Nothing terribly profound in what I’m about to say. It’s just something I’ve been reminded of lately. Here it is – all relationships take effort. I’m not just talking about marriage although that is probably the most popular focus of such a statement. It’s also true of all the other relationships in our lives.
Want to stay close to your parents or siblings after you grow up and move on with your life? Put in the work to stay in touch. Want to build stronger, closer bonds with your friends? Take the initiative, plan a get-together and work on those bonds. Think that you and a new co-worker could be really good friends? Don’t sit around waiting for it to happen. Invite them to lunch or out for drinks. Do something!
That work may take the form of making plans. If you are anything like me, you have let fear keep you from taking chances and putting in the work to make relationships last. Fear of rejection, fear of not knowing what to say, fear of looking stupid . . . you get the idea. But as I’ve gotten older, I’ve gotten a tiny bit braver. Especially since moving to Iowa. I could choose to sit around and wait for my friends to contact me and make plans to get together. Or I can send out a Facebook message or a text to a group of friends and set up the event myself. And guess what – I usually get at least a couple of people to say yes. Some of those get togethers last for hours and some are shorter. Some are filled with lots of laughter and noise and others are calmer experiences.
That work may also take a tougher form – that of mending hurt feelings. Be willing to apologize. More importantly, be willing to forgive. Yes, there will be those who will consistently fail you and you may need to set very clear boundaries with them to keep the relationship healthy. But even the best friend may say something hurtful or do something thoughtless. That includes you and me. Forgive quickly and apologize even faster. That’s the tough part of working on relationships but if you can weather the storms, you’ll come out stronger on the other side.
Most of all, let your friends know they matter. A quick note through the mail, a text message, a quick message via social networking . . . any of these can do wonders for building up your friend, letting them know you are thinking of them and strengthening the relationship.