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Katie Leigh and PeggySue Wells

To Improve Your Relationships, Avoid These 5 Rs

Do you want to know how to improve your relationships? Have you wished your relationships could be better? Well, the good news is you can quickly improve your important relationships. The vital key is to notice and avoid these 5 Rs.

“If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” Paul gave those instructions in Romans 12:18 (NIV). Yet, if we’re truly doing our best to live peaceably, why does conflict between loved ones, neighbors, community members, political parties, and world governments continue to escalate?

The Root of Relationship Conflict

As families, co-workers, and fellow inhabitants of planet Earth, we have gotten really, really, really good at being in the 5 Rs. To improve relationships and connections, let’s look at how we got here.

How We Got Here

The process goes like this:

1. Something happens or is said, done, or not done, that results in you feeling rejected.

2. Rejection is a lousy feeling, so you become resentful about feeling rejected.

3. In your resentment, you resist relationship with the person you feel resentful toward.

4. Resistance becomes action when it leads to revenge. Revenge is the desire that another feel the same pain you felt so they know what it feels like.

5. Repeat. Unresolved, this cycle is easy — even automatic — to repeat over and over until a relationship is damaged beyond repair.

They are the 5 Rs that spell destruction to relationships: rejection, resentment, resistance, revenge, repeat.

In some groups, members are particularly good at repeating this scenario simply because they have a longer history together to practice, or repeat, this cycle ad nauseam. Then the cycle becomes completely automatic. Even expected. And people unthinkingly play out their parts.

Practice Makes Permanent

Now that you’re aware of the active presence of the 5 Rs in your relationships, what can you do to interrupt this destructive pattern? As you find yourself in one of the 5 Rs, here are actions that immediately improve relationships.

1. Resentment

Resentment is any negative emotional reaction to what you think was said or done. A signal that you are in resentment is the presence of drama words in your vocabulary. Drama words include should, need, perfect. (“She should …” “He needs …” “I’m not perfect but …”) If you are stuck in drama, you are stuck in resentment.


Shift to gratitude. “I’m thankful she …” “I’m grateful he …” “What fun to …”

2. Resistance

Resistance is putting up walls, and cutting off communication and relationship. A signal that you are in resistance is not making eye contact and giving the silent treatment. When you are shut down emotionally and relationally around someone, you are in resistance.


Engage. Make eye contact, have conversations. Consider getting clear by saying, “The story I’m making up in my head about … is …”

3. Revenge

Revenge is the attempt to get even, taking advantage of, or setting up, an opportunity so another can feel the rejection you felt. A signal that you are in revenge is wanting another to feel hurt. If you are saying something like, “Now he will know how it feels,” or “Serves her right,” or “Karma is a bitch,” you are in revenge.


Practice generosity. If you can extend generosity to the person you are feeling revenge toward, that action breaks the destructive cycle. Does the person deserve generosity? Probably not. That’s why it’s called grace. And it’s worth practicing grace generously to improve and have healthy relationships.

Often, the person who hurt you is not safe to be in relationship with. An abusive spouse is not someone to be connected to. Neither is the business partner who ripped you off or the attorney in both instances who is out for your jugular. In such situations be generous elsewhere but be generous. The alternative is to become bitter.

4. Repeat

A toxic pattern is to believe that because you are hurt, you have the right to be unkind and hurtful. Then you hurt someone and they hurt you and you are offended and they are offended and in that offense both parties dive deeply into the 5 Rs. Those behaviors are characteristic of some families that come together over holidays to emotionally abuse one another and have pie.


To improve relationships, release others from your expectations of how they should act or behave.

Step One to Improve Relationships

“Fools show their annoyance at once, but the prudent overlook an insult.” King Solomon

And the whole crazy parade begins when something happens or is said, done, or not done, that results in you feeling rejected. When you feel rejected is your most powerful opportunity to choose. Choose to step off into the familiar yet painful cycle of the 5 Rs, or choose grace and joy and health.

Fact Versus Fiction

Rejection is based on understanding what is fact and what is fiction.

1. Fact: your teen is grousing around the house today and refuses to be cheered up.

2. Fact: your adult child has a life that don’t center around you.

3. Fact: you were not recognized at an important event.

Those are facts. However, most of us are awesome storytellers. We take the facts and instantly make up a fantastic story in our mind about what those facts mean. Add some time, and the story can grow way beyond any semblance of truth.

Using the three facts above, the story you may have made up in your head is:

1. Your teenager thinks you suck as a parent.

2. Your adult child keeps things from you to keep you out of their life.

3. You are not important.

Story Problem

The humongous problem with making up stories is that the story in your head becomes your reality. Then you act and react based on the made-up story as if it were truth. For instance

1. You can feel rejected by your grumbly teen and shut down, launch your own silent treatment, or become highly critical of your teen.

2. Choosing revenge, next time you are involved in something, you decide not to share any information so your grown child “knows what it feels like.” (Because that reeks of maturity.)

3. Feeling resentful and displaced, you punish by being moody and pouty and ruin the event.

So, now what happens? In all three of these scenarios, no one wins but plenty of negative drama is launched and, short of a miracle of maturity and grace, will spin out of control for years, decades, and even generations.

Sweet Solution to Improve Relationships

The life-changing, life-giving solution comes by sticking to the facts and letting the facts stand for themselves.

1. To the grousing teen, the parent said, “The story I’m making up in my head right now is that I suck as a parent and you’d rather be anywhere than here with me.” The teen responded with a completely baffled expression. “I just found out that the boy I babysit has leukemia.” (Note to self: It’s not all about you. Most folks are not even thinking about you.)

2. Adult children are not obligated to keep you updated on their activities. After all, they are adults. Be thankful they have close relationships, and are functioning, contributing members of society.

3. You are important and you are part of the event. Will any of this matter in five years? Maybe. Probably not. So, for now, be part of the celebration and dance!

Relationship Truth Bomb

“People do what they do for their own reasons and it rarely has anything to do with you.” Steve Binkley

The surprising truth is that most things people say or do, don’t say, don’t do, and accidentally do or don’t do hardly ever has anything to do with you. We’re all doing our best to live our lives as well as we can. And the best we can do has everything to do with sticking to the facts, being graciously generous, practicing gratitude, and not taking ourselves or others too seriously.

And yes, occasionally those closest do reject you. Rejection, like pain, is not a favorite. But if you are breathing, rejection is part of life. There is something to be learned from both pain and rejection. The vital aspect is how you respond, and the 5 Rs is the antithesis of maturity, healthy relationships, or even good adulting.

Without the 5 Rs, family and group gatherings really do resemble those longed-for Hallmark greeting card scenes. You can leave your guard down, freely cheer on others, celebrate your beloveds, enjoy relationships, and laugh until milk comes out your nose. It’s none of the emotional drama and all of the pie.

For You

PeggySue’s favorite key lime pie recipe from Kermits in Key West.

Blend 2 14-ounce cans of sweetened condensed milk, 6 egg yolks and 1/2 cup lime juice. Pour into a 9-inch graham cracker pie crust. Bake at 300 degrees for 20 minutes. Cool and refrigerate.

Does recognizing and shifting out of the 5 Rs help you in your relationships? Let me know.

Want More?

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Meet PeggySue

We’ve heard of soccer moms and stage mothers. I’m a writer who trailers my kids and horses across the nation. My Apple computer, fondly christened MacBeth, is the essential I bring along.