2019 has been on the brain recently. I know we’re still in 2018 - and I’ve committed to being more present, so isn’t this is a violation of that? I don’t think so (or I could just be absolving myself). For one, I’ve been deeply reflecting on 2018 and my journey this year. I think it’s important to regularly introspect and allow ourselves time to confront our naked emotions, whether in solitude or with a professional. Though I firmly believe fresh starts can happen at any time, there is something meaningful to all of us about a new year. A turn of the page. A calendar day that gives us the courage to leave the past behind and look forward. In the spirit of that, I’ve been spending more time on Instagram talking about soul searching, digging for your purpose, taking mental inventory of the past year, and revisiting old, untouched resolutions. Today, I reserve space for talking about relationships of all kinds.
Friendships, familial, and romantic relationships influence us in obvious and subtle ways. Our personalities are shaped by family growing up; we learn what standards to set and what expectations to have of ourselves and others in our formative years. These can be uprooted or further reinforced by the relationships we forge as we grow, romantic or platonic. While we can’t choose how we were raised, we can decide what other connections we allow into our lives and learn to become acutely aware of what directions they push us in, and how they make us feel about ourselves. We treat friends and partners as external to us, but they inform much of how we live our lives, and it’s critical not just to become aware of that, but to act on it. Relationships are a mirror. They demonstrate to us what we believe we’re worth, what we feel our deepest purpose is, what we’re striving for in life, and most importantly, who we want to become. And I submit to you that the people we hold closest and let into all the crevices of our lives, dark, light, honest, humorous, sad, and imperfect, should
be straightforward and honest without being callous
learn what behaviors you recognize as love
be willing to push you to be better
not take jabs at your insecurities
show you respect and loyalty
be a good listener
sincerely hope for your success, whatever you decide that is for you
not give into feelings of jealousy should they arise
be trustworthy, understanding, compassionate and caring
and handle conflict with you with the intent to resolve, not to win.
Not every relationship in your life has to satisfy these conditions - just the closest ones. Take stock of them. Do they check off these boxes? Most of them? None of them? Beware if they don’t, or if you feel uncomfortable perusing this list. In all likelihood, you’re mentally or emotionally encumbered because the people you’ve allowed a window into your feelings, difficulties and journey aren’t treating that privilege with the level of care and appreciation they should. This applies especially to romantic relationships, since we tend to envision and work towards building a future with our significant other, and media portrayals glamorize harmful (even abusive) behaviors. A romantic relationship shouldn’t be unpredictable or chaotic. You shouldn’t feel constantly on the defensive. Blow out fights are not a sign of a close, loving bond. Vicious jealousy isn’t flattering. Someone who loves you should express that in ways that are conducive to your growth and inspire you to be a better person. They should gently make you aware of your faults to help you improve, without denigrating you and wounding your self-esteem.
Relationships won’t be perfect. At times, they’ll require hard work and energy, and force us to reexamine ourselves. That’s when it’s especially important to evaluate whether you truly feel loved and listened to, and if the other party genuinely cares about your well-being and wants to see you well. It’s worth it to tend to a relationship where you feel respected and valued. That means both doing the necessary work on yourself (which will come in a later piece) and allowing the experience of correcting a wrong or adjusting your behavior to refine you. If the relationship is healthy, the effort will feel worth it. You will be able to look back and feel grateful for having had the opportunity to change for the better. Your faults and previous mistakes won’t be held against you.
This is also to say that the reciprocal effort is necessary. In order to cultivate these bonds, we need to be able to fulfill the above for the people in our lives. It really starts with elevating our expectations, and as I always say, zooming out and deciding what we want our lives to look like. The micro-choices we make on a daily basis aren’t so small. The time you choose to get up in the morning, your plan for your day, how you decide to dress… and most definitely, who you confide in and spend your time with, all shape your entire life. You really can be who you want to be. It just takes moving towards that version of yourself every day, part of which is deeply thinking about the impact that other people have on your behavior and self-esteem. Get your relationships in order! 2019 is the year.
Let me know a lesson you’ve learned about relationships with others below!