Quality relationships have a huge impact on our degree of happiness. Much of the joy we experience comes from the familiar and the unexpected encounters that we share with others. Unfortunately, some of us are a hot mess when it comes to love and relationships, both romantic and platonic.
Nurturing a healthy relationship requires a level of awareness and vulnerability that too many of us resist. We also have a tendency to hold others to absurd and unrealistic expectations. When in fact, we are all flawed human beings just trying to figure this thing out. We struggle with saying the simple things, like “I love you” and “I am sorry” and are quick to deny when we fall short.
Relationships force us to see ourselves through the lens of another. We get a front row seat to how our behavior is impacting someone and the quality of their lives.
Now, this is a two-way street, but you can only control and modify your behavior, then decide what you will accept from others.
You might just be one of those folks that prefer less risky, surface level connections. I am not going to judge you, but I am going to tell you that you are missing out on improving your life in immeasurable ways.
Selecting the right people is a key component to making this work. Pick good people and they will bring good things to you.
A few shared interests, a sense of ease, a natural ability to communicate, empathy, compassion, and someone that can celebrate your wins are all great things to seek. I know you are thinking that this is obvious and basic information. However, I will keep reminding people of this until “frenemies” are no longer a thing. People shouldn’t leave you drained and frustrated every single time you encounter them. This might be a sign that this situation is not working for you.
So, you have the right people in your life. It might be someone new or it might be someone that has always been there. Whomever it is, you believe in your heart that your relationship has so much more potential.
Here are some things you can do to build a connection that is mutually beneficial:
- Share your story. If you have lived life, you have certainly endured a thing or two. I am talking about those things that change you at your core and impact how you navigate through life. Share those things. You will be surprised at how your experiences provide insight and not only help people to understand you, but it draws them closer to you. Sharing a personal story is like saying “I am giving this to you because I trust you.” The funny thing about trust is you have to give it first, before people have the opportunity to prove to you that they deserve it. When you pick the right people, you will be amazed at what they will do with the added responsibility. The bonus? You just opened the door for them to reciprocate. You can never predict what someone will learn from your journey or how you might inspire others through your courage.
- Remember that it is okay to need people and to let them do stuff for you. Let’s talk a little bit more about trust. If you struggle with letting people do things for you, you might have a trust issue. You might also have a control issue. People who care for you want to make your life better. People also like to feel useful. If you don’t let others help you or if you continuously make people feel like they don’t have anything to offer, you are complicit in the construction of some pretty thick, concrete emotional walls.
You know that feeling that you get when you have picked out the perfect gift for someone? You are giddy with anticipation because you know that you absolutely nailed it. That same feeling can be ignited when you feel useful in a relationship. It feels great to know that your presence in someone’s life matters.
If you are going through something difficult, give someone the opportunity to give the gift of compassionate listening. If you are totally overwhelmed with life and responsibilities, give someone the opportunity to give the gift of lessening your burden. If you need to cry, give someone the opportunity to give the gift of empathy and concern.
You want to know what else? Stop making people guess. Toss out the notion that if a person truly knows and understands you, they would know exactly what to do. Sorry to break it to you, but people can’t read minds and hints are often misconstrued. Not to mention, you aren’t exactly consistent all the time. Just say, “I need someone to listen.”
Which brings me to…
- Be precise with your words and selective about your complaints. Say how you feel, ask for what you need, and mean what you say. Avoid cryptic messages written in invisible ink. If something hurts, say so and let the person know why.
On the other hand, don’t fall into the trap of making your relationship feel like the complaint department. Everything can’t be a problem and you run the risk of making a person feel that they will never be good enough for you.
There has to be something positive to say. Force yourself to not complain about someone or their actions for a week. Instead, refocus your energy toward looking for the best in them. Sit back and observe the difference in their behavior influenced by the amazing way you are making them feel.
- Listen, connect, and spend time together. People love to talk about themselves and few things make you feel as valued as an engaged listener. Stay in touch, make the phone call, and schedule the brunch.
- Be realistic and show some grace. Grace is one of the greatest gifts you can give (and one of my favorite things to talk about). We mess up, trip up, and lose ourselves sometimes. We need people to forgive us, give us second chances, and see the good in us even when we don’t deserve it. Give grace because you never know when you might need it in return.
- Learn how to express love in a way that is authentic to you and meaningful to the recipient. Consistent expression of love, care, concern and appreciation can go a long way in maintaining the health of a relationship. Relationships can grow sour when one or both parties start feeling undervalued.
- Remember that the act of loving someone and receiving love is natural, but highly nuanced.
First of all, while we all have an innate desire for love, we all don’t need to be loved in the same way. Secondly, our “love tanks” need a regular dose of fuel. Lastly, they don’t always need to be refueled on a consistent, predictable schedule. Think about it this way: If you only use your car to drive back and forth to work, you might need to refuel your car one time per week. However, if you take your car on a lengthy road trip, you might need to fill her up in a few hours. People are like this too.
Relationships go through seasons, just like anything else. We ebb and flow between periods of conflict and celebration. Take the time to examine your relationships and to take steps toward growth. Regardless of the type, the length, or the stage of a relationship we all could stand a few improvements. Life can be quite challenging, but I can assure you that strong relationships make everything better.