The only way a relationship will last is if you see it as a place that you go to give, and not a place that you go to take. – Tony Robbins
I’ve mentioned on this blog already, to live a happy life, we all need connection with others. Loneliness has now been highlighted as one of the most significant contributors to depression. It’s different for everyone, in terms of how often and how much we feel the need to connect with others, but it is very clearly, a necessity.
It’s not about quantity, one significant relationship can be enough for a person. For relationships to enhance our wellbeing, we need to look at the quality of our relationships. Like loneliness, unhealthy relationships can contribute to depression too.
If you are on a journey to make your life the happiest place it can be, you need to look at your relationships.
Given our need to feel connected to others, it is no wonder that so many people experience a fear of being alone or not belonging. That means we find ourselves outstaying and maintaining unhappy or even toxic relationships. I’m talking romantic, friends and family. This may apply to one significant relationship in your life, or several.
Let’s get real as well. If you are recognising that many of your relationships seem unhealthy, you might need to look a little closer to home. This is not a blame game. This is recognising whether your relationships are healthy or not.
If a relationship brings out the worst in me, I take full responsibility for that. They are my reactions. If I see a pattern in the guys I am attracting, I’m looking at me.
I’m not claiming that relationships is an area of my life I have sorted. Mostly, I have healthy relationships. However, I have difficult ones too. I try not to let them impact on my wellbeing or day to day life, but of course, I’m human, and sometimes they do interfere. Let’s remember, relationships are complex and forever changing. I’m not creating a perfect picture of me either. I know I could show up better and communicate more effectively at times, no doubt.
The rule I’m trying to go by is that the relationships I allow into my life, make me feel good. (If that’s not always possible, because perhaps, I care too deeply for someone to let go, then boundaries are being set. When boundaries are tested, we are on to plan B (and then maybe plan C but I will touch on this more in a future blog).
It has taken a lot of self-reflection and self-awareness to see the role relationships play in my happiness. How they influence my thinking, feeling and behaviours. Unhealthy relationships can influence low self-esteem, low mood, anxiety and stress. I decided life is too short to allow our mental health to be affected by something that we have control over.
Below, I have outlined the key signs that I look out for when I am evaluating my relationships:
First and foremost, you respect each other. You both respect your differences and ‘perfect imperfections’. Valuing each other for who you are. Respecting that you are two people with different expectations, past experiences and values. One person does not have power over the other. You may well be very honest with each other, certainly you don’t have to sugar coat everything, but does it come from a place of love and R.E.S.P.E.C.T? You know the difference.
You can turn to each other in times of need, sorrow or joy. We all have our own lives, and sometimes people are busy or going through their own stuff, but ultimately, it’s important to feel we are supported by the people we hold so close. Being able to share our problems, is a significant coping strategy for stress, low mood and anxiety. Therefore, receiving support and encouragement is key in relationships. If you can’t turn to a friend or if you get frustrated when they turn to you, ask yourself why.
The other person will push you to follow your dreams and love seeing you succeed (or pick you up if things don’t go to plan). If someone doesn’t support you, this is only OK if that is out of genuine concern and love for your wellbeing (you can FEEL the difference).
One of the strongest signs of an unhealthy relationship is if you find the other person does not acknowledge your achievements. I get it, often this comes from a place of fear for them, because they are likely comparing themselves to your achievement. However, that’s not good enough for me, a true friend (or lover, or family member) can oversee their feelings and cheer you on (and vice versa).
You know the saying ‘I’m just being honest’. I do not like that, one bit. Being honest, doesn’t need to insult anyone. Giving your opinion does not need to hurt anyone. There is a difference between constructive criticism and just plain rude. And there is a time and place for constructive feedback. Usually when people criticise, it is to make themselves feel better.
People do not deserve to make you feel bad. Truly consider how you want to be treated and treat others the same. Be kind. It’s great to be honest, anyone that knows me, knows how direct I can be. But that doesn’t allow me to be mean. Certainly, no one should be putting you down, embarrassing you or ridiculing you in any way.
In this space, with this person, you are relaxed and able to have fun. You can be your most authentic self in healthy relationships. People that care about you, will not be judging you. There is no reason in this relationship to be saying yes to everything, always agreeing with their point of view, or even, always looking your best.
Whilst a lot of these behaviours are a reflection of your own self-esteem, as you become more confident and apply boundaries to relationships, this is one way to identify the ones worth your time and energy.
Relationships are not all about taking and self-gain. If one of you has to put all of the effort in, that is going to take its toll. There will be a balance between the effort that is put in (yes relationships do require some effort). Feeling needed in relationships is normal and appropriate.
If someone disappears on you, or fails to check in, that’s not really ok. Especially if they only turn up when they want something from you. If they are not willing to invest time and energy into you, something about that feels very off. Someone, I expect is being taken advantage of.
Regular conflict with another person is not good for the soul. If that’s happening, it’s a sign something isn’t working. The relationship isn’t over necessarily, but it obviously requires a bit of TLC and communication. I’m not talking about the occasional blow up or disagreement. My best friend Charly and I had a corker once. It took her getting me a ‘get well soon’ message from Matt Cardle for us to really move on 😉
Take a step back and acknowledge how the relationship actually makes you feel. Another person or relationship shouldn’t bring feelings of anxiety or upset. The people you spend most of your time with should lift you up. I live apart from some friends and family, I can start to feel it when it has been too long and I miss them, this is a sign to me that this person brings something special to my life. Same goes when you leave them, does your soul feel happy? Or do you walk away re-playing some of the things that were said and feeling down? If it’s not mostly good, I would dig deeper and find out what’s going on.
They are what I consider useful indicators for healthy/unhealthy relationships. It’s food for thought. No one deserves to be treated poorly or taken advantage of. It can be really hard to make a change and will often be met with resistance. I don’t know how or why, but I have never had a fear of speaking up if I feel I am being treated poorly, how I execute this however, continues to take practice.
In the last year or so, I would say I have got more brutal when it comes to who I spend my time with (coincidence that I turned 30?). One thing it took me some time to understand, is that letting go does not happen overnight. Letting go does not mean you stop loving someone or that you have to do a Phoebe (there’s a Friends quote for everything) and cut them out (although you may decide that is best for you). It means you no longer allow that negativity into your space. That is your right.
Be realistic about whether your relationships make you feel happy, unhappy or just a bit ‘mehh’. Then make a decision. Maybe you need to put some boundaries in, communicate and clear the air or take a step back.
You cannot control another person’s behaviour. If the way they behave is upsetting to you, the choice is now in your hands, as to whether this is something you are going to have in your life or not. You then will need to decide how you are going to go about managing this.
Even if the other person’s behaviours are clearly wrong, the way you react and what you allow in your life, is your problem. Blaming anyone else is not going to help with moving forward.
What you decide to do with this information is up to you. This is another area for consideration, for those of you that are actively trying to live a happier, balanced life.
What I know to be true, is if you do decide you want to see change, then you will have to change something.
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Carly Ann xx