Do you have a strained relationship with a family member or someone else you love?  Or perhaps you’re stuck in a rut with a work colleague and can’t seem to turn things around.

It’s not uncommon to experience strained or estranged relationships in our personal and professional lives.

You might know the feeling.  You struggle to carry on a conversation because mistrust or resentment simmers just beneath the surface.  Arguments can erupt out of nowhere.

So you try to limit contact or just decide to keep the conversations polite without becoming fully engaged.  You might even stop communication altogether.

This can make us feel stuck, helpless, hopeless, angry, and powerless to change things.  We might decide to avoid the person and the situation altogether by rationalizing that it’s easier to just let things be.

But the weight of the frustration, anger, and resentment can be tough to shake off as it permeates into other areas of our lives.

You might start to view everything from a more negative perspective.  For example, you might start taking other things more personally and reacting impulsively.

We can become so preoccupied with the drama of strained relationships that we are too upset to fully engage or spend time with loved ones.  And disconnecting from others is likely to create more anxiety and loneliness.

Significantly, unexpressed anger and resentment from strained relationships can have serious physical health consequences as well.  These can include high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, stroke, ulcers, and chronic pain.

And a new scientific study shows that strained relationships with parents, siblings, or extended family members can be even more harmful to our health than a troubled relationship with a significant other.

But you can change the course of your relationship with anyone at any time.  Here are 4 powerful ways:

1.        Say something vulnerable to someone you love.

Pick up that phone or even send a voice text with an “I miss you” or “I love you” and “I hate it when we fight.”  This can instantly break down walls and open the lines of communication.

2.        Start the conversation.

You might say something like “I feel like things are awkward right now” or that “we are seeing things differently right now, but I think we can work it out.”

3.        Share and listen.

Share what you see as the cause of the rift.  Instead of unequivocally blaming the other person, you might use language that shows how you see things from your perspective and how it made you feel.  Then be open for the other person to do the same.

4.        Move forward.

It’s important to focus on what might need to change to avoid future rifts and keep the relationship strong.  Relationship conflicts can be opportunities to learn how other people see things and how to move forward.

The value of our relationships cannot be overstated.  While they can be challenging, relationships can give us the strength to make changes when we need to.

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