Let’s face it, relationships of any kind are hard work and can be even harder to navigate alone. The past year threw us all for a loop: with strict Shelter-In-Place regulations due to COVID-19, to not knowing what is right and what is wrong when it comes to talking to your partner, friend, family member, or co-worker about how you’re feeling, relationships have had to endure unprecedented obstacles. For some, it has posed quite a challenge.
First off, let’s make one thing very clear; we don’t just have one type of relationship, we have many, and it is so important to be able to separate their differences and appreciate each for what they are and what they bring to your life. Simply put, relationships are what make the world turn.
Relationships don’t just bring us happiness; they bring support, success, and the ability to live a long life that is meaningful, rich, joyful, and, most of all, rewarding for all parties involved. One sure-fire way to tarnish or ruin a great relationship is to ignore it. Like flowers, relationships need to be nourished and taken care of if you want them to grow. Relationships can change and bring surprises, especially if you don’t have the right tools to manage them. In the long run, it can pay off to learn practical skills, such as what to do and what not to do during difficult situations to keep your relationships running smoothly.
There are four fundamental types of relationships, each of them essential to our happiness, health, and vitality.
All our relationships are connected, and with the right maintenance, they can grow into and remain strong and healthy. Conversely, relationships can also change in ways that we weren’t necessarily expecting and possibly throw us off balance. To live a life that’s full of happiness, you may need to evaluate the quality of each type of relationship you have. If you recognize an area in one of your relationships that are lacking, you may need to work on bringing it back up to par. For example, suppose your relationship with yourself isn’t where you’d like it to be. In that case, it could be wise to focus on a bit of self-improvement before looking into any other relationship.
It is super important to know that everything starts with Y-O-U. The relationship you have with yourself will always reflect on every other relationship you have, whether it is a friendship or a romantic relationship. If you feel good about who you are and are confident in yourself, you will likely be happy and satisfied in your other relationships.
You are the most important person in your world. Many people say, ‘always look out for number one,’ which, if you haven’t guessed it, this person happens to be you, and while some may say this is selfish, try to remind yourself that if you’re not happy, the people around you probably won’t be either. Yes, there are loads of ways to hide unhappiness, but it always eventually rears its ugly head, one way or another.
One way to maintain a great self-relationship is to care for yourself and continuously evaluate your relationship. Many mental health studies attribute daily self-care to well-being. Being kind to yourself daily is one of the best things you can do for, well, you guessed it, yourself!
Self-care looks different for everyone. For some, it’s essential to take time to rest or be pampered, and for others, it’s getting outside for an afternoon walk or run.
A few other things that the Mental Health Foundation recommends to improve and maintain a healthy self-relationship are:
Spend at least 15-30 minutes a day doing something that makes you feel good
Be kind to yourself; give yourself the same grace that you would a best friend.
Wind down at the end of the day and take a few minutes to appreciate yourself
Emotional abuse - Continuously telling yourself that you are undeserving of love or are worthless
Codependency - Having codependency issues can cause you to rely too heavily on others to make you happy.
The bond we have with our friends is one of the most important connections we will ever have. The relationship between a friend or a group of friends has to remain healthy to grow, and without proper care and attention, it can quickly become sour or toxic. It is said that there are four critical requirements for a healthy and fulfilled friendship.
Trust - Being able to trust and have confidence in your friend is probably the most critical requirement. Trust gives each person involved the ability to count on the others. For example, if you tell your friend something personal and have mutual trust, you know that what you say will stay between the two of you and that your friend won’t judge you regardless of the circumstance.
Equality - This often gets overlooked, especially if you have a friend or a group of friends different from you. For example, suppose you are a timid person, and one of your friends is very assertive. In that case, it could be assumed that the bold friend has the upper hand in the relationship, but when in reality, you both have mutual respect and can compromise when faced with adversity.
Compassion - Having compassion is being able to be empathetic towards your friends during times of need.
Honesty - This is an essential requirement for a healthy and robust relationship because people are generally more hurt when they have been lied to and would have instead heard the truth, then decided for themself how they wanted to move forward. Being honest may mean that there will be more hard conversations, but in the end, these real conversations will ultimately make your relationship more substantial and trusting.
Lack of commitment
Facing any of the above issues head-on can be difficult and sometimes detrimental to the relationship. However, if both parties are willing to work on whatever is causing the rift, the friendship will have a good chance of surviving. One easy yet possibly challenging way to move forward in a friendship is to open up a direct communication line and talk about the things that are bothering you. As we stated above, being honest with your friends is crucial to maintaining your relationship, and without open communication, your friendship is likely to dissolve quickly.
Your first relationship is the relationship you have with your family. A family is characterized by people who are related to each other and share an emotional bond. Family members can be related by birth, marriage, or adoption.
Family relationships are so meaningful because our mental growth, well-being, and stability all stem from our relationship with our family from a very young age. Family makes us feel safe, protected, loved, and accepted despite our shortcomings. For example, if at some point your brother comes ‘out of the closet’ and tells you that he is gay, it is then your duty as his sibling to accept him for who he is, showing him that you love him regardless of his sexual preferences.
Families are the basic units that teach children about relationships. Kids brought up in a loving, supportive family are more likely to form better bonds with people outside of the home. Seeing that your parents have mutual respect and love for one another will help you emulate similar behavior in future romantic relationships.
Lack of quality time - Spending time together is probably the most important thing a family can do together. Whether that’s having dinner together or playing cards together on the weekends, this shows each family member that they are cared about.
Lack of communication - A family that doesn’t talk to one another about how they feel can be too crippling if not dealt with.
Lack of affection - People thrive when they feel loved, and it is said that humans need at least three hugs a day to maintain the feeling of being loved. Families that aren’t affectionate with one another can lead a person to retract in future relationships or experience feelings of low self-esteem, which can lead to more extreme behaviors, such as addiction.
There’s no such thing as a perfect family, but it is essential to remember that with hard work and perseverance, it is possible to have a strong, loving, and healthy relationship with your family; it just takes time and constant understanding.
Some say that there is someone out there for everyone. People spend a lot of their adult life searching for ‘the one,’ and when they find that person, they must then find ways to navigate life with another person. This takes a lot of time and hard work. Like an automobile requires maintenance, a love relationship also needs the right tools to be adequately maintained. Without these tools, the couple won’t be able to rely on one another for survival. Relationships require love, understanding, compassion, and compromise. And there are times when problems may arise if one person’s needs, wants, or core values aren’t met or agreed with.
Relationship problems can arise in romantic relationships, and no one couple handles their issues the same. Some couples find working through their difficulties relatively easy, while other couples find it extremely difficult. For example, a seemingly trivial matter like who holds the remote while watching tv can turn into a full-blown power struggle, escalating to a more in-depth conversation about one person’s commitment to the other.
People don’t enter into a romantic relationship thinking that it will dissolve. They enter into a relationship to find love, give love, be loved, and grow from there. Many things can happen in a relationship to cause a rift, but if these problems are dealt with properly, there is more chance for the relationship to move forward and be successful.
Like any relationship, a romantic relationship relies heavily on a few things: Honesty, compassion, trust, and equality. As we talked about in the friendships section, these things are the core requirements for maintaining a robust romantic relationship.
Always fighting about the same issues
Money - how you manage it, budget, and where you spend it
Disagreeing about significant life decisions, such as moving in together, getting married, having children, or buying a new car
Sex, intimacy, or a lack thereof
Time spent together, either too much or not enough
Fortunately, if both parties are open to honestly communicating about their issues, there is hope for the relationship to survive. Simply put, the more you talk about things, the easier it will be to move forward with the issues you’re dealing with. And if one person is less willing to have an open line of communication, then it might be time to re-evaluate the relationship’s core values.
If you’ve gotten this far, you might be asking yourself, “now that I know these common issues, what do I do and where can I go to find extra help to navigate my relationship(s)?” Regardless of the type of relationship that you’re in, it is always helpful to have the option to talk to other people that you trust about your relationship issues. If it is a friendship that you’re having problems with, you can start by talking to another friend in a different group about what’s going on. This way, they don’t have preexisting feelings about the person you’re talking about. If you’re wanting advice on talking to your partner about taking the next step to move in together, maybe start by talking to a trusted friend on how they would handle bringing up the situation.
Maybe you’ve gotten to a point in your relationship where you need to talk to a medical professional, someone like a therapist or a couples counselor. These are two great options, and once you find the therapist that works for you, you could be on the road to more easily navigating the issues that come up in your relationship.
Online therapy platforms, like Talkspace, Relationship Hero, or Betterhelp, provide individuals, including teens, couples, and families, to communicate more openly with each other. Online Therapy is becoming more prevalent and is seen to be just as effective as an in-person therapist. Online therapy gives people the ability to speak to a licensed therapist in the comfort of their own homes with no need to tack on extra time for commuting or pay for a sitter if children are involved.
If one-on-one therapy isn’t your bag, there are other options like Group Therapy that might suit your needs better. You can easily find a group to join using the smartphone app, Wisdo. Wisdo will connect you with a group of people experiencing feelings similar to yours, making you feel more comfortable talking about the issues you’re having with people like you.
Couples Counseling: 7 Ways to Get Your Spouse to go to Therapy
Things to know about Online Therapy: What is Online Therapy?
Comparing Online Therapy Platforms: BetterHelp Vs. Talkspace Vs. Regain