As humans, the relationships we form with other people are vital to our mental and emotional wellbeing, and really, our survival. A relationship is an important aspect of every human. Be it our parents, siblings, friends or partner – every relationship must be nurtured properly. It is the way two or more people or things are connected. Thankfully, technology has made it convenient to keep in touch with the outside world, get re-acquainted with long-lost friends and even meet and connect with new people. However, it has changed how we define meaningful relationships.
For instance, someone with a thousand Facebook friends may think they rock. But, the real question is, how many of those “friends” would be there to support you both in success and crisis. Hence, it’s very important to build and sustain meaningful relationships.
In this post, we share 12 tips to get you started in building and sustaining meaningful relationships.
But first, let’s take a look at what exactly we mean by meaningful relationships.
What is a meaningful relationship?
A meaningful relationship is a relationship that is of personal significance, is healthy, caring, and long-lasting, and is one we couldn’t do without. It’s a relationship with a person who helps you grow, supports and encourages you and is there for you when you need them.
It’s a relationship where you continually improve and become a better version of yourself. It’s a positive relationship with no negative energy involved. It’s with someone who sees the best in you and keeps pushing you to put your best foot forward.
A meaningful relationship should possess the following qualities:
Communication: Communication is the expression and receiving of the thoughts, ideas and feelings of another person. It is critical to relationships because it’s the only way people connect. It is instrumental to the other qualities listed below and is often the first thing to go when a relationship starts to deteriorate.
Honesty: Honesty means your words match your actions. It means that you are truthful about what you do. Honesty is critical to meaningful relationships because it is one of the pillars of trust, and without it, the relationship is likely to fail.
Respect: Respect means to hold someone else, their ideas and existence, in high esteem and in a positive light. Without respect for oneself and the other person, a relationship cannot thrive with honesty and interdependence.
Interdependence: Interdependence is when two independent people come together to create a strong relationship. Interdependence is stronger than a co-dependent relationship because both people are coming from a solid foundation.
Empathy: Empathy is an experience of the thoughts, feelings, and emotions of another person. Empathy is the ultimate sign of support for the other person because you truly walk in their shoes and experience what they experience.
Purpose: Every strong relationship has a purpose–a reason that the two people are connecting, associating or being involved with each other. It could be for career perspective, guidance, socializing, love or a thousand other things. The purpose helps to dictate what is expected and appropriate of the relationship; without it, a relationship isn’t worth the time or effort because it provides no value to at least one of the participants.
There is more depth to each of these qualities, but these give you a starting point to understanding what it takes to have a meaningful relationship.
Let’s quickly talk about people who tend to be socially isolated or lonely without any form of relationship with people.
Social Isolation and Loneliness
Social isolation means you do not have enough people to interact with, whereas loneliness is how you think about or perceive your situation. Someone who feels lonely may have family and friends nearby, but still, experience feelings of loneliness. It is also important to note that loneliness is not the same as depression.
However, loneliness can have implications for one’s health, in part because of reduced mobility. Loneliness can be as strong a risk factor for dying prematurely as smoking, obesity or lack of physical activity. Mental health implications can include low self-worth and negative thinking.
Why is it important to build healthy positive relationships?
Knowing how to maximize healthy positive relationships and minimize negative relationships is key to living a happy and satisfying life. There are great benefits of having a healthy positive relationship;
It encourages personal growth
The beautiful thing about a healthy positive relationship is that you encourage each other to grow and flourish. Friends, family or partners love to see each other succeed and achieve each other’s goals. And most of the time, good friends or partners would be willing to help you in any way they can.
It provides support for you in hard times
Another great benefit of positive relationships is the support you get when going through hard times. We all experience tough times at certain points in life whether it’s in our work, finances or health. Thankfully, having a healthy social circle is one way to keep you strong and persistent.
It helps reduce stress
Healthy positive social relationships relieve stress through the many ways in which they are a support and help people to feel good. Although feeling less stressed is positive in itself, reducing stress is also important because stress can cause problems with coronary arteries, insulin regulation, and the immune system.
It provides opportunity to collaborate
You are familiar with the saying that no man is an island. As human beings, we need each other and as we get along with each other, the better we are at collaborating and working together. Human relationships thrive when we combine our skills and talents to create something greater than the sum of our parts.
It helps you develop healthy behavior
Healthy relationships set the perfect tone for an overall healthy lifestyle. If your spouse, friends or other loved ones encourage eating a healthy diet, exercising, not smoking, etc., you’re likely to follow in their footsteps. It’s a lot easier to take on healthy behaviors when you surround yourself with people who are doing the same.
It adds more meaning to life
Having positive relationships in our life increases our sense of purpose and meaning. When we have a real, positive effect on someone else, we feel like we are making a significant difference in the world – and we are. Healthy positive relationships enrich our life story. They fulfill our need to belong in a community and they give us a stronger sense of identity.
What are the effects of toxic relationships?
A toxic relationship drains the life from you, damages your self-esteem, or kills your dreams. While this sounds deadly, toxic relationships can be subtle and do vast harm before you realize it.
It destroys your self-esteem and self-confidence.
Our self-image is deeply impacted by our relationships. Toxic relationships ruin your life as they most dangerous poison your self-concept, eroding your .
It consumes your energy.
A toxic relationship is often a marathon of your effort geared toward making sure the other person is happy. The time you spend together is “all about them,” with little to no room for you to share your thoughts or feelings, let alone ask for their support.
It breeds negativity.
Toxic relationships are negative. Something is always wrong with you, the situation, their friends or family, the economy, the weather, and you feel pressure to make it better, even when the situation is beyond your control.
It increases your stress level
Toxic relationships are emotionally, mentally and physically stressful. No matter how old you are, health is important for a good quality of life and it’s up to you can make choices about the stress you allow in your life via relationships.
It affects your other relationships.
We learn by example and experience. Toxic relationships can become so familiar that you seek similar ones with others. Also, you may not be able to recognize when a healthy relationship comes along. You become skeptical when someone treats you well.
12 Tips To Build And Sustain Meaningful relationships
Let’s dive straight into the tips that would help you build and sustain a meaningful relationship that is healthy and positive.
1. Fall in love with yourself.
You may have heard this one before, and there is a reason for that. It is the best place to start. Your relationships with others will be terrible if you don’t have unconditional love and compassion for yourself. You need to love yourself no matter how you look, your weaknesses or background. A healthy and meaningful relationship starts with you.
2. Learn to listen and understand.
Listening is an important part of communication which in itself is a vital component in any relationship. You learn to connect with people simply by listening to them, hearing them out without interruption and doing your best to understand where they are coming from. Building and sustaining a meaningful relationship starts from actively listening and understanding your partner.
3. Always Follow-up.
When building a meaningful relationship, and you feel like you’ve hit it off with someone, professionally or personally, don’t wait for them to get in touch with you. If you believe that there’s potential for a new relationship, then make sure that you follow-up.
Additionally, it is very important to always keep in touch once the relationship has kicked off. This is what sustains any meaningful relationship.
4. Find common interests.
It’s very necessary that you have a common interest with someone you want to build a meaningful relationship with. It could be the same sports team, band, movie, job or school. No matter how big or small, finding a common interest is one of the best ways to establish a meaningful relationship.
5. Communicate what you want.
When it comes to building a meaningful relationship, you need to be honest and clear on what you want in the relationship. None of us like feeling disappointed. So even if you feel it’s uncomfortable, it’s better to be clear and specific from the onset and communicate exactly what it is to the other party.
6. Always be eager to help
Don’t wait to be asked to help, always be eager to help in whatever way you can. If you know that a colleague, friend or family member needs some sort of help, then jump in and offer your assistance before they ask. For instance, if they need to get something or move to a new place, you can offer to help.
7. Learn to trust others
Every healthy and meaningful relationship thrives on trust. You need to learn to trust others.Even if you were hurt by someone in the past, either professionally or personally, you have to learn to trust again.
8. Identify and avoid interpersonal pitfalls.
There are plenty of qualities that can be detrimental to a relationship. The Counseling Center at the University of Texas lists the following:
- Having unrealistic expectations of yourself, the other person, or the relationship in general.
- Coming too close too soon, physically or psychologically.
- Being negative about self, the relationship or life.
- Being a rescuer, a martyr, a savior or a “perfect” person.
- Trying to change the other person to suit your needs.
- Being too self-centered, judgmental or always “right”.
- Stockpiling strong feelings – anger, pain, sadness, neediness – and then pouring them all out at once.
- Expecting the other person to be a mind reader, a fixer or always a rock of stability for you.
If you notice any of these tendencies in yourself, think about trying to change them.
9. Don’t be the judge
Just because someone acts a certain way, behaves in ways you wouldn’t allow yourself to or has a different opinion doesn’t mean that they’re beneath you, or less than you. Rather than being judgmental, always seem to find out why they have such opinions or way of life. Learn to accept others and love them regardless.
10. Let it out and let it go
Every relationship is bound to have conflict once in a while. You need to learn ways to resolve conflict. It’s best to let it out wisely, move on and let it go.
11. Do regular checks of the relationships you have.
Some relationships are for a long time. Other relationships may just be for a moment in your life. Do a check-up of the relationships you have and see which ones you would like to hang onto and the ones you can let go. Letting go of unnecessary relationships opens up the opportunity to let new and meaningful relationships into your life.
12. Be patient.
Building and maintaining a relationship takes time. However, you’re going to need patience to help cope with the daily frustrations of life during that time. If you don’t have the patience to deal with life’s challenges, then you can’t expect to have and sustain any meaningful relationship.