I took a quick poll last week about the topics that my readers wanted to hear more about and this was one of the top three! So to clarify for everyone out there, relationships don’t have to be romantic; however, I have been married for 18 years and this year marks year 20 with my college sweetheart. My best-friend from elementary school and I have been friends for almost as old as I am…which is to say a long time. Additionally, I have the greatest group of girlfriends who meet on a regular basis and are not afraid to let vulnerability be discussed. Has it always been this way? Heck no!! All of the above relationships have been through some twists and turns, but I did pick up a few tips along the way.
5 Tips for Developing Healthy Relationships Today:
- Open lines of communication are the number one tip that I have for you today, and that includes the “trust factor”. If you don’t trust your partner, your friends, or your family, how are you going to be open? You aren’t. You will always hold part of yourself back and that could even border on holding back the truth which will further work to damage the trust. I had a friend for a number of years who I genuinely cared about; however, that being said, each and every time we talked she would hide things or craft some sort of story that never seemed to be quite the truth. Time after time things were missing in our conversations. I ignored these signs, until one day I simply could not. The trust factor has to be there or the relationship will not be able to move forward.
- You have to be able to accept criticism that is honest and meant to help you grow. That being said, if this criticism comes from a harsh argument, it will not be effective at all. Moreover, you should develop active or reflective listening. In active listening, we are genuinely interested in understanding what the other person is thinking, feeling, wanting, or what the message means, and we are able to process this as a type of feedback. This is hard. It is. But I have seen it done with my group of girlfriends. One of them recently went through a divorce and has developed this skill through that process. She brings questions to the table about things and genuinely wants to know what we all think or how we feel. It has strengthened our friendship whereas before, she did not want to listen to advice before as it was painful to her. She is really trying hard to separate fact from feeling as she actively listens to our advice about whatever she is asking. It also helps that we are not giving her unsolicited advice. We are all there to lift her up.
- Develop and hone in on your compassion and empathy. Remember how I dislike the word judge? Icky. It makes us feel like we are on trial; however, there is a thing called discernment and that is different. We become aware of the emotional response and might know what triggers our friends, partners and family members. We then try to come at it from a place of compassion. We are more open and connected to what is going on this way and can tap into our inner intuition about what is really at the root of a problem. This saves us. It reminds us to speak from love.
- Remember to have boundaries. It is important to remember how to separate your feelings from that of your friends and partners. Likewise, it is important to know you can’t heal them emotionally. That is their job and not yours. One of my favorite memes recently has the little guy holding the jar of happiness and his friend comes over and says “Where did you get that?” And little guy says “I made it myself.” BOOM! Microphone drops. Have boundaries on your emotions before they get drained.
- Make time for the relationship…that isn’t on technology. The phones. The phones. They are everywhere. When trying to communicate they are a distraction. Make time by shutting off the technology and creating a sacred space for you to unwind and be real. This can be weekly, or monthly depending on your schedule, but try to get outside as well and enjoy some much-needed fresh air with your friend or loved one. It’s not only a lifesaver…but a relationship saver as well.
Want to know more about how to journal yourself to a better you? Read more under 4 Weeks to Wellness.