By Krystal Kuehn, MA, LPC, LLP, NCC
When you think about it, most problems in life are in some way or another linked to relationships. For instance, a history of being belittled by others can lead to low self-esteem. Feelings of not being listened to or accepted by others can result in problems with anger. Even difficulties from trying to be perfect can be traced to relationship problems, such as a need for approval and acceptance. Problems with loneliness and isolation can be related to a fear of rejection and vulnerability. Often we long for the closeness of a relationship, but it eludes us because we fear getting hurt or ignored. Relationships can result in pain greater than most any other pain. And yet, they can provide the greatest fulfillment and joy in life.
Life is all about relationships. Whether we like it or not, our lives are largely shaped by our relationships. Every aspect of our lives involves other people-our family life, hobbies, celebrations; where we live, work, worship; where we go to school, shop and so on. We make relationship connections every day. They might be casual such as saying hello to a stranger or interacting with a sales clerk; or especially important as those that are more personal and intimate.
Our relationship interactions often determine how we feel. Friendly, loving, warm interactions can leave us feeling refreshed, encouraged, accepted, and connected. On the other hand, interactions that result in conflict, hurtful and angry words and bitterness can result in tension and emotional pain if left unresolved.
Relationships can be torn down and they can be built up. Because they play a major role in our lives, it's imperative that we devote time and attention to them on a daily basis. Good relationships take work. We can choose to show kindness and love in our words and actions, to accept and not judge others, to invest our time and resources in the lives of others, and to demonstrate selflessness and care by considering others' needs before our own. These are all qualities that build good and strong relationships.
We are personally responsible to do our part in developing relationships that are healthy and fulfilling. It might be helpful to take an occasional self-inventory and ask ourselves: Am I treating others the way I would like them to treat me? Am I quick to let go of anger, unforgiveness and desire for retaliation or revenge? Am I pursuing peace and resolution in order to restore my relationships? Do I admit and apologize when I am at fault? Do I go out of my way to bless others, or do I expect them to meet my needs first? Can I give without expecting anything in return? Am I thankful for the people in my life?
It is usually easier to recognize what's wrong in others in the way they interact with us. Yet, when we take a look at ourselves something happens inside of us. And that can be the beginning of improving and enjoying our relationships.