Being in a relationship is a lot like carrying a big bucket around with you everywhere you go. A strange image, to be sure, but stay with me here. It will all make sense in a moment.

Relationships are not always as effortless as we would like. Like liquid, which has no definite form, relationships take the shape of whatever container they are in at the time. One moment, your bucket may be filled to the brim with love, frustration, and a bunch of other feelings you’re experiencing in the relationship. But the next moment, all of the contents may have been dumped onto the ground – including the good stuff you wanted to keep. Can you see it? I bet you can. Now all you’re left with is an empty bucket and a worried expression on your face. What do you do now?

Here’s the thing:

Relationships, like buckets, are refillable.

Yes, it’s that simple. But is it that easy to refill your bucket with love (or any other emotion)?

Healthy relationships are partnerships, and every partnership should have a “wants and needs” list. Why? Because relationships also require a certain amount of give and take to keep them thriving.

Here are some questions to ask yourself (and your partner) when faced with a “leaking bucket” (a relationship where problems have surfaced):

  • Have I identified what I need from this relationship? This is self-reflection. It’s helpful to know what you’re looking for so you can figure out how to get it. (Check out the blog post “Your Relationship with Yourself” to learn more about how to get in touch with your own truths.)
  • Am I getting what I need from this relationship? Or am I continuing to empty my bucket by filling up my partner’s?
  • Am I assuming I know what my partner needs? This is an attempt at mind reading and doesn’t work, no matter how long you’ve been with that person.

Those are great questions to ask, but there is also one more thing you need to do before you can start refilling your bucket: Decide what you want to put back into your bucket. What do you put back into your bucket? Your values. These are what you are willing to carry around with you at all times and what you will keep from spilling out.

Begin filling your emotional bucket back up by doing the following:

  • Create a list of the positive and negative characteristics of your relationship. You can’t change what you don’t acknowledge. Be honest with yourself.
  • Ask others around you—friends, family, colleagues—what they value in you. Give them permission to be honest with you. Knowledge is power. Empowerment is your ability to change.
  • Decide what you value in your relationships. These could be things like peace, love, and kindness.

It’s time to ask yourself, “Is my relationship filling me up, or depleting me?” If it isn’t serving your needs, then it’s time to make some changes. These changes don’t have to be traumatic or drastic. They just need to be tweaked enough so you can start filling your bucket up again with the kind of contents you want to be carrying with you wherever you go.