The beginning of the year inspires change. Perhaps it’s the closing of one year and the beginning of the next that prompts us to reflect and set goals for the future.
During this time of reflection, bring some focus to your relationships, and try to determine if they’re healthy or damaged. As you evaluate your current relationships or seek out new ones, consider these tips.
Get Real with Yourself
This means—try to be honest with yourself. You won’t get anywhere by deluding yourself about the status of a friendship or romantic relationship. You know what you like and dislike, what you want, and what you’re willing to put up with. No one can help you create comfortable, productive relationships better than you can. In other words, relationships start with you.
Set aside time for some honest self-reflection. Acknowledge the role you play and your importance in each one of your relationships. Look at your positive and negative behaviors. Be honest about your intentions in these relationships.
You’re only sharing these thoughts with yourself; don’t be afraid to be blunt, bold, and as direct as possible in expressing your feelings. Pay attention to the feelings that bubble to the surface; they were probably there all along waiting to come out.
For example, maybe you have a friend who has proven to be resourceful and useful to you during times of need, but who also annoys you. This might cause you to have feelings guilt, usury, or selfishness. Let’s say in this example, your goal is to be a better friend. To achieve this goal, you need to acknowledge and make peace with the fact that you find this person annoying. Avoiding the feeling of annoyance with this person will only work against the genuine intention to better the relationship.
Be honest, at least with yourself, if not directly with the person about these feelings. Ask yourself: who this person is to you, and what do you seek in knowing them? Inquire and express inwardly.
Decide What You Want in a Relationship
Relationships are not all created equal. Some people in your life may serve great importance to your well-being or livelihood, while others are merely friends because of shared interest. You may feel closer to your aunt than your actual parent, or have deeper connection with a friend than your spouse. You may favor the company of buddies over family, or find more understanding among strangers than your loved ones. These kinds of feelings are not uncommon or reprehensible.
You are the shaping force in any relationship that you experience. If you’re setting goals of growth and change for yourself this year, it’s important to be decisive about those goals.
If you have a romantic interest in someone, you must decide whether you really want to explore that kind of relationship with this person. If there is someone you would like to learn from or grow closer to, you have to make up your mind about how you see that person.
Accept the relationship for what it is presently, even if it’s non-existent. Then set your intention on what you want it to be. Setting your intention on how you want to improve your relationships is an effective and direct way to reach your goal.
Remember the fundamental human needs of acceptance, appreciation, affection, and attention to understand your personal intentions. You’re seeking one, or a combination, of these needs to be fulfilled in your human interactions. Look at the person you’re seeking a relationship with and see where they fit into this view of things.
Determine Where Can You Grow
Everything that we experience in life is meant to teach us something and contribute to our awareness. Other people can play a major role in the quality of our life experiences.
If you want to enhance your relationships, it’s a good practice to look at yourself and see where you can grow and improve. This can shed light on your relationships.
For example, you may find that you’re drawn to people for certain qualities that they exhibit. If you’re a serious person who is always responsible, you may feel connected to a silly, more reckless person because it creates some balance in your life. Since this more carefree characteristic may be an unexpressed aspect of your Self, it can be healthy for you to grow this relationship while remaining true to yourself and expanding.
Or perhaps you want to succeed in your career. It can be helpful to your growth as an individual to build relationships with those who have achieved some success in their chosen field. These relationships can provide you with education, support, acceptance, and opportunity.
The most rewarding gift from any relationship will be inward. Look at yourself for areas where you can grow mentally, spiritually, and emotionally. By focusing your efforts on these aspects of your relationships with others, you’re providing a foundation for a long-lasting relationship with purpose.
Be the Change
Try to give what you want to receive. If you want a friend to be more expressive and open with you, it may help for you to initiate this kind of expressive interaction. By being the first to give, especially in relationships, you’re creating the space for what you desire to blossom. Follow Gandhi’s advice with your own relationships and “be the change you wish to see in the world.”
Remember that in all relationships, no matter how intimate or casual, there is compromise and exchange. Sometimes these compromises can take place on an emotional level and other times they can be physical. In order to nurture healthy, positive relations with others, it’s a good practice to not be rigid. People, like life, will throw you curve balls. Maybe a trusted friend will show a momentary betrayal, or an otherwise calm person may act erratically.
Many factors shape the behavior of others. Learn to flow with others without compromising yourself. Don’t take yourself too seriously and learn to appreciate the differences in others.
These small tips can make the difference between great relationships and destructive ones. The best relationships are those in which all parties feel appreciated and respected. Try not to let personal hang-ups or opinions get in the way of a friendship.
As you begin a new year, keep these concepts in mind to improve your current relationships and lay a good foundation for new ones. Every relationship is an opportunity to grow.