Dating apps and dating sites tend to have a spike of new members around Jan 1. But it's not all about new relationships in the new year - people also seek to improve existing ones. And that's wonderful because usually, it will take your life to a whole other level.
Relationships aren't just about romantic love either. You have a relationship with everyone around you, and the better those relationships get, the better your life gets.
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Improve your relationship with self
Everything starts with you. Don Miguel Ruiz says something interesting in his book "The Mastery of Love." He mentions that most people are wounded, and when people touch them, they hurt. Yet, touching someone healthy wouldn't hurt.
Don Miguel Ruiz is talking about emotional wounds.
If you have been cheated on a lot, and your partner stays late at work, you might immediately suspect them of cheating. They touch you, and you feel pain because you're wounded.
Your jealousy will possibly lead to your partner eventually cheating. After all, if you always suspect them, what does it matter if they finally do it?
On the flip side, you might ignore all the warning signs until you get cheated on again.
This is because we live out our patterns—good and bad.
When you become aware of your patterns and make a conscious decision to change, you change your relationships.
Create a life you love
When you're happy, you treat those around you better. You're also a whole lot more attractive as a person. Plus, you become more independent and less scared of being let down. You're already happy, so you don't depend on the one person to make you happy.
The first step to happiness is a balanced life.
Leading a balanced life means you set aside time for:
- Things that bring you purpose, like work, hobbies, volunteering, or family
- Things that give back to others, like volunteering or community work, and stop focusing on yourself and your problems
- Things that improve your health, like eating well, exercising, spending time in nature, and sleeping enough and on regular hours
- Things that allow you to be social
- Things that let you relax, like meditation and "me time"
You can combine many of the above ideas. For example, you can be social while volunteering. And you might have me time while spending time in nature.
The point with this is to create a schedule that encompasses all the above. If you spend your days fulfilling the above, you will become happy. You might have to deal with underlying issues, but the above will help you create the cornerstones of a happy life.
Self-love comes first
If your life is filled with activities that fulfil you, such as the ones mentioned above, you are more likely to love yourself. Why? Because you will feel that every day, you're treating yourself well.
Another important thing when it comes to self-love is to let go of perfection. There is no such thing. Doing your best is all that matters.
Also, if you're focusing on what's wrong with your life, or how you've messed up in the past, chances are you don't like yourself very much. You need to learn to control your focus.
Focus on the things you've achieved, your good qualities, and things that have gone well. By doing so, you'll create more of the same.
Growing up, I assumed relationships just happened. You made friends with people whom you were a fit with. You lost friends whom you weren't a fit with. With romantic relationships, I assumed that if you genuinely fell in love with someone, you'd make it work. After my first long-term relationship, I realised I'd been wrong.
When I read "The Five Love Languages" by Gary Chapman, I came to understand why some relationships don't work out—even if you love one another. I realised we have needs that have to be fulfilled beyond butterflies in our belly.
Creating a great relationship is a challenge where you have to make a life that fulfils both parties.
There are many relationship books on the market well worth reading, including:
- "The Five Love Languages" by Gary Chapman
- "The Way of the Superior Man" by David Deida
- "The Mastery of Love" by Don Miguel Ruiz
- "Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus" by John Gray
- "Hold Me Tight: Seven Conversations for a Lifetime of Love" by Dr Sue Johnson
- "Receiving Love: Transform Your Relationships by Letting Yourself Be Loved" by Harville Hendrix and Helen LaKelly Hunt
Remember that romantic relationships are also about sex. So if you are in a romantic relationship, reading books to improve your sex life should also be on your to-do list.
When it comes to creating great friendships and great work relationships, there are also great books. A classic is Dale Carnegie's "How to Win Friends and Influence People." You can find it for free on Scribd.
If it is to do with improving your relationship with children (and likely adults in the process!), check out Alan Kazdin—head of the Yale parenting center. You will find a free course of his on Coursera.
I suggest you do some research yourself when it comes to books, too. There are so many great choices available; choose something that appeals to you!
Communication is key
Without communication between two people, there's nothing. Think about it: communication is the bridge needed for any form of relationship. It's what enables you to understand one another.
Also, remember this: most people say what they think they need to say to get what they want. They don't say what they want. Once you start speaking from the heart, expressing what you want, you tend to get it. For that to happen, you also have to learn to be honest. Which for many means learning to be vulnerable.
Set goals and take action
Setting goals is easy once you get clear on what you want. But you do need to set them - both goals for the next year and the goals you have with different people. You can't control the other person, but you can have as a goal to get to know someone better or increase your intimacy with someone. If it doesn't work out, then you have the option to walk away.
You can also set goals for interactions. You can, for example, have a specific outcome when meeting up with a friend. That might be to be more vulnerable, express yourself better, or be more talkative.
So, as the new year approaches, set your goals for relationships at large and some relationships in particular.
Of course, you also have to take action. This can include setting goals for different daily interactions. You might also set time-specific goals for reading books about communication or romantic relationships (and then taking action on those).
Write down your goals AND your action plan.
Tracking your progress
A great way to ensure you hit your goals is to have someone hold you accountable. This can be an app that sends you daily reminders, or a friend that are setting goals together with you. It can also be both.
Another great way to help yourself hit your goals is to track your progress. Check the schedule you've set yourself for the year and tick each item off the list. Plus, write a weekly sum-up of what you've done to achieve your goals.
The seven resolutions
Now that you've read about them, here's the list of the seven New Year's resolutions you need to improve your relationships:
- I choose to improve my relationship with self and overcome negative patterns
- I choose to love myself
- I choose to create a life I love
- I choose to educate myself about relationships
- I choose to learn to communicate better
- I choose to set my goals and take action
- I choose to track my progress