound moments of gratitude. When we’re laughing and joking, suddenly, we remember why we’re together.

Building resilient relationships requires a commitment to communication, empathy, gratitude, and quality time together. The power of thoughtful conversations deepens your connections. By practicing empathy, you create a safe space for vulnerability and build a foundation of understanding. Gratitude is the top predictor of wellbeing for individuals. Expressing gratitude and appreciation for others’ efforts strengthens your relationships. Resilience is built by sharing happy moments and by getting through the difficult times together.

Practice communication, empathy, and gratitude to help strengthen your relationships for the long haul.

Connect with Leah on The Wellness Universe.



Gray, John. Men Are From Mars – Women Are From Venus. 1992.

25 Pieces of Marriage Advice from Couples Who Have Been Together 25 Plus Years. By Matt Christensen. Updated July 7, 2023/ originally published April 26 2022

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