I’ve read lots of relationship articles and books written by relationship experts giving me relationship advice. Tons of advice. And I’m the kind of person who wants to dive in headfirst and try everything at the same time, eager to improve the relationships with the people in my life.
But when I sit down with the information to decide where I want to begin, my head starts swimming. The vast sea of tips and must-dos of relationships starts to run together and I can feel the wiring in my brain start to short-circuit. Overwhelmed is the feeling. There’s often so much information out there that it seems impossible to find a starting point to apply it. It’s paralyzing.
Relationship resources like blogs, videos, and classes can have the same effect on everyone. Whether it’s marriage, parenting, friendships, or dating help you’re searching for, understanding how to use all the advice you’re hearing can be overwhelming. But this doesn’t have to be your experience.
Here are five simple ideas to help you actually use relationship resources and still stay calm, cool, and unruffled:
Start in the slow lane.
No need to dive headfirst into a long list of “50 marriage to-dos” or “28 ways to be a better parent.” Choose one thing, one step, you want to take to improve your relationship. And concentrate on that one thing. Pacing is everything. Trying to make too much change at once often results in no change.
Begin with a step you feel drawn to with your relationship.
You know the context of the help you’re looking for and the nature of your relationship. Choose a piece of advice that speaks to where you want the most benefit. You want to follow a step that is both realistic and impactful to your relationship’s health. When you’ve found your groove with that one thing, move on to another area of your relationship you want to see become healthier. Consider tackling something a little deeper.
Approach relationship advice like an experiment.
Look at it like you’re going to try a piece of advice out to make your relationship healthier. It doesn’t mean it’ll work. And it’s not the end of the world if it doesn’t. Simply try it again, or try something different. (Again, couples, be sure you’re on the same page with this). Above all, be patient with yourself. Not all healthy relationship advice works in the same way for everyone. But something will work. Keep experimenting. Stay in the pocket. You’ll find your rhythm and what works best in your context.
Know that taking a step toward healthier relationships can often be challenging and uncomfortable.
Whether it’s addressing conflict with your teenager, talking about intimacy with your spouse, or having that difficult conversation with a friend or co-worker, you sometimes have to take steps that don’t seem so fun. That in itself can be overwhelming. But keep the endgame in mind: taking these kinds of steps works toward a better relationship. The discomfort doesn’t last forever, and more often than not, going through those difficult steps actually pulls you and the other person closer together. Uncomfortable doesn’t have to feel overwhelming if you understand it’s for the better.
Find a source of social support.
No one is wired to go through life alone. As a matter of fact, we are our best selves when we are surrounded by people who will love and support us, people who have been there in their own relationships, and have the scars to prove it. These are the ones who have experienced the ups and downs of raising kids (teenagers, no less) to be responsible adults. Who do you know who has crossed both the peaks and valleys in their many decades of marriage? Or who do you know who has lived through the good, the bad, and the ugly sides of the dating scene?
These are people to lean on when improving your relationship using helpful resources. They can tell you what has worked (and not worked) for them. As you pull into the slow lane and choose that one thing you’re going to do, draw on their wisdom and experience to serve as a compass.
Related: How To Know If Someone Is Trustworthy.
When you find good advice on relationships, it’s often overwhelming. But then you have to stop and remember one thing: your goal is simply to commit yourself to make each of your relationships stronger. And so all you need to do is make the simple decision to take one simple step in a given relationship: with your spouse, your kids, your friends, or anyone else in your life. That’s it. Sometimes it might not work out so well, but I’m willing to bet that most of the time you can make it happen. And that one step will make a tremendous impact on your relationship.
Don’t let relationship advice and resources overwhelm you. Take it slow, choose one step, experiment with it, and lean on others who have been there. You’ll find that a healthier relationship is well within reach.