How To Nurture Your Relationships

Guest blog by Roxanne Maroney, co-author of Hope After Hurt

When we hear the word “Nutrients” we usually think of food or vitamins. If we were farmers, we may think of the soil, the fertilizer, water, and the nutrients plants or crops need to grow. But what if there are also proven, healthy nutrients for relationships? What if we have learned to eat a diet of junk food when it comes to marriage or parenting and know little of what makes relationships grow in a healthy way? Certainly, the growing distress within marriages today, the breakdown of the family, the rising divorce rate, and children struggling with depression and other psychological disorders indicate we are missing something.

The list of nutrients is not complicated but does take practice to apply because most of us never learned these skills growing up. After 48 years of marriage, and countless hours of being a counselor, I see how powerful these relational nutrients are. Not to oversimplify things, but if you can learn and apply these 4 relational skills you will be amazed how it will improve all your relationships, especially marriage and parenting.

What Are These Relational Nutrients?

So, what are these relational nutrients? The list can vary, but based on years of study and observation, most counselors would say what I’m about to share with you is a simple, but fairly complete, list. These principles come from many years of study and research. In fact, studies have shown that after a painful event, incorporating these elements of a conversation can make all the difference between helping or hurting. There are four parts to this type of conversation: Being Present; Conveying the Good; Providing Reality; and Call to Action. Let’s discuss these steps below.

In his book, People Fuel, John Townsend organizes these skills (nutrients) into 4 quadrants, and each quadrant contains several nutrients with a common theme.

Quadrant 1: Be Present or Be With

Nutrients in this quadrant are high in grace and low in volume of words. They are about jumping into the well with the other person and entering that person’s experience. This is sometimes done simply by eye contact, body language, warmth, and kindness. It includes acceptance, validation, empathy, and containment (just allowing them to vent).

Quadrant 2: Convey the Good

These nutrients are high in encouragement and grace. Without being dismissive or minimizing, these skills offer hope, affirmation, sometimes forgiveness, or even celebration when there is a win.

Quadrant 3: Provide Reality

Sometimes what’s needed is information, clarification, or a different perspective in a non-judgmental way. This is a good place to ask questions in an effort to bring order to their confusion, for example, asking, “I wonder if”… then conveying a deeper understanding.

Quadrant 4: Call to Action

This area may include challenging someone’s thinking (gently), or a call to action toward a growth step, suggesting some behavior to change, or offering a framework for their next steps.

Now here’s the tricky part. Our human nature, or the way we were raised, often causes us to move too quickly into Quadrants 3 and 4 in a conversation, bypassing Quadrants 1 and 2 altogether. Be careful of rushing to Providing Reality and Call to Action prematurely if you haven’t gone through Quadrants 1-2. This is where most conversations get derailed.

As Townsend explains, for these nutrients to work best and bring about emotional strength in the relationship we need to start in Quadrant 1 (Being Present). As a parent, I almost always started with Quadrant 4 (Call to Action), only to be met with resistance because my kids didn’t think I understood them. But looking back, that’s what my father always did. He immediately went to trying to “fix” the problem.

This not only carried over in my parenting, but in my marriage as well. It always bothered me when I would share a hurt or a frustration with my husband and he’d go right into “fix-it” mode, rather than really listening and understanding. This pattern eventually caused me to go to him less and less and, over time, contributed to a shallow roommate relationship rather than a deeper “soul” relationship.

So, let’s look at how this sounds when we offer people good relational nutrients. Suppose a friend shares with you a struggle in her marriage. Listening intently without questions or interruptions, you might say …

  • “I’m so sorry, I can see how hard this is for you. I’ve often felt struggles like that”, or “Relationships can be so confusing for all of us” (Quadrant 1). Sometimes Quadrant 1 is all that is necessary. Most of the time we just want to be heard, if more is needed, you move to the next set of skills.
  • “I know you have had hard times before and you were able to navigate them”, or “Is there anything that gives you hope? I believe you both can work through this” (Quadrant 2).
  • “I wonder if things are especially hard right now because your stress level is high”, or “What do you think would help you both?” (Quadrant 3).
  • “Would you like me to help you find a counselor, or would you like to come over for dinner and the four of us can talk?” (Quadrant 4).

This is just a short example, and of course there will be conversation between each section. But most importantly, remember to listen well, convey empathy and validation, ask questions, and don’t make assumptions before offering advice.

As you look over the Quadrants, where do you start when someone shares with you a concern or a struggle? If you’re like most people, you might go straight to Reality and Call to Action. But when you get good at starting the conversation with Being Present and Conveying the Good, (Quadrants 1 and 2), you will be amazed how open your listener will be to any advice you offer later. Think about it, when was the last time someone just listened to you and offered empathy and encouragement before jumping right to giving you advice.

I hope that today’s blog was encouraging to you. Make sure you sign up to receive blogs every Tuesday and Thursday.  was created to enable you to discover and develop authentic, healthy intimacy in all your relationships.

FYI: I also provide one-on-one coaching, if you would like to improve your relationships, or you want someone to talk to, e-mail me at ‘’, and we’ll schedule a time to connect. My hope for you is that through these blogs, references, and resources, God will transform you from being bruised or broken to an abundantly blessed child of God.

Check 0ut Rob & Roxanne’s new website; EyeSight Coaching;

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