Whether it’s a significant other, a roommate or a family member, a meaningful relationship with another person can be a source of fun, support and happiness. To keep these relationships working well, we all have to put in the time and effort (for ourselves and for them). Consider how these keys to healthy relationships might apply to your life.
1. Know (and stick to) your values
Our values are the aspects of our lives that we believe are most important. Our values generally determine our priorities and influence our actions. When our actions and our lives generally align with our values, we feel pleased and satisfied; and when they don’t, we can feel sad, stressed or conflicted.
While the people we have relationships with don’t necessarily need to have the same values as us, it is important that the relationship supports our values. Even though we often need to compromise to keep our relationships working well, these compromises should still be true to our values. Compromising at the cost of our values can put us in an unhealthy place that doesn’t feel quite right.
2. Get reasonable (and honest) with expectations
Understanding what exactly we’re expecting to get from a relationship is important. Each of us has a variety of needs and we sometimes look to our relationships to help fill them. It may take some introspection, but getting a sense of what we want and what we’re asking of others can help us find the kinds of relationships we’re looking for.
Sometimes we expect others to support us in ways that are unrealistic, or in ways that the other person isn’t aware of. By understanding our own expectations and reflecting on how we communicate our needs, we can avoid being let down. This also allows us to better support the needs of the other person.
3. Listen to hear (and not to respond)
Effective communication is more than just hearing and understanding the words someone says. While the who, where, what and when are important, understanding the why is vital. We understand the why when we really focus on being an active listener.
When a friend tells us about their busy day, we may respond by telling them the million things we have going on too. If we focus on being an active listener instead, we might see that our friend is really stressed and needs our support. Then we can take a step back and be the kind of friend we’d like to have.
When we think about our relationships with others, sometimes we need to start by examining ourselves. When we know what we expect to get out of a relationship, we have a much better idea of what’s going to work in that relationship and what won’t. Effective and open communication helps both people feel like they’re on the same page and allows each person to ask for what they need, while staying true to their values.
The Healthy Buffs series is brought to you by Wardenburg Health Services. Visit us online at www.colorado.edu/health