How to Have Enriching Relationships
Imagine your life without friends, family, or loved-ones. What would life be like? What would you do? Who would you be?
It’s certainly hard to imagine because a major part of peoples’ identity and lifestyle revolves around the people they care about and spend time with. We’re all social creatures, and relationships provide us support, joy, and an opportunity to grow and learn. Relationships also have a large impact on how we develop emotionally, socially, and mentally. Having positive relationships is crucial for long-term well-being and happiness.
When it comes to having enriching and exceptional relationships, there are a few things to consider and keep in mind. Relationships require an understanding of healthy communication, realistic expectations, love and respect, and clear boundaries. If these areas are developed you will find greater harmony and growth exuding from every relationship you have.
Communication is all about building a bridge to make connections and develop a deeper attachment. It’s about seeking first to understand before being understood and making effort to really show we care about another person. By communicating effectively we can show others we care about them while still getting our needs meet.
Three main steps to clear and healthy communication are:
Learning to reflect back the content, idea, and feelings that are being received is essential to gauge clear understanding before continuing with the discussion. This involves listening carefully and paraphrasing or repeating back in your own words what you heard, and paying close attention to subtle signs in non-verbal behavior. This is where two people can really make sure they’re on the same page.
“Let me make sure I heard you correctly.”
“From what I’m hearing you would like to spend more time together.” “Is this right?”
“It sounds like you would want more help around the house. Is this right?”
Once you have shown understanding of the message being sent, you need to understand where the other person is coming from. This means showing respect and support for the other person’s point of view and feelings. Confirm their emotions and feelings with verbal and non-verbal cues showing you understand. Remember, understanding does not always mean agreeing, but let them know their feelings are important.
This is where the listener or bystander actually connects with the emotional experience of the other individual. Empathy is a true skill that requires stepping into someone else’s shoes and taking a non-judgmental approach to their state of mind. By doing so we create an attachment and bond that really makes a relationship meaningful. This is also where compassionate behavior comes from.
Following these steps takes practice and focus, though by making a conscious effort to do so, communication will become much more effective and fulfilling.
When beginning a relationship we tend to notice all the bright and positive aspects about others. Any little quirk is cute and attractive, though; our idealistic expectations tend to change as relationships continue to develop. Those things we thought were most appealing may even become the most irritating. We may begin to evaluate things in a different manner and lose patience more quickly.
Most people don’t really know each other until they have spent a significant amount of time together and it’s crucial to understand we will continually be learning things about others as we get to know them further.
The point is you can’t expect others to be able to fulfill your every need. People will disappoint you at times, and learning to accept people for their “warts” is an integral part of healthy relationships.
Respect and Love
There is the love/respect dynamic in every relationship. People invest in relationships for this reason. We want to feel supported, respected, and loved by those we surround ourselves with. What’s the point otherwise?
By gauging the needs of the other person, we can learn what their needs are and provide them this support and encouragement. If they need to be respected, show them respect. If they want to be treated with loving kindness then this is the approach to take.
If we aren’t being aware of the other person’s needs, relationships can get stuck in a “crazy” cycle where petty grievances tend to control behavior and interactions.
By approaching a relationship and doing all we can do to help and support the other person, it can start a cyclical pattern of mutually showing respect and love. By showing respect, one will receive love and when they receive love, they are more likely to show respect.
The cycle can persist in this positive manner if we are conscious of how we interpret behavior and focus on clear communication.
Autonomy vs. Connectedness
When it comes to relationships, what makes them work depends on how the partners relate. Some people really need to feel connected in relationships in order to build an attachment and know they are cared for, where others need to have more autonomy or they feel smothered and overwhelmed. The balance between connectedness and autonomy is another dynamic that makes up a healthy relationship. Sometimes we need to show others we love and care for them, even if they “know” we do. For these types of individuals it’s important to express that you love them and show affection when you can. Though, other people need more personal space and a chance to reflect and engage in external activities.
People need to maintain a personal identity and understand their roles within the relationship. This involves boundaries and ultimately reaching interdependence. A relationship should be mutually beneficial and provide growth for both parties. We are able to truly gain value from relationships when we reach this level of interdependence.
If you have relationships in your life, you must realize the interconnectedness of every interaction. You always have an impact on other people and they also have an impact on you. Learning that we have a mutual impact on each other is a powerful realization that helps us to take a more conscious role in how we behave and relate to others.
We have the opportunity to improve other peoples experience and be a valuable part of their life. Make the effort to conscious relationships where there is clear understanding or roles, expectations and values.