How to Cultivate Healthy Relationships

How to Cultivate Healthy Relationships

When I tackled the topic of how to eliminate and concentrate “the stuff” that consumes our spaces, I had a feeling that someone might ask how to do the same within our relationships. Well, that sense became a reality with a wonderful reader question:

How we can apply the eliminate and concentrate principle to relationships in a healthy way?

Is it really possible to eliminate the unhealthy relationships dominating our lives?

Can we concentrate our time and emotional investment on relationships that are life giving?

Yes. And no.

Speaking from the perspective of a life coach as well as one who has experienced her fair share of toxic relationships, I can attest to the fact that it is worth our time to consider all of our relationships with the eliminate and concentrate mindset. I would say that most of our toxic relationships became that way over time or a result of family dysfunction passed down from one generation to the next. Those connections can’t be fixed overnight, but by the grace of God and with the right counsel, it is possible to pursue emotional and spiritual health in our relationships with family members and friends as well as coworkers.

Concentrating on cultivating healthy relationships also takes time and intentional pursuit. It’s a priority decision to leave a task undone in order to engage in a meaningful phone call or chat together over a cup of tea. It’s a sacrifice to let go of personal convenience so that you can meet a need that a friend has in that moment. . . not later on.

Great relationships don’t just happen. They are invested in and held sacred amongst the pulls upon our lives. {click to tweet}

So what steps can you take to eliminate and concentrate health in your relationships?

1.  Evaluate Your Relationships

Set aside an hour or so to think prayerfully about all your relationships. Categorize them accordingly:

  • immediate family
  • extended family
  • long term friends
  • long distance friends
  • close friends
  • church friends
  • community friends
  • acquaintances

Go back over your list and next to each name, put one of the following marks:

  • + (plus sign) = for those that are life giving
  •  –  (minus sign) = for those that are life draining
  • 0 (zero) = for those that are neither her nor there

As the final evaluation step, highlight or underline the names of the people in which you have to stay connected to because of proximity, family relations, or various work/ministry commitments.

2. Consider the Beauty of Boundaries

Now that you’ve evaluated your relationships, what can you actually do to change them? Pray! Yes, pray! Ask God to show you what is in your ability to change and what is beyond your “jurisdiction.” For example:

    • Are there conversations or topics that you should not bring up with certain people because they automatically lead to conflict long after the initial “agree-to-disagree” conversation happened?
    • Do you have unhealthy habits with certain folks when it comes to how you spend time together or interact? Can you avoid that habit all together or create a new one?
    • Are there certain people you are not obligated to spend time with that you need to stop interacting with because of the toxicity of the relationships?
    • Are there certain relationships in which you need to have an honest conversation about the hurt you’ve experience in in order to heal and move forward?
    • Are there people you need to forgive?
    • Do you need to seek forgiveness?

 

The Matter of Boundaries

As I consider this matter of boundaries, I think of myself as a house. Yes, a house. Inside my house is my private life — my heart — and there are only a few select people that get to hang out there because the Lord calls me to guard this sacred space (Proverbs 4:23). My “heart-dwellers” are the people I trust wholeheartedly, like my husband, a few close friends, and select family members.

Outside of my house is my yard, marked off by a pretty white picket fence (in my dreams).  This is the space for the majority of my friends and extended family members to hang out. They are the people I know well and care about, but are not “my heart dwellers” necessarily for a variety of reasons. We might lack common values or beliefs, we may not see each other much, or maybe there has been a break or hurt in our relationship.

Beyond my fence is the road, where I wave at all the people passing by.  These are my acquaintances as well as folks I might see on a regular basis or have known for a long time, but we’re not necessarily close friends. There may come a time in which I invite these folks into my yard, but there is no obligation to do so.

The house analogy (which I use with teen girls all the time), helps me to think concretely about relationships and make wise choices, without the guilt of feeling like I’m putting up a wall or pushing someone away.

3. Choose to Concentrate Your Efforts

Who are the  life-givers in your family, community, workplace, or church? These are the type of people you should seek to surround yourself with and be willing to give up time to connect with on a regular basis. It will take prayer and a sacrifice of time to connect with those people that are good for you, both emotionally and spiritually.

Concentrating your efforts to invest in healthy relationships may mean may mean walking through trials with them, even when you least expected or feel totally unqualified. These life-giving relationships, however, are worth investing into and shouldn’t be pursued only for your gain. It’s a two-way relationships, where you get to be a life-giver, too.

How do I know anything about cultivating healthy relationships?

Because, my friend, I’ve lived through many a relationship challenge with family members and friends, some of which were so grave that I went to counseling for support and guidance. I’ve lived through estrangement from family members and endured the hardest of conversations. I’ve forgiven before the restoration process, and have had to learn how to continually forgive hurt.

Relationships are messy, but God’s grace can make them beautiful.

I’m so grateful for what I learned from those who knew how to guide my steps according to Biblical truth! I have experienced the fruit of boundaries, the restorative work of forgiveness, and the grace of God sustaining me in difficult situations.  I hope as you bring your relationships before the Lord, He’ll give you a fresh word of hope and fill you with an overflowing measure of grace for those you love.

What suggestions do you have for cultivating healthy relationships?

 

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5 Comments
  1. Wow, thank you so much for writing this! I was the one who asked you about relationships and was so excited to see your blog post, so soon!! Will certainly need to make some time to evaluate and do what you’ve suggested here, I love the house analogy. Really appreciated the reminder that cultivating healthy and life-giving relationships also involves sacrifice and willingness to walk through trials with others. One area where I’m learning and praying for more wisdom is in recognizing potential relationships that are worth investing but not yet fully life-giving, such as new friends who moved near me, serving/ministry opportunities, etc. I can’t say for sure that I have “toxic” relationships, that word sounds so severe! But certain relationships are quite draining – my difficulty is in not knowing what to do when it seems that I’m more there for someone than the other way around.

  2. This is an amazing post! Such great information and good things that we can begin to implement into the relationships that we already have. Thank you for writing!
    Visiting from the SITS Sharefest

  3. That’s interesting in that it ties in perfectly with the post I just finished. It’s about a book called Throw Out Fifty Things, which I originally thought was a decluttering book, but it has a lot of information about decluttering negative attitudes that don’t serve you, toxic relationships that we’ve been hanging into more or less out of habit. It’s hard because I don’t have that many good friends, but I have found myself more willing to step away from people with a negative outlook or people who tend to attract bad situations to themselves again and again. Some friendships just do not bring good vibes into your life. #SITSSharefest

  4. Very good insights and useful. I would be interested in your thoughts about being a friend to the friendless. Some people are “draining” but sometimes God calls us to befriend. Christ has asked me to do this before and truly sometimes I stomp my feet and say “Really God?” However, I have been amazed at how He has transformed those women and me. Sometimes you can find true treasures in those people that have been rejected and hurt. Why do many choose to only surround themselves with people w who can bless them or give something? Love to see a follow on article. Again, a good read.

    • Robynne, I think you raise such a good point. And I believe the key to how to respond is right within your comment — you identified your heart (stomping your feet) and turned to God (Really God?) — and by doing so, He showed you how to proceed. You walked in the Spirit and by faith, and witnessed God at work. The problem arises when we try to manage our relationships without God and when we refuse to be honest with Him about how we’re feeling. I think, just as God brought fruit in your situations, He may also lead a person to set up boundaries of distance or guard their heart in conversation and bring about fruit about but in a different way.

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