It’s February, and this month, I’m focusing on relationships. If you haven’t heard, I’m spending 2019 in pursuit of making the planet a better place, and I’m focusing on a different theme each month. I figured setting relationship-related goals is essentially one step beyond setting personal well-being goals (last month’s theme) because I’m shifting my attention from improving myself to improving how I interact with other people. Since Valentine’s Day is this month, it’s a time when many people focus on romantic relationships, but I want to strengthen all different types of relationships in my life. After all, strong relationships are a huge part of what makes life worth living and what makes the world a better place.
As in introvert, cultivating strong relationships can be difficult for me. After spending eight hours at work each day, I usually feel pretty drained of social energy, and I’d much rather watch Netflix on my couch than go to happy hour with my friends. Don’t get me wrong, I love my friends, but talking to people can sometimes feel like work. And the less familiar I am with the person I’m talking to, the harder that work is.
That said, research shows that even for introverts, social interaction has a positive impact on happiness and well-being. So, by having positive interactions with others, I can not only boost my own well-being, but also that of those around me. I decided to tackle my relationship-focused goals by dividing them into romantic and platonic relationships.
Romantic Relationship Goals
Let’s start with romantic relationship goals because that’s where many people’s minds are at during this time of the year. When I was in undergrad, I took a class about relationships, and one thing the profession said about marriage and long-term relationships always stuck with me: life tears you apart; you have to work to stay together. Before hearing this, I had a much more naive view of relationships. I thought that if being with someone became difficult, it meant that you weren’t meant for each other. Years later, I’ve learned that could not be further from the truth. There will always be disagreements, and there will always be difficult times. You have to work together through the struggles to come out the other side. No relationship is perfect because no human being is perfect. We must constantly work to maintain and improve our long-term relationships. Here’s what I’ll be working on this month:
- Appreciate. In any relationship, there are bound to be times when you take the other person for granted. I want to minimize this by remembering to appreciate my boyfriend for who he is as a person, and for the many small things he does for me every day.
- Focus on the positive. It’s easy to nit-pick and to take note of someone’s flaws or of whatever might be going wrong at the moment. It’s much harder to consistently focus on the positive. My boyfriend is one of the most positive people I have ever met. When we walk outside, he will say “wow, what a nice day,” to which I will reply, “what do you mean ‘nice?!’ It’s cloudy and cold and there’s a chance of rain.” And then he’ll say, “but it’s not raining right now.” I’m not sure if he has worked to become such a steadfast optimist, or if he was just born that way, but it’s a trait I deeply admire. I want to work on being more positive, especially when it comes to relationships.
- Compromise. My boyfriend and I are very different people. This is one of the best things about our relationship, and also one of the worst. Sometimes, we want to do different things, and I need to get better at doing the things he wants to do, even if I don’t want to do them. To be clear, I’m talking about doing things like going to see the latest Spiderman movie, NOT things that compromise my beliefs or values.
Platonic Relationship Goals
Because I don’t talk to each of my friends every single day, like I do with my boyfriend, these relationships can be more difficult to strengthen. So, here are the areas I have decided to work on when it comes to friends, as well as family, co-workers, and acquaintances, where applicable.
- Remember birthdays. It feels good when people remember your birthday, and it feels terrible when they don’t. Lots of people remember my birthday each year, so I should remember theirs. Enough said.
- Reconnect with old friends. There’s quite a few friends that I used to talk to all the time, but who I rarely see anymore. I want to change that.
- Be generous with others. This applies to pretty much everyone. I’m often so wrapped up in my own stuff that I run out of energy to help or even just connect with others. I want to make a difference in the world, but how can I do that without making a difference in the lives of people I interact with all the time?
Because February is a short month, and because I spent the first part of it being sick (thank you, airplane germs), I’ve got a lot of things to do and not a lot of time in which to do them. But before I get cracking, it’s your turn. Are there relationships in your life that could use a little TLC? Can you think of any ways to improve your interactions with others? I would love to hear about them! And be sure to stay tuned to read about how I get on with this month’s goals!