From a Gloucester reader: None of the relationships in my life are going very well. My husband and I are always on the run with our careers and community responsibilities, my friends and I seem to be growing apart, and my children don’t want to do the family things we used to do together. I feel like everyone is drifting away from me. What can I do?
Dear Reader: Here is some information culled from my reading and my professional experience over the years that ought to help. You can improve the relationships in your life by practicing the following four keys to better relationships:
Value the people in your life as individuals. The best relationships are those in which people are accepted as unique individuals. You, your friends, co-workers and family are constantly changing as a natural result of life experiences. However, you may not, as time goes along, retain similar values and ideas, but if you can still enjoy being in each other’s company while sharing activities — walking, biking, movies, dinner, etc., you can overlook, and perhaps even learn from differences in outlook.
Make relationships a priority. If you want quality relationships, you must devote time and attention to them. That may mean spending an entire evening listening to your teenage daughter complain about her life, or sitting with a friend who is distraught over a family death, or calling friends and family with whom you have been out of touch rather than attending a meeting or going to an event. It may mean helping your out-of-work mate brainstorm possible job prospects instead of climbing into bed with a mystery novel. Sometimes “being there” physically and emotionally for the other person in the relationship has to come first.
Share common interests. Relationships thrive when people spend time together doing things they both enjoy. Even simple, inexpensive activities, like a walk on the beach, can cultivate closeness.
It is especially important to work at developing shared interests with your family. Find an activity that you and your spouse enjoy and do it together. Play tennis, ski, or work on a community project. It can be particularly stimulating and fun to try something neither of you has done before. Follow your children’s lead concerning “together time” since they are often less flexible about what they are willing to do with their parents. Whatever you can share with them will benefit the child or parent relationship.
Express your enthusiasm for being with others. Let people know that you enjoy the time you spend with them — “I always enjoy our time together,” “I’m so happy that we’re friends!” “I love our special time together son (or daughter),” “Sharing this time together reminds me of all the reasons I fell in love with you.” Tell them often that they are a meaningful part of your life, and that your relationship is treasured.
In my view, nothing in life is more important than the quality of our relationships. My suggestion is to treat them as if they are rare and precious — because they are.
Based in Rockport, life coach and psychotherapist Susan Britt, M.Ed., teaches individuals, couples and families to resolve relationship conflicts, clarify and achieve life and career goals, and accelerate personal growth. Questions and comments may be addressed to her at firstname.lastname@example.org or 978-546-9431.