Building Healthy Relationships For Dummies

We all go through times in life where we feel alone. We go through something scary or surprising, and find ourselves feeling isolated and lonely. Life can throw some heavy punches and leave us reeling, not knowing what step to take next. What makes these times even harder, is not having people around us.

If you’ve ever felt this way, you can probably agree with me that what follows is a good ole ‘woe is me’ parade. You mope around, wondering why no one cares about you. You addictively scroll through the same weekend posts on Facebook, see the tagged photos of people and cool ‘check in’s’ and wonder where your invite was.

Flash forward 30 minutes, and there you are wading through the empty KFC boxes (it’s just SO good), you’re halfway through the Ben and Jerry’s and suddenly it hits you: you have no friends.

Well you probably do, but right now it sure as heck doesn’t feel like it.

I’m gonna be really blunt for one sec, but please stay with me. The people you are angry at more than likely don’t know what’s going on in your life.

The people you’re angry at don’t know you are angry, and they don’t care.

WHAAAAAAT?!

Yes, they don’t care. They’re supposed to though right? They’re your friends?

Yes, friends are supposed to care, but ask yourself this: Have you been a friend to them? Have you taken the time to invest yourself into their life? Not just when it’s benefited you, or because you’re returning a favour. The kind of friendship people are looking for isn’t conditional or transactional. Transactional friendship is keeping score; they bought you a birthday gift, so now you have to buy one. You cracked it over something they did or didn’t do, and now they’re not speaking to you.

Conditional friendship is based on a set of expectations we have. ‘A true friend does this.’ Without knowing it, sometimes we place these unsaid and often unrealistic expectations on people. When they fail to meet them, we make a mental note and don’t forget it. Without even knowing it, they have let us down so we return to a mindset of having no friends.

“Carrie wasn’t there for me when my dog died, so I can’t trust her.”

Question, did you ever TELL Carrie that you had a dog, or that this was a big deal for you? I know we like to think we shouldn’t have to tell people when things are a big deal, but we need too. We are all different and unique, and what might be a big, life shattering thing for you isn’t for Carrie. People aren’t mind readers, so we need to talk, ask and share. The first basic tool for a strong friendship is honesty and communication.

The second basic tool for friendship is taking action. If you know something’s a big deal in your friend’s life, then do something about it. Buy some flowers, write a card or go out for a coffee. Just take some action.

Looking at these two things: communication and action, ask yourself this question: have you  taken this action and are actively doing these in your relationships? If the answer is no, don’t hate yourself, but realise that this could be a reason your friends have pulled away. I’m not excusing bad behaviour or bullying, but in this area of relationships and community we need to be checking ourselves and doing some self-reflection.

So ask yourself:  Have you pulled yourself away? Do you call Carrie for no reason other than just to see how she’s going? Do you initiate time with the people you value? We give love to get love. So if you’re not getting any love, ask yourself: have you been dishing it out?

If you unbiasedly look at these two things and can honestly say that you have been actively communicating and loving your friends but are receiving nothing in return, then maybe it is time to make some new friends. Go out and meet some new people.

If there is no one in your life you can talk to about what you’re going through, then call Lifeline on  13 11 14. They will listen, they genuinely care and they can give you solid advice and point you in the right direction to explore new communities. But don’t give up, don’t make the KFC and icecream a frequent and don’t feel sorry for yourself. You are empowered and you have options and connections. You aren’t stuck in your situation. You have the ability to make choices. You can’t control other’s actions and we can’t make people care, but the one thing you can control  is your your attitude.

We need community, we need to learn to be resilient and we need to learn to take responsibility for the things we can change. We can change the way we give and receive love, we can change the group of people we’re spending time with, and we can change our attitude. You can be a good friend, you can have good friends, you can understand and in turn you can be understood.

You deserve to have true friends, and in turn are able to be true friend to others.