In life we don’t only have a relationship with the one we have relations with… Your entire life is filled with different relationships that fulfill us in various ways – like your relationships with your parents, your siblings and extended family, or your relationships with your friends, neighbours, colleagues, and the members of your community group. Each one of these relationships are important and requires attention and effort to keep them healthy, as all of them add value to your life in some way.
“Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another, ‘What! You too? I thought I was the only one’” — C.S. Lewis
So how do we maintain and improve personal relationships?
Be present – When you are with someone you care about, be WITH them. Be present in the moment, and not on your phone checking email or thinking about work.
Make time – Ensure that you set aside time to foster and develop your relationships. You need one on one time with a loved one to catch up and unwind. It allows you to stay connected and up to date with what is happening. This is as true if not more so for married couples, often you get so busy you forget that you still need time to work on your relationship.
Listen – Listening is the most valuable communication skill of all. Taking time to understand the other person’s point of view is key to connecting with them, and is vital as the first step to managing conflict.
Learn to communicate – Relationships undergo strain when one member does not express their needs or important issues properly – they may do it in an aggressive, explosive or disrespectful way OR not at all. Learning to talk respectfully and assertively is key to healthy relationships.
Learn to apologise and forgive – Inevitably close relationships will involve some disappointment or hurt. Taking responsibility and apologising if you have hurt someone, or conversely, moving on and forgiving someone when you are the one hurt is part of maintaining mature, healthy relationships.
Express gratitude and appreciation – Making someone important in your life feel appreciated is incredibly important. It validates them and lets them know you care. Whether it is kind words of thanks to a coworker, a gift to a good friend, love and affection expressed to your partner or a reassuring hug and kiss for your child everyone needs to be appreciated and nurtured in healthy relationships.
Respect each other – Let those important to you know you are making an effort to keep their ideas in mind and that you value their input. Mutual respect is essential in maintaining healthy relationships.
Compromise – Disagreements are a natural part of any healthy relationships, however it’s important that you find a way to compromise if you disagree on something. Try to resolve conflicts in a fair and rational way – or agree to disagree on a viewpoint.
Be supportive – Offer reassurance and encouragement to each other. Be a cheerleader to those you value and let them know when you need their support. Healthy relationships are about building each other up, not putting each other down.
Respect each other’s privacy and maintain boundaries – Just because you’re close to someone or in a relationship with someone doesn’t mean you have to tell them everything and spend all your time together. Any relationship requires space and room to grow… by setting boundaries you can both have a deeper understanding of the type of relationship that you want and your limits within that relationship.
Don’t rely on someone else for your happiness – as important as relationships are, do not fall into the trap of latching your happiness to one person. That is a HUGE weight and responsibility for that relationship to bear. In order for you to have healthy, happy relationships, you need to nurture your own happiness and allow it to come from within.