The Grass is Greener Where You Water It – 7 Ways to Water Your Relationship

Relationships are a lot like gardens - they require consistent care and attention in order to thrive. In the same way, we admire a beautiful garden just like we admire beautiful relationships, often while being ignorant or oblivious to the work that it took to create it. Just like that beautiful garden, it's easy to see the beauty in someone else's relationship and to want that thing for ourselves. This is where we might fall into the notion of the "grass being greener on the other side." But the truth follows something more like what Neil Barringham said, "the grass is greener where you water it."

Whether you’re newly dating or have been together for years, there are steps you can take to cultivate a strong and healthy partnership.

In this article, we’ll provide tips for how to keep your relationship grass wonderfully green. It's worth noting that we're going to focus on marriage/partnerships, but most of these tips are going to be applicable to ALL of your long-term relationships.

DISCLAIMER: While these tips are effective within relatively healthy relationship environments, they're not necessarily going to work within unhealthy relationship dynamics. In these instances, we'd recommend working with a qualified coach or therapist. 

Tip 1: Align Core Values

The most effective thing we can do for a relationship is work to align our Core Values. Think of Core Values as the underlying foundation for a relationship to be built upon. When our beliefs and values align, we have a solid foundation that can support the structure built over it. In contrast, when our beliefs and values are misaligned, our foundation tends to shift and erode under everyday stresses.

In order to align our Core Values we need to do two things.

First, on an individual level, each person needs to put in the time and effort to understand their own Core Values.

From our research and clinical experience, we find that most of us don't have a clear picture of what we might believe and value for ourselves. We have an idea of our values or what we call "expressions" but we lack a complete understanding. Naturally, the first step in aligning beliefs and values is for both people to understand their individual Core Values. Without that, it's virtually impossible to create a roadmap for the relationship they're working to create.

Next, once both people understand their individual Core Values the next step is to communicate and work toward alignment. 

In communicating one another's beliefs and values, we find that couples will immediately gain clarity on what motivates the other person's behavior. This not only improves their ability to understand and relate to one another, but it also helps them better appreciate the other person's perspective. From there, they can work toward further aligning their values over time.

The process of understanding and aligning Core Values takes weeks to begin, and months to complete. We cover this process in-depth within our Crystal Clarity Coaching Program. However, if you'd like to get a glimpse and start working toward this process, you can start by downloading our FREE Core Value Guide & Workbook.

Tip 2: Open Communication

Most therapists and coaches would make "effective communication" their leading tip. But research and clinical experiences tell us that while communication is a critical relationship tool, it's not the KEY to relationship success.

In fact, within an unhealthy relationship dynamic, talking more about the relationship is more likely to make things worse.

So we're not going to say that the key is "effective communication." But we will say that OPEN communication is critical.

But why "open" versus "effective"?

Because simply put, most of us are not effective communicators. PERIOD. Meaning, being an objectively "good" communicator is a standard we all fall short on because we're not professionally trained.

That said, when two people have an alignment of Core Values they can easily communicate and even resolve conflict. But what's happening isn't necessarily good communication. It's the fact that because they share similar Core Values, they can better relate to one another. This allows them to communicate openly and read between the lines when it comes to things that aren't communicated in an ideal manner.

Within these relationships, couples will often open with a "hard start" or even jump to criticize the other person. Made simple, they start the conversation using anything but "effective" or "good" communication techniques. Their approach is quite awful. Yet, because they're aligned in their Core Values, the other person can understand the meaning and diffuse the tension with relative ease.

This is why we prioritize aligning Core Values because in terms of "the grass is greener where you water it," nothing will keep your relationship grass better hydrated than aligned values and beliefs.

In a healthy relationship, it's critical that you and your partner are able to share your thoughts, feelings, and concerns with one another openly and honestly.

Outside of aligning Core Values, here are some additional tips for improving your communication skills:

Practice Active Listening. When your partner is speaking, give them your full attention. Put down your phone or any distractions. Avoid interrupting or thinking about your response while they’re talking.

Avoid Defensive Language. When discussing a difficult topic, it’s important to avoid language that could be interpreted as accusatory or critical. Instead, focus on expressing your own feelings and perspectives.

Hold Space for Empathy and Authenticity. We'll discuss this next on it's own.

Tip 3: Hold Space for Empathy and Authenticity

As you stop worrying about defending yourself and instead focus on active listening, you’ll notice that you’re able to hold space in the conversation for empathy.

As your partner shares something important to them, rather than think about a response, focus on empathizing with what was just said. Allow your partner to be their authentic selves without judgment and without making what they're saying about you.

Along these lines, we have a little suggestion...

Remove your expectation of HOW your partner communicates, and instead allow them to openly communicate in a manner that's authentic to who they are. 

This of course doesn't mean that you allow one another to belittle and demean each other for the sake of "authentically expressing how you feel." No, that's not being authentic. It's just being a jerk.

What we're saying is stop worrying about how YOU would have communicated, and start allowing your partner to communicate authentically.

When you hold space for empathy and authenticity, you're communicating to your partner that the message or content is more important than expressing it in a perfect manner.

Tip 4: Quality Time Together

Quality Time is an essential part of cultivating a strong and healthy partnership (or any relationship). You need to make time for each other, duh!

But this can be especially challenging if you have busy schedules, but it’s important to make time for one another. Here are some ways to spend quality time together:

Create a Date Night. Set aside one night a week (or month) to do something special together.

Think "Meaningfully Engaging." On date night, don't stress about the specific activity. What matters most is that your quality time is what we call, "meaningfully engaging." Meaning that regardless of what you're doing, you're meaningfully present and engaged with one another throughout the activity.

Look to Something New. Rather than the typical advice of, "doing what you used to do when you first started dating." We tell clients, "do things you've never done before." Date nights quickly lose their meaning and the opportunity to meaningfully engage when you are doing the same thing week after week.

Share a New Hobby. Find an activity you both enjoy and make it a regular part of your Quality Time. This could be hiking, cooking, or playing a sport together. Not only do Common Interests create opportunities for Quality Time, but they also help us improve Relatability within our relationships.

Tip 5: Show Appreciation

Expressing gratitude and appreciation is an important way to nurture your relationship. It’s important to let your partner know that you appreciate them and the things they do for you. Here are some ways to show appreciation:

Small Gestures. Do something kind for your partner, like making them breakfast in bed or leaving a note in their lunchbox. Look to serve your partner in support and appreciation of everything they do.

Verbal Affirmations. Tell your partner how much you appreciate them and the things they do for you. This could be as simple as saying “Thank you” or “I love you.”

The grass is greener where you water it, and these tips for showing appreciation will help your relationship garden grow.

Tip 6: Celebrate and Support

This one's simple.

Celebrate your partner in their wins.

Whether it's a promotion or new client at work, or finally getting a child potty trained at home, your lives are filled with small wins. Take the time to recognize and celebrate these wins.

In the same way, support your partner in their losses.

Life hits hard and often all at once. Be emotional support to one another through difficult moments (even if YOU personally don't feel like it's that big of a deal).

Tip 7: Practice Forgiveness

Finally, it’s important to practice forgiveness in ALL of our long-term relationships. No one is perfect, and mistakes will happen.

Here are some two-sided tips for practicing forgiveness:

Acknowledge the Hurt Caused. If you've hurt your partner, it’s important to acknowledge the pain they're feeling. Even if you feel that you've done nothing wrong, you can acknowledge and be sorry for the pain you've caused.

Give the Benefit of the Doubt. If your partner hurts you, don't immediately assume it was intentional. Give them the benefit of the doubt and an opportunity to explain what happened.

Express Empathy. Try to see things from your partner’s perspective and express empathy for their actions. Even if you don't like what they did, try to understand WHY they might have behaved in a particular way. (Important note here, there's no need to understand or empathize with narcissistic or abusive behavior.) 

Own Your Mistakes. There's no point in an apology when we're not willing to change our behavior. Forgiveness is not possible when our mistakes are repeated and when we fail to take ownership.

Make a Commitment to Move Forward. Let's say the problem has been communicated, acknowledged, and ownership has been taken. It's time for move forward. Forgiveness doesn't mean that we forget, but it does mean that we're committing to moving forward. We're committing to leave the event in our history.


In conclusion, yes, the grass is greener where you water it, so try implementing these tips in your own relationship and see the difference they will make.

Keeping your relationship grass green requires intentional effort and care. But that effort is exactly what will help you create something of meaning and worth. It's where you will cultivate a strong and healthy partnership with your loved one.

For more information, we recommend reading more about Neil Barringham here.


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