A Guide To Having Better Friends, Family & Partners
Featuring words by guest blogger: Jasmin Pannu
When I was younger I had this idyllic vision of what I thought adulthood looked like. And at the crux of that imaginative world was a big group of great friends and family.
Turns out, relationships are harder than I thought.
Cornell University found out that the average adult has just 2.03 confidants in their life. To make that number hit even harder, a study by Harvard states that the greatest factor to our long-term happiness and health is in fact, our relationships.
So, what can we do to improve our relationships? Here are a few things I’ve used in my own life to start building that big group of family and friends I once imagined.
Better Platonic Relationships
With some relationships, like the ones that span entirely at the water cooler, there’s really no need to transcend small talk- but bettering our relationships with our friends and peers literally has the power to change our quality of life.
On Friends and Peers
The first thing I had to teach myself to better my relationship with friends and peers was how to really listen. The 5 levels of listening are: for the gist, to rebut, for logic, for emotion and for point of view. Relationship progress only ever comes from the listening-for-point-of-view level, which is an intention I now actively set for all of my conversations.
The next breakthrough I made with friendships came after discovering Dr. Brene Brown’s work on the anatomy of trust.
Prior to discovering her work, I found that friendships were unpredictable. Sometimes they would work, other times they wouldn’t. I chalked it up to chance.
Dr. Brene Brown coined the acronym B.R.A.V.I.N.G (Boundaries, Reliability, Accountability, Vault, Integrity, Non-Judgement, Generosity) to explain the various pieces that go into building friendships.
I highly recommend reading her explanation and breakdown of each component. Since I’ve become acquainted with the acronym I’ve become better at ending friendships that haven’t worked for me and building new ones that do.
Family is one those words that has a drastically different connotation depending on your experience. For some, family is anchored to feelings of comfort, safety and love. For others, it’s anchored with a lack of those things.
With that said, I’ve always loved the phrase, ‘even if the wound is not your fault, the healing is.’ I think it’s empowering. It’s a form of self-love.
I found it incredibly helpful to take the time to self-reflect on my familial relationships. From that reflection, I realized how my attachment style, learned in childhood, perpetuated itself through my adult relationships.
I also gained clarity about the beliefs I held about myself and the world around me, ones that weren’t mine, but were given to me by my family.
To do this work, I used books like, ‘Healing the Wounds of Childhood,’ as a guide. And afterwards, I used ‘Unconditional Forgiveness’ to transition from a place of self-growth to a place focused on bettering my relationships.
As a final note on family relationships, I will say this: not all relationships are meant to last and sometimes your own evolution will end those relationships. When it’s a family relationship you’re ending, it’s especially hard. If you find that it needs to be done out of self-love, not everyone will support you, but I want you to know that I understand.
Better Romantic Relationships
I found (the hard way) that a side-effect of romantic love is that it brings to the surface some of your greatest areas of opportunity- and you have to grow through them.
I had to reconsider my upbringing, things I thought I knew to be true, my purpose, goals, conflict management and everything in between.
Books like Getting the Love you Want and The Argument-Free Marriage introduced me to new, healthy models of relationships and saved me from operating on the auto-pilot of only the relationships I had seen or experienced in my life experience. From there, I was able to consciously create an original relationship.
In any strong partnership, two individuals commit to evolving and meet each other there. And the bottom line is that comes from a process of self-awareness, an intention to focus inwards, and then to grow to meet your partner.
One day, I hope that through my own self-work I’ll have the tools to actually have the incredible relationships I once imagined as a child, with everyone in my life.
In the meantime, I’m holding on to my sporadic but beautiful moments of deep connection. I’ll be grateful for them, and nurture them until one day I grow old with the joys of intimate, strong relationships all around me. I think that will be the greatest marker of a successful life. I wish the same for you, too.