For a long time, I have lived an unhappy and unsatisfied life.
Because my idea of happiness was — somebody will come, complete me, and make me happy. Growing up, I didn’t have ideal role models. This corrupt belief system makes sense then.
Guess what? Nobody like that ever came. Or even when a relationship was going well with my partner, I’d screw it up with over expectations.
This holds for my non-romantic relationships too.
Because I was expecting to find my happiness in someone else, expecting them to ‘give’ me my happiness — I was miserable.
Yes, happiness is inside of you. Like sadness, happiness is also temporary. It doesn’t make sense to chase happiness too. I know it now. At that time, I was unhappy.
I abstained from romantic relations for a year and gave myself space. I wanted to be a nerd about it and learn what I was doing wrong in the first place. So I did that. I read books. I talked to life coaches. And I learned so many things about relationships.
Many realizations about why my romantic relationships weren’t working also gave me insights about why my non-romantic relationships weren’t going well either.
I experimented with my non-romantic relationships meanwhile to test out these theories. And I learned a few things that actually work and make your relationships smoother and better.
In this post, I intend to share my lessons with you to improve your relationships immediately. Here are 3 of those things you can do to make your relationships better immediately —
Communicate your requests and requirements
See the clear distinction between these two terms.
A request would be — Please pick up your wet towel from the bed and stop putting it there. It’s important to me, but I will not leave you if you don’t do as I request.
A requirement would be — Don’t move to a different city, if you do that, we are over. I can’t be with you if you don’t entertain this requirement of mine.
A requirement is a must-do. A request is a should-do.
Are you communicating your requests and requirements clearly in your relationships?
This will help you be more relaxed and happy in your relationships — and that’s an unpopular way of improving your relationships (by being relaxed and happy yourself first).
Make 2 lists of all the changes you want your partner/friend to make — one list of all the requests (should do) and the other list of all the requirements (must do).
Be crisp, clear in your communication. Anything communicated with love is always well-received, and anything communicated out of fear is always misunderstood.
Creating boundaries (with consequences)
We create boundaries for our own survival — marking up our safety zone. For example, you have a line/fence drawn around your home, and it’s a physical boundary for others to show them that this is your area, and everyone is not invited there.
Likewise, we need to create boundaries and assign consequences to them. One such example would be —
“Dad, if you scream at me while talking, I’ll leave the room.”
“Mom, if you hit my sister once again, she and I will leave your house.”
If you do x, I’ll do y. That’s how you create a boundary. (I know the above examples are harsh, but I needed to paint a picture, so sorry about that.)
And the ultimate freedom lies in your ability to respect your words and do what you thought you’d do in case the other person doesn’t respect your boundaries and violates them.
Make a list of clear boundaries you want to have around yourself. It could be as little as — no calls after 10 PM unless there’s a medical emergency. And put forth some clear actions you’d do if the boundary is violated.
Start with softer actions, like — you’d leave the room (or stop talking) if someone shouts at you during a conversation.
You should definitely expect some resistance at the start when you will create boundaries. And that’s okay. Change is always uncomfortable.
Letting go of your manuals
We all have internal manuals sub-consciously for other people. This is how a father should be — this is what he’s supposed to do for a child — and this is what should protect his child from. We all have these invisible checklists in our brains, and that’s how we judge our fathers if he’s a good father or not.
We do this with almost all of our relationships.
And most of the time, we don’t even communicate our manuals (aka expectations) to the other person, and we expect them to be what we wanted them to be like.
A classic example of this would be — suppose your husband comes late at night from work on most of the days, and he straightaway goes to watch TV in your other room. You are unhappy with him for not spending his time with you. So, you actually remain irritated and frustrated most of the time while having conversations with him. And he has no idea why you’re like this.
It’s because you haven’t communicated your expectations or your manual to him. And when you don’t ask, the answer is always a no.
What are your manuals for all of your relationships and friendships?
For fun, try letting go of your manuals. See if that can help lower your expectations and improve your relationships.
Otherwise, for starters, make a list of all the things you expect from your partner/friend and communicate that. Clear communication in a relationship can solve so many issues.
A relationship is where both of the partners give their 100% to each other. And you can’t change or alter someone else’s contribution, but you can smooth things up for both of you.
Communicating your expectations, your requests & requirements, and carving out clear boundaries — these actions will help you improve your relationship tremendously.
Expect some friction and discomfort when you start executing these action steps; in the longer run, expect smoother and better times.