Wednesday, 27 February 2019

Ways of showing your friends you care

All relationships, platonic or romantic, need to be nurtured if they're to flourish. Even our longest, strongest friendships can flounder, when we lack the time to give them the attention they need.

Romantic relationships will often reach a breaking point when they’re neglected. This then acts as the catalyst we need to spring into action. Friendship breakdowns are ‘quieter’. Less dramatic. They are much more likely to simply drift away, sometimes before we’ve even noticed there is anything wrong.

So what can we do to show our friends that we value them? Here are some of our tips.

Put them first from time to time

We get it. Life is busy. There are many pulls on your time and you often feel like you're not giving your best to everyone. Your real friends will see this and understand your predicament. This makes them value any time you spend with them so much more. However a true friend deserves to have your full attention every now and again. You don’t have to mention what you've sacrificed to see them – they will know – and just an odd half hour here and there will be enough to keep the friendship fire burning, so long as they know they have your full attention.

Take the time to talk

We live in a digital age, when most of our friendships are conducted online. They’re superficial. We're more likely to post photos online of the food we're eating, than physically speak to the people we're dining with. The time we get to spend with friends may be less, but let’s commit to making sure any time we do spend together is quality time. Put down the devices and talk to each other face to face, rather than via a screen. You’ll be surprised at how little effort it takes to scratch beneath the surface of what you see on social media and re-engage with your closest friends.

Keep things personal

Friendships are not about the big gestures. And when it comes to tokens of appreciation for friends, it always pays to keep things personal. This article from The Independent does a good job of summarising the small things we can do to connect with those we’re closest to. Personal cards and small gifts from time to time demonstrate the value you place on your friendship and help to reinforce the friendship bond you share.

Believe in your friends, when they need you most

The strongest friendships are the ones that weather the storms together. Be the kind of friend that you want to have yourself. One that encourages, bolsters and nudges their friend forwards – not the fair weather friends who are there to celebrate with us, but nowhere to be seen when there’s some commiserating to be done. As our lives pull us in different directions, keep your interactions with your friends positive – and make sure you’re there for them when no one else is.

Give but don’t expect to receive

One of the traps that we fall into with platonic friendships is the need for reciprocation. We keep a mental tally of the things we do for other people and - often subconsciously - follow the rule that if we’re do something for one of our friends, that they will be required to do something equally great for us at some point in the future. This causes resentment and disharmony. How about we start doing things for friends just because we want to make them happy?



Don’t forget, as this article from Psychology Today says, friendships are born out of a desire to spend time with another person that we like. We get pleasure out of their company. If maintaining some of your friendships becomes a chore or a duty, rather than something you cherish, then it’s really time to ask yourself how committed you are to this friendship in the first place.

Wednesday, 13 February 2019

Tell-tale signs that you’re not in a healthy relationship

Valentine’s Day is fast approaching. It’s a day for romance and for spending time with those we love. Often though, Valentine’s Day pushes us to reflect on our romantic relationships to assess how we’re ‘measuring up’ to the other couples we see.

Unfortunately, social media gives us some unrealistic expectations about what relationships should be like. No relationship is perfect. That said, there are a number of signs to look out for that could indicate your relationship is really not healthy. We’ve picked out some of the main indicators:

Passive aggressive behaviour

The best relationships are based on honesty and openness. You should never be afraid to say what you think – and you should afford your partner the freedom to do the same. If you can sense that all is not well with your partner – or you’re being given the silent treatment – but are met with responses such as “I’m fine” or “Nothing” when you probe, that’s passive aggression. How can we make things right, if we don’t know what the issue is? If this is you, try not to get dragged into the drama. Don’t feed the need for attention and wait until your partner is ready to talk. The more often this happens, the more concerning it would be. Watch this short clip from the Daily Positive for more information on how to spot this kind of behaviour and tips for dealing with it.

Volatility

Life is full of ups and downs. Healthy relationships provide us with the grounding and support we need to cope with the bad times and rejoice in the good times. Your relationship shouldn’t add to the stress and drama of everyday life, so if you and your partner thrive on extreme highs and lows it may be useful to ask yourselves why. All healthy relationships include some conflict, of course, but not all the time — and not to extremes. If you find it hard to predict when your partner will be upset or how they will react to certain events, that’s a red flag or an indication of a deeper issue.

Jokes and ridicule

The strongest couples are the ones that laugh together – they laugh with each other, but never at each other. If your partner ever makes you feel small with ‘funny’ comments about you or your behaviour, that’s a sure sign that problems are afoot. That’s not to say that your partner can’t make a joke. If the jokes make you feel included that’s healthy humour – if the comments or jokes make you feel stupid, small or vulnerable, that’s not good. As a general rule, if someone has to add the words “only joking” after speaking, there may be an unhealthy undercurrent running through their comments. This Guardian article gives an interesting perspective on what constitutes ‘banter’ and what doesn’t.

You feel like you have to ask permission

Newsflash: adults don’t need permission to do things. Sometimes, we may seek support from our partner to take a certain course of action – a discussion around chores or childcare associated with a business trip, perhaps, but we’re not seeking permission. Yes, relationships require compromise and big life decisions that could impact on your partner should be discussed together, but if you find yourself asking permission to make plans with friends, or to make simple lifestyle choices, you should ask yourself why. That’s not necessary and definitely not healthy.


If you find yourself in an unhealthy relationship, this article from Psych Alive may help you think about what's going wrong.

If you feel you need support to work out what's best for your relationship, check out our page on relationship problems.