July 20, 2021
As women, the quality of our relationships is frequently tied to our happiness levels, identity, self-esteem, and self-worth. Since the beginning of time, women have meaningfully established and maintained connections with others in friendships, families, romantic relationships, and the community. When we experience distress in our relationships, we can experience sadness, feelings of loneliness, disconnection, and anxiety.
As humans, we are social beings, and now more than ever–the health of our relationships matters. We know and understand, that no matter what type of relationships you find yourself in, relationships can be complicated–from differing attachment styles, communication styles, expectations, and personalized beliefs about self and others.
As our world continues to navigate connection, reconnection, and existence in the community, we want to provide 3 simple tips to help you evaluate and strengthen your relationships.
1. Take an Inventory of Your Relationships
When was the last time you took an inventory of your relationships? To shift our awareness to our relationships and better understand ways to nurture them, it can be a helpful place to start to make a list of the relationships in our lives and note how we experience the relationship (e.g. reciprocity? one-sided? mutual trust?), how we tend to feel, (e.g. respected, seen, fulfilled, drained?) and what we would want to be different (e.g. closeness, distance, etc.) Doing this exercise can help increase our awareness of our current satisfaction level in our relationships, bring to light any consistent themes that may present themselves, and increase our awareness of any patterns that frequently re-occur (for us or for others).
Which ones do you want to nurture, grow, or resolve? Which ones do you want to let go of that are damaging, toxic, or unfulfilling? We invite you to take however long it takes to sit honestly with yourself, and thoughtfully evaluate the types and quality of relationships in your life. We have the power, to approach our relationships with intentionality, awareness, and focus–identifying what relationships are important to us and how we would like to move forward in them.
2) Be Curious vs. Assume
We all do it at one point or another: assume we know the intentions, motivations, and meaning behind the behaviors of those in our lives. This is a major issue we see show-up in relationships: “they should know how I feel” or “I don’t feel seen or heard–and they don’t get it”, “they’re doing that because….” or “they’re really trying to tell me that..”, [insert your frequent assumptions here].
None of us are mind-readers, no matter how much we may think we are. In fact, all of our past experiences relating to others strongly shape our sense of self and general experiences of being in the world–how we attach to others, our ease or discomfort with vulnerability, and how we interpret the actions and behaviors of those in our lives. The next time you find yourself getting upset, angry, or anxious in your relationships, approach it with curiosity, ask clarifying questions instead of assuming meaning, and settling on your interpretations as fact. What you find, may surprise you, and help lead to a deeper understanding of one another.
3) Practice Open Communication
Has something been bothering you or on your mind? Are you wanting more or less communication, affection, quality time, etc.? In our families and early relationships, we often learn communication styles as well as what is ok vs. not ok to express and communicate directly and openly. While it may feel uncomfortable if you are someone who is not used to it, we encourage you to check in with your partner, friend, family member, co-worker, etc. about what is happening in your relationship. If you are someone who has no difficulty communicating in your relationships—it can be worth the time to pay close attention to your communication patterns anyway, because communication skills can always be improved.
Along with making assumptions, we can also maintain and hold internal expectations of others in our lives, unbeknownst to them. Then, when those expectations are not met, we can feel hurt and unseen. Although communicating our needs, desires, frustrations, can help us understand and approach potential issues, it is not a guarantee that our needs will always be met, but rather, it sets the tone for opportunities to express oneself honestly and openly, and, make efforts to adjust.
When it comes to elevating and strengthening the meaningful relationships in our lives, the quality, significance, and satisfaction in those relationships are ever-evolving and take time, energy, thoughtful care, and attention. Just as we aim to practice self-care, nourishing our mind, body, and soul, our relationships also need watering, pruning, and sunlight–-leading to strong, fortified, and fulfilling relationships. May you be gentle and compassionate with yourself and others along the journey.
*Please Note: The information provided on or through this website or blog is for educational and informational purposes only and solely as a self-help tool for your own use. Engaging with this material does not constitute a client/therapist relationship*