There are many things that we humans hunger for, and most of them have absolutely nothing to do with food. We crave connection with others, life work that inspires us, movement that make us feel alive, and spiritual connection to ourselves and the world we live in.
Having loving and fulfilling relationships is one of the primary “foods” necessary for a healthy and balanced life. They provide us with the love, connection, friendship, sexual intimacy and companionship we need.
When we’re missing this essential ingredient in life, no amount of chocolate bars or deliciously nutritious meals can satisfy this desire.
The quality of a person’s relationships can tell you a lot about their life and health. Harmonious or chaotic, they speak volumes.
Do you remember a time when you were deeply in love with someone, and life just seemed to ooze goodness and joy? Or a friendship that gave you the strength and self-confidence to make it through a breakup or difficult career change?
Harmony in those relationships most likely made it easier for you to find balance and thrive. But what if you aren’t feeling twinkly or warm and fuzzy in your relationships?
Unsatisfying connections with others can permeate your life like a runny egg yoke on toast—filling every nook and cranny.
This lack of harmony affects your physical health, your energy levels and your mood. It can lead to things such as anxiety, stress, depression, anger, frustration, and hopelessness. You carry this with you to work, to family dinners, to the grocery store, to your weekly book group.
Do you feel satisfied in your relationships with friends and loved ones?
Here are a few ways to work toward greater harmony and balance.
Make a list of the people in your life – friends, lovers, coworkers, family members and neighborhood characters. Take a moment to ask yourself these questions about each relationship.
- In this relationship, do I feel free to be who I am?
- Does this relationship give me energy or leave me feeling exhausted?
- Do I feel supported, respected, loved, appreciated, seen, and heard?
- Does it feel safe for me to be honest with my feelings and my desires?
- Is there a mutual interest in helping each other grow?
If you don’t find the answers that you are looking for in any given relationship, it might be time to re-evaluate and see if something needs to shift.
Set your intentions
Things change. Priorities change. And that’s perfectly okay.
As life unfolds, be honest with yourself about the kinds of people that you want to surround yourself with. Identify for yourself what’s important to you in relationships.
You might desire friends who are comfortable with hugging and being affectionate. You might want to surround yourself with inspiring people who are pursuing their dreams. You may need someone with strong boundaries to lovingly call you out when you are being ridiculous/acting unconsciously. There is no right or wrong answer here.
Whatever your needs may be, set an intention—a clear message to yourself and the Universe of what you want to bring into your life—and identify the personal qualities and experiences you want from your relationships.
Setting an intention looks different for everyone. It may be writing it down in your journal, meditating on it, repeating it multiple times out loud or in the mirror, putting it on a piece of paper and posting it on your wall or altar, or any other way that feels powerful for you.
Have you ever set your mind on something so strongly that nothing could stop you?
Harness it and let it fuel your intentions. You have the ability to create change in your relationships.
Identify the vampires
Have you ever spent time with someone, only to feel completely drained and limp as wilted lettuce when you finally part ways? That, my friend, is what I like to call an “energy vampire” – someone who sucks your energy and leaves you with little to no life force.
Identifying these relationships in your life can help you see where you’re losing energy. With this information, you can then decide how much time and energy you want to put into that relationship.
Although it may not feel like it, the other person isn’t actually responsible for your loss of energy. You are.
You are ultimately in control of where you put your energy. At any given point in time, you get to decide which relationships you actively cultivate, which ones you put less effort into, and which ones you decide you aren’t interested in at all—too toxic, negative, draining, etc.
Your relationships will change. It’s one thing you can be 100% sure of in life. They will naturally ebb and flow, from feeling deeply connected to being on good terms to feeling completely distant, and everywhere in between.
This doesn’t mean you have to break up with your partner or tell your friend that the friendship is over when you’re experiencing a period of less-than-ideal connection. That’s almost as dramatic as the Jerry Springer Show.
Instead of getting your panties in a bunch and hyper-inflating the situation at hand, use it as a time to become more aware and reconnect to your intentions for the relationship.
Accept the circles
You can also think of relationships as concentric circles.
The closest circle is made up of those you are super tight with and most connected to, radiating out to those with less involvement in your life (e.g. acquaintances, distant relatives, friends from 1st grade who you are friends with only on Facebook).
Just as relationships are always changing, the position of individuals within the circles can change over time as well—close, then far away, then maybe close again.
How do you know who belongs in what circle?
You may find that you have certain “criteria” for what constitutes closeness (think back to the “take stock” questions at the beginning), and when it’s necessary to move people to the more distant circles.
This doesn’t mean you’re cutting anyone out or being selfish, just being conscious of where you put your energy.
Many years ago, a friend shared a life-changing concept with me during my freshman year of college. I was struggling with the reality of shifting friend groups, and dealing with feelings of guilt for not putting as much energy into maintaining friendships from high school.
Everyone is in your life for a reason, a season or a lifetime.
This concept helped me accept and come to terms with friendships that weren’t meeting my deeper needs or giving me what I was looking for in that phase of my life. I was able to let go of attachments to old lovers and the need for the relationship to be anything other than what it was.
This letting go process wasn’t like tossing someone into exile or closing my heart, quite the opposite actually. It helped me step out of victim mentality and into a place of being the creator of my reality, opening myself to new and more fulfilling relationships.
Gratitude is a powerful thing, and can change how you perceive the world
Think about the people in your life and try focusing on the things you’re grateful for—the way they can make you laugh, their loving hugs, the delicious meal they made for you yesterday, the way they express their love for you, their unwavering support.
Don’t hold it in. Share your gratitude with them. It will change the relationship.
You can also do this with the relationships that are challenging, painful, or uncomfortable. These people have come into your life to help you in some way, however obvious or obscure.
In giving myself permission to release any relationships that were no longer “serving me,” I became so much more grateful for all the experiences I shared with that person. All the good memories, times of joy and laughter, lessons learned from struggles and challenges, self-discoveries, and a big list of things I wanted to work on within myself.
But wait, are relationships really there to serve you? Of course they are! We enter into friendships and relationships because we want and need something from them. Why do we dedicate so much time, energy and love to form bonds with others?
Love. Connection. Joy. Peace. Touch. Trust. (just to name a few of my favorites)
These things serve you. They support you in your growth and evolution. They encourage you to open your heart and mind. They satisfy your deep desire for harmony and balance.
When a relationship is challenging, there’s a difference between putting energy into removing the obstacles and dealing with the bumps in the road, and knowing when it’s time to redirect that energy elsewhere.
Learn the lessons
Everyone we encounter in life has something to teach us, from the lover who broke your heart to the sweet stranger who offered to help you carry your groceries.
Examine your relationships, present and past. What lessons are they teaching (or have they taught) you about patience, compassion, staying centered, setting boundaries, and making healthy choices?
How have they helped you become the amazing person you are today?
Open your heart
We experience as much love as we feel we are worthy of.
Stop. Let that soak in. I’ll repeat it (it’s that important).
We experience as much love as we feel we are worthy of.
Opening your heart is a declaration of self-worth. If you don’t think that you are loveable, how will you ever be able to let love in? In order to open, you sometimes need to let go of stories and attachments that keep you closed or walled off.
This letting go process creates space for new relationships that do serve you to flow into your life.
Picture this: Someone wants to offer you something wonderful, but your hands are closed tightly in fists, unable to accept anything new.
Your fists are still trying to hold onto things that are no longer there—old friendships long faded, shared love between partners that has dissolved, relationships with family members weakened or strained.
Some part of you is still attached to what was, or what could have been.
Release your grasp and open your fists. You now have both hands free and are ready to accept the wonderful gifts of love and connection that someone is offering.
High-quality human connections are food for the soul. When you create harmony in your relationships, it brings meaning, depth and richness to your life that’s well worth the effort.
So fill your life with people who energize you, inspire you, support you, and love you for exactly who you are. You are too wonderful to settle for anything less.