Are you having a falling-out with a friend? Does it feel like you’re arguing with your husband about the same topic over and over again? Maybe you and your mom aren’t as close as you used to be.
Whether it’s with your sister, coworker, spouse or ex—relationships take a lot of work to a) maintain when things are going well, and b) fix when everything has fallen apart.
But I have some good news: relationships are oftentimes an inside job. Which means the key to your best relationship starts with you. Why is that great news? Because that means you have the power to have more meaningful, energizing, and fulfilling relationships at this very moment.
Now, I know what you’re thinking:
“Lisa, it takes two to tango. I keep trying to make things better, but the other person just isn’t pulling his/her weight.”
I totally get it. And, yes, it takes two people to make a relationship difficult, but it only takes one person to make it better. You might be surprised by how much you’re able to accomplish on your own. Want to know how? Read below for the 5 things you can do today—for yourself —to mend your seemingly impossible relationship(s).
1. Go on a date with yourself.
Before you even think about anyone else in your life, you need to get to know yourself first. Who are you, deep inside, behind the mask you wear for the outside world to see? This is the first and most important step to take when it comes to working on relationships.
Get to know your authentic self. What do you like to do? Are you introverted or extroverted? What are your pet peeves? Passions? Pretend like you’re going on a date with yourself. Ask yourself the questions you’d ask someone you’re just getting to know better. Be interested. Look closely. Your relationship with yourself creates the foundation by which all other relationships are built.
2. List which relationships you’d like to improve.
Oftentimes we walk through life annoyed by other people, but we never take the time to truly acknowledge who those people are. Are you frustrated every time you go into the office? Attend extended-family dinners? Figuring out who (and what) is driving you batshit crazy is paramount.
Take a long, hard look at which relationships—in all areas of your life—are getting your goat. Think family, romantic interests, professional relationships, friendships and more. Next, list them in order of importance—which ones do you really care to heal? Those should be at the top of your “I need to work on this relationship” list.
3. Know what you want.
It’s hard to change, fix or mend your relationships if you don’t know what you want in the first place. So, let’s figure that out. Do you want to feel heard? Do you want validation? More intimacy? Do you want to spend more time with that person? Decide what it is, then write it down (psst…it can be more than one thing!). Once you have clarity about your needs and desires, only then can you start the process of mending a relationship.
Here’s a tip: try to lose the judgement towards yourself while making this list. It’s easy to think you’re being selfish or needy when listing what you want, but it’s incredibly important. Go easy on yourself and know it’s for the greater good of your relationship. And if it helps, remind yourself that the other person has needs, too (you’re not alone!).
4. Know your power.
When it comes to setting the terms and boundaries of your relationship, you have more power than you know. In fact, you have the capacity to change the trajectory of any given relationship. Remember, the power is in your thoughts and choices, not someone else’s.
Take the first person from the list you made in step number 2. Then, based on your answers from step 3, ask yourself what you want your terms and boundaries to be with that person. Be as specific as possible.
5. Own your sh*t.
If you follow my work, you knew this one was coming. The last and most important step you can take today is to own your sh*t (at least to yourself right now). It’s time to ask yourself the tough questions. Remember to be honest with yourself—no one else has to know these things about you right now. The first step is acknowledging them for you. Are you controlling? Are you passive aggressive? Do you have a temper and lose your sh*t? What triggers you? It may be painful at first, but you will find release in owning your sh*t. And once you do, you will be better prepared to have great, rewarding, authentic relationships going forward.
In any relationship, whether sibling, lover, friend, or coworker, there will be inevitable challenges. Our egos are masters at convincing us that the “other person” is wrong and needs to compromise and apologize. The thing is, taking a long, hard look in the mirror is the first step in bettering any relationships.
Relationships take work. And it starts with you.