You have to create your relationships. They don’t magically show up.
Whether you and I admit it or not, we need people (link is external). We need others to dialogue with, to provide sounding boards and critical eyes to help us navigate life, to explore what is meaningful and possible, and just to relax with no purpose at all.
Even if you have a spouse or significant other, you still need a few solid friendships for your health and well-being. It is too much responsibility to be your life partner and your only friend. There will be times you need to reach out to someone else. Hopefully, you have a few friends you can be open and comfortable with to talk to.
Here are some steps you can take to create enriching, long-term relationships. These steps could deepen the relationship you have with your life partner as well:
- Become comfortable with yourself. I’ve read many things in my life about the need to love myself. The book, The Unfolding Now, (link is external) by A.H. Almas gave me a new perspective on self-regard. Almas says that when we care about others, we want to know them, spend time with them, and help them feel happy. We also show them compassion and forgiveness. Can you do this for yourself? Can you be curious as to what is happening in any moment instead of questioning and judging yourself? Can you find the time to be with yourself to explore what makes you feel fulfilled? Can you look at yourself as a human trying to do the best you can with what you know so you feel compassion and forgiveness when you do something you regret? This is how you grow. Caring for yourself is your first step to creating strong relationships.
- Discover the greater purpose for your relationship. Dr. Lloyd suggests you find or mutually create an overarching purpose for your relationship such as being the sounding board for each other as life continues to change, to support each other in figuring out how to be good parents, to share your spiritual development, or to explore the ever-changing meaning of success and happiness together. Enjoying lunch together now and then is not enough. Knowing what gift you provide for each other will keep you looking forward to the times you can connect.
- Don’t just listen when you are together, relax into receiving. Listen to more than the words when you talk with your friends. Feel their experience. Take in what they are expressing. Don’t try to fix them, tell them they shouldn’t feel a certain way, or tell them what you think they should do for their own good. Let them know you are aware how significant their experience is for them. Let them know you are present and willing to support them in whatever they need, even if it is only for them to know you are there. We all need people who will let us be who we are.
- Examine your expectations. The greatest threat to a relationship is unspoken expectations. If your friend doesn’t meet your expectation, talk about it as soon as you can. If you hold on to your resentment, it will smolder and kill the friendship; you will come to expect being disappointed. Soon, you will drift apart. And if your friend shares a disappointment with you, don’t defend yourself. Work to understand how the misunderstanding occurred. Say you are sorry the incident happened. Then seek to discover what you both need to do in the future to keep the situation from happening again. Strong relationships are built on trust and the ability to talk about how you feel.
- Lighten up. Friends who laugh together, stay together. Laughter decreases stress and helps us to feel connected. In this moment, we enjoy ourselves as well.
We are social beings who need loving and appreciative relationships to stay healthy and productive. Strong relationships lead to a meaningful and enriching life. Without them, life is dull if not sad. It is worth your time to create strong connections.