The value of healthy relationships
The best way to get what you want in a relationship is to ask for it, and the best way to avoid getting what you don't want is to say no. But, why are these things are so hard to do in the midst of our most important relationships?
The difficulties in communicating these simple things often stem from our fears of being rejected or dismissed as insignificant. Speaking up for ourselves about what we truly want and for how we’d like to be treated is the greatest risk we can take in a relationship - as we’ll always stand to be refused or unaccepted, which can often be painful.
And, although we may not give it much thought, all of us experience many different kinds of relationships that add valuable support to our lives every day.
Let’s consider the importance of the various relationships in our lives.
We may have a special someone, a spouse, husband or wife; the person who knows us best of all or someone with whom we share our daily strifes and successes. We may regard that person as our ally, our soulmate or even life companion.
We may have friends with whom we share coffee, a few drinks, the weekly game or who we can complain to about our most intimate problems to get advice or feedback.
Family members are often the people who remind us of what’s important in our lives. Our children (even if we haven’t had them yet) can be the reason we work as hard as we do, that can give us the motivation behind our determination to overcome the hurdles, challenges and struggles in our careers and professional lives.
Our parents and siblings are often the people with whom we grew up, they knew the young us and often we want to make them proud.
Then there are our colleagues at work, co-workers or bosses. Many of us can spend most of our time with work colleagues. They can be the people who offer us support through our daily struggles, who recognise our skills, accomplishments, efforts and often who it is that we truly are.
For many of us, our relationships are a major, important and integral part of our lives.
Our families, friends, colleagues and maybe even neighbours form the cornerstones of our relational support network (well they should do anyway!). They provide healthy emotional interaction as well as the opportunity to share our deepest worries, to help each other out, and have fun or even just simply relax!
But what happens if those relationships go wrong? What happens if we start to feel irritable, unvalued, insignificant and unappreciated?
We may feel that there aren’t enough hours in the day to accommodate everything we feel we must do, to please everybody who places the often-unlimited demands on us. If we feel insignificant or unvalued in the context of our relationships, stress can gradually accumulate until it begins to spread throughout every aspect of our lives.
Stress can cause disturbed sleep patterns, a lack of enthusiasm for people and the things that were once important to us. Over time we may lose our sense of humour, become aggressive, intolerant and maybe introverted. Gradually those important relationships can be damaged by our negative behaviour.
But, you can pause and consider the ways in which you can look after your relationships more effectively, in ways that won’t just benefit you directly, but in ways that will benefit all people concerned – even those people you may not have even met yet!
What does a healthy relationship look like?
Let's consider some ways in which we can take care of our relationships in a way that could both enhance and improve the quality of our lives.
Are you slow or even reticent to offer praise or show enthusiasm for another’s successes and talents? The most valuable commodity of human beings is time - and time is the most significant thing you could ever give to someone.
Be quick to apologise
Acknowledging when we’ve made a mistake and being quick to apologise can defuse a tense situation and enable it to be moved on from. A sensitive apology demonstrates empathy and a desire to make amends and, as such, is often accepted with relief. This is a great demonstration of humility and a solid foundation for building any relationship of depth and trust.
Relationships are about listening as well as readily communicating our own thoughts and worries. Be interested in the other person’s story, ask questions, remember what you’ve been told and be sure to follow-up the next time you meet. Being genuinely interested is an important way of demonstrating affection and concern for another person.
Share your thoughts, feelings and boundaries
A relationship has to be a two-way commitment for it to thrive and grow. Take care of your relationships by participating with ideas, suggestions and input as well as investing of yourself. Demonstrate by your words and actions that the views and feelings of others are actually important to you.
Take care of yourself and remain attractive, interesting and fun to be with. It can be all be too easy to adopt a relaxed approach life, but continuing to make an effort is an important part of maintaining a good relationship.
It’s OK to relax on occasion but it’s also important to not let standards slip too much or too often. If you’re not yet in that ideal relationship, become for the other person what you would ideally have that person be for you!
Make time for your relationships
Many of us have incredibly busy lives with too much to do each day. Remember how important the people in your life are and how much it would mean to you to lose them. Make time to share a meal, a conversation, take the opportunity to relax and enjoy each other’s company. Demonstrate that each relationship is important to you.
Offer help and mean it
Take care of your relationships by occasionally making considerate gestures without being asked. Simple, thoughtful words and actions may mean a great deal to the other person, possibly in ways you may never fully comprehend.
How healthy have your relationships really been?
The pressures and constraints of modern life can mean that, sometimes, our relationships are neglected. Work, deadlines, the demanding schedules of our children’s lives can all mean that fitting in routine household errands and chores, family commitments and a little personal ‘me’ time can seem an impossibility - let alone finding time for each other.
Along with the growth of social media, many people can find themselves becoming less social in the real world when away from the computer screen or the smartphone. Social isolation has become more prevalent and the modern way in which we live can greatly reduce both the quantity and the quality of our social relationships.
Many people no longer live in extended families or even near to each other in terms of those that they feel close to. An increasing number of people live alone, with loneliness becoming an increasingly common problem, which fuels many of today’s common mental and emotional epidemics such as anxiety, depression and low self-esteem.
Though we may have many Facebook friends that ‘like’ us, or Twitter followers that ‘follow’ us, social media will never be able to compete with the benefits of having strong social support, that is so integrated into our most basic of human needs.
Whether or not we have plenty of family, friends, colleagues, spouses, siblings, we all have the capacity for new and exciting relationships with some people we may know, and with many others that we won't have even met yet. The world is a huge social network offline and there are millions of people that have always been waiting to meet someone just like you.
Although some relationships may ‘break’ us, there are some relationships that will ‘make’ us!