A great deal of research has been conducted to confirm what most of us already know: strong relationships are an important part of a healthy, happy life.  Humans thrive on connection and the feeling of belonging, and isolation and loneliness have been tied to higher rates of various mental and physical ailments.  However, maintaining healthy relationships with friends, family, and romantic partners isn’t always easy. Every relationship requires work, and we often find ourselves having to repair and strengthen our personal ties after hard times have made relationship maintenance nearly impossible.  Taking the time to focus on your relationships and create lifelong bonds will improve your mental health, lower your risk of disease, and increase your capacity for compassion towards others. Here are five tips for creating healthy relationships that last.

Focus on Quality Over Quantity

In today’s world, many people define their social success by counting internet followers and “likes”.  While it may be commonplace to have over two hundred followers on social media, in real life it is impossible to maintain that many close relationships.  Rather than attempting to acquire as many friends as possible, try focusing on two or three of your closest relationships and work on helping them grow. Most people only need a few quality relationships to nourish their need for human connection, and most of us only have the time and energy for a few genuine relationships.  If you find yourself with many acquaintances and very few true friends, it may be time to differentiate who it is that pushes you towards positive choices and helps you achieve your goals, and who is truly there for you when you need them.

Reach Out

As we grow from children to adults, relationships with friends and family become increasingly difficult to maintain.  We gain responsibilities and acquire busy schedules, and before we know it, weeks or months have passed without any contact with those closest to us.  Sometimes it can feel as if other people aren’t making an effort to communicate, and therefore we shouldn’t either. The truth is that everyone else has their own obligations and schedule to manage, but they may also be missing time spent with you.  Don’t be afraid to be the first to reach out to a friend or family member if you haven’t heard from them in a while. While relationships should never be one-sided, sometimes it takes effort on your part to reignite the connection.

Keep Promises

In every relationship, there will be times when keeping your end of the deal is critical to building trust and maintaining a healthy bond.  It might be as simple as showing up to a party you promised to attend or driving your friend to the airport. However, if you are attempting to repair a relationship after you have hurt someone you love, you will be held accountable for not repeating past behavior.  Broken promises, whether they are small or life-changing, destroy trust and expectations of honesty in any relationship. Staying true to your word and telling it like it is, even when the truth is inconvenient, will help you maintain lifelong relationships.

Be Vulnerable

The quickest way to bond with others is to open up about who you are and what you have been through.  For many of us, revealing our true selves to other people can be scary and intimidating. If you have a history of abandonment or betrayal, it can feel impossible to open your heart again and risk getting hurt.  Without vulnerability, however, relationships can never truly grow. If you are trying to build a friendship or relationship with someone new, it is okay to take your time with vulnerability. Once you have established that someone is worthy of your trust and honesty, opening up about your past and your dreams for your future can be a deeply bonding experience.  In order to enjoy the many benefits of close relationships, you absolutely must take risks. If vulnerability does not come easily to you, practice opening up to trusted friends one step at a time by sharing one personal detail about yourself in every conversation.

Practice Empathy

Practicing empathy in relationships isn’t always easy, especially when we are going through a tumultuous time in our lives and feel like we need to lean on those around us.  No matter what you are going through, it is important to always keep the needs of your loved ones in mind. They may be great at being there when you need them, but be silently struggling with their own issues as well.  Be sure to ask your friends and family how they are doing, and how you can help make their lives easier if they have been doing the same for you. Empathy prevents us from becoming entirely self-centered and helping those we love can come as a welcome distraction from our own troubles.    

Building and repairing relationships is an important part of mental wellness and addiction recovery.  If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction and mental health issues, now is the time to reach out for help.  At Burning Tree, you will find knowledgeable and compassionate professionals that structure treatment to fit individual needs, including the identification of co-occurring disorders.  Through accountability and commitment to the 12 steps, each client will develop the tools to create a sober lifestyle and find lasting recovery. We specialize in the treatment of chronic relapsers and believe with the right support you can experience true and permanent healing.  For more information, call us now at 866-287-2877.