Published: Feb. 7, 2018 By

Friends chat during a hikeWhether it’s with a significant other, a roommate or a family member, meaningful relationships 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.

Know, stick to your values

Your values are the aspects of your life you believe to be most important. Values generally determine your priorities and influence your actions. When your actions and your life generally align with your values, you feel pleased and satisfied; and when they don’t, you can feel sad, stressed or conflicted.

While the people you have relationships with don’t necessarily need to have the same values as you, it is important the relationship supports your values. While you likely need to compromise to keep your relationships working well, these compromises should still be true to your values. Compromising at the cost of your values can put you in an unhealthy place that doesn’t feel quite right.

Get reasonable, honest with expectations

Understanding what exactly you’re expecting to get from a relationship is important. Each of us has a variety of needs, and we often look to our relationships to help fill them. It may take some introspection, but getting a sense of what you want and what you’re asking of others can help you find the kinds of relationships you’re looking for.

Sometimes we expect others to support us in ways that are unrealistic or in ways the other person isn’t aware. By understanding your own expectations and reflecting on how you communicate your needs, you can avoid being let down. This also allows you to better support the needs of the other person.

Listen to hear, 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 you about their busy day, you may respond by telling them the million things you have going on, too. If you focus on being an active listener instead, you might see your friend is really stressed and needs your support; then you can take a step back and be the kind of friend you’d like to have.

When you think about our relationships with others, sometimes you need to start by examining yourself. When you know what you expect to get out of a relationship, you 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.