Shortly after switching coasts last fall, I made one of the most important decisions of my life. My parents raised me to be ambitious, and while I’m proud of the work I’ve done over the years, I used to think my professional accomplishments mattered more than anything else. It wasn’t until I found a great person with whom to share my life that I realized relationships of all kind are my biggest priority. Career stuff is high up there, but my friendships, ties with family members and significant other will always come first and make me happiest.
Like anything worthwhile, relationships require effort, time and TLC. Whether you want a healthy relationship with your boyfriend/girlfriend, parents, BFFs or other family members, you must hold up your end of the bargain and have a solid understanding of the way relationships work. Here’s what you can do to maintain strong relationships with those you love.
10. Understand the person’s preferred communication method
I love my mom more than I love myself, but she likes to talk on the phone a lot. I’m much more interested in texting if there isn’t much to say … or if I’m cranky. I know it means the world to her to hear my voice, so I call a couple times a week to catch up even if I’m tired and not entirely pleased with the way my day went. If she could, she’d get me on the phone every night, but because she knows I’m significantly more fun to talk to when I have updates and cheerful stories to share, she text messages me on the days I don’t call.
In a nutshell, people who care about each other have different communication methods, but if they’re aware of the other person’s preferences, they can communicate in a healthy, happy manner.
9. Reach out on your own
Earlier this year, one of my good friends was placed in a new city as part of her eye doctor rotations requirements. When I mentioned to my boyfriend that she’d been contacting me a lot lately, he said, “Why don’t you give her a call and see how she’s doing? She’s in a new place and might be lonely.” I took his advice and was relieved to learn that all was well on her end, but she did appreciate me checking in just to get an idea of how she was assimilating to everything.
You don’t need a big life event to call, text or email people either. Dropping a line for no reason shows you’re thinking about them.
8. Be honest
Growing up, I expected family members and friends to tell me everything I wanted to hear. I figured out pretty quickly that it’s a lot better to hear the brutal truth than have shallow relationships with people who feel they can’t say what’s on their mind around me. If you want meaningful relationships, you’ll listen when family and friends tell you what you may not be interested in hearing.
7. Don’t bottle anything up
One of the worst things to do in any relationship is internalize tons of frustrations until you explode. Some people hold in negative thoughts they may have about friends, their S.O. or family members and eventually snap. This is upsetting for everyone involved. To carry on a healthy relationship, address problems as they come. Don’t wait until it’s too late and irreparable damage has been done to speak up.
6. Reminisce about fun memories
I don’t recommend living in the past, but it’s sweet to bring up good memories during casual conversation. If it’s a childhood friend, fire off a text about an old inside joke. If you find yourself doing the same ol’ routine day in and day out with your significant other, mention an awesome event you may have attended together or adventure you really enjoyed as a pair. This could also encourage you and the other person to do something exciting again soon.
5. Make fair sacrifices
Though I’ve never been a sports person, I tuned in for the NBA playoffs with my boyfriend and actually ended up loving basketball games. That was good for the both of us, but he promised to watch The Notebook with me in return for all the matches we saw, and he also accompanied me to Robyn’s Hollywood Bowl show at the end of June. In any relationship, you might find yourself participating in an activity you don’t love because it’s important to the other person. You can draw the line somewhere as long as you’re meeting each other halfway.
4. Stay in the loop
As earlier stated, I try to call my mother a few times a week and text message her when I’m busy or not feeling chatty. I stay up to date on my friends’ lives by texting or emailing them every few days. Once again, everyone has their own communications preferences, but as long as you respect them and talk enough to know about the big things going on in both of your lives, you’ll remain close.
3. Pick your battles
This isn’t just a tip for couples. Apply this to your friendships, roommates and family relationships as well. You can make a fuss about every tiny thing that bothers you or let the small stuff go to focus on the big things.
2. When you’re displeased with the other person, think about his/her best qualities
If you get into a fight or become upset with the other person, take whatever time you need to fume and decompress. Then consider his/her great qualities to remember why you care about them in the first place. When I got into a dispute with a close buddy a few months ago, I thought about how much she was there for me the day I lost my job—a day I needed my friend the most. It’s not fun to argue with anyone you adore, but it happens from time to time in relationships, and what matters is how you come through when rough road presents itself.
1. Remember your commitment
My boyfriend’s parents recently celebrated a big wedding anniversary, prompting me to ask for their secret to decades upon decades of love. “We never lost sight of our commitment to each other,” the father told me. If you’re married or in a serious relationship, the promise you made to stick together can go a long way. For friendships, remember how much you’ve experienced as pals, even if you’ve grown apart in some ways. You might not always see eye to eye, but if you’re committing to staying together for life, whether as friends, loyal relatives or romantic partners, you’ll make it through the low points.