Why All Kinds of Relationships are Hard
Relationships, whether they are with family members, friends, or romantic partners, are difficult for many reasons. Below are some reasons why you may find relationships challenging (but not an exhaustive list by any means):
Relationships Require Effort
It takes effort to develop and maintain relationships. Most people would probably rather go to a fitness boot camp than deal with complicated emotions, conflict, and relating. Emotional pain is a lot harder to deal with than sore muscles.
Relationships Require Vulnerability
Being a jerk is a lot easier than being vulnerable. Yelling’s a lot easier than figuring out what we feel and then communicating those feelings with kindness. Avoiding a problem is easier than getting into a fight. Putting in half the effort is easier than putting in everything you’ve got.
What is the opposite of being vulnerable? Hiding your feelings. Think of the last time you hid your feelings. Maybe it was when someone made a joke that hurt your feelings, and instead of telling them how you really feel, you laughed along with the joke. If you hide your feelings, they can’t judge you, and you get to avoid a potentially awkward conversation.
Relationships Require Learning Skills
No one is born knowing how to be in a relationship. Just as it is with anything else, you need to learn how to be in one. If we’re not taught how to relate to one another, we need to be educated.
Typically, we do what our parents did because they were our examples. Our parents did what their parents did, and so on. While that’s great if you have ancestors who’ve gone to a lot of therapy and marriage seminars, that’s not most of us.
Remember learning to talk? I don’t, but I’m pretty sure that people spent a lot of time sounding out words to me and correcting my grammar. They were purposeful in teaching me. I don’t know many parents who spend time instructing their children in relationship skills like active listening, identifying feelings, or validating other people.
How to Improve Your Relationships
Create Relationship Goals
Do you want to have better relationships? You must think, act with purpose, and maybe even change to reach your goals. Developing a better relationship doesn’t happen naturally — it has to be something that you think about. Orient your interactions about this goal and be persistent!
Being vulnerable will be more or less difficult depending on your past experiences. Some people have been burned a few too many times and may be more reluctant to try on the vulnerability hat. If the other person in your relationship is safe (he or she will value your perspective and will respond lovingly to you), then challenge yourself to try it out.
Vulnerability is when we allow ourselves to know and be known. Find out what makes the other person vulnerable and be okay with it. Teach what makes you vulnerable. Knowing the other person on a deeper level is important if you want to have a healthy, thriving relationship. It can be scary at first, but if the other person responds lovingly, it’s not so scary anymore.
Learn How to Relate
There are several ways you can learn how to relate to others.
- Think about and remember the ways your parents related to one another. What did they do well? What did they not do well?
- Identify the ways you currently relate to others. Do you see any similarities to your parents?
- Ask yourself how well your style is working for you. You may consider asking someone outside of your relationship like a best friend or therapist for feedback.
- Learn to be a good communicator. To communicate well, you will need to know how to relay your thoughts and feelings in a kind, non-defensive, non-judgmental way. Just because someone is married doesn’t mean that they know how to relate or communicate with their spouse well.
Consider Professional Counseling with Watershed
Whether you need help with your friendships, family, or marriage, professional counseling can help guide you through the work of sustaining meaningful, purposeful relationships with the people around you. Caty Coffey provides therapy for individuals and couples in central Mississippi. Take the first step towards improving your interpersonal relationships by making an appointment with her.