This month, we often think about our romantic relationships. Valentine’s Day asks us to celebrate love with boxes of chocolate and dinner dates, but the relationships we create with our romantic partners aren’t the only significant connections we have in our lives. We have friends who become like family, coworkers who become confidants, and family who become our biggest allies.
Throughout my life — and more recently as we merged practices together at Promise Law — I’ve learned there are five things that are vital to every relationship we have, be they romantic, platonic, familial, or professional. I’m sure there’s more, and these are just what I have seen as the most significant, but I believe each one is significant. I hope you find them of use as you celebrate all of your relationships this February.
No. 1: Know yourself and be authentic.
It’s easy to be guarded as we get to know someone. We want to be liked, so there’s a tendency to hide who you are or be clear about what you want. However, the best relationships are built on trust and honesty. You don’t have to overshare, but be open with what you want, enjoy, and expect.
No. 2: Communicate even during the difficult moments.
It’s easy to offer praise, but it’s those awkward moments when something goes wrong or “wires are crossed” that you need to ensure you communicate effectively. We set this expectation early when we merged practices and began meeting together in June 2019 at Promise Law. We clearly laid out what we wanted from our coworkers and how we communicate most effectively. Our regular meetings felt a little stilted in the beginning, but as the pandemic happened, these felt more like our life source. We could connect and grow together with simple regular communication.
There are a few key ideas for this. First, you have to act swiftly when there’s been miscommunication. Operating without a common understanding can be detrimental to a relationship. Secondly, it is helpful to separate intention from impact. There have been times when I’ve hurt someone’s feelings or was hurt by what others said when the intention behind those words was never to hurt the other person. It’s uncomfortable to hear, but listen intently when this happens, apologize, and focus on how you can improve. Your relationship will be far better!
No. 3: Check in with yourself and the other person.
Along the way, you will develop trust and great communication, and the relationship will become familiar, but don’t forget to continue to work on it! You might be on cruise control in two very different places. Instead, ask what’s working and what isn’t and make adjustments when needed.
No. 4: Be prepared to grow.
In any good relationship, you’re going to be challenged. People bring with them new perspectives, and you have to expect to grow and change as your relationship with someone develops. I’ve faced this plenty of times in my relationships.
My husband, Fred, would lovingly say “Geneva always wins!” Admittedly, this is somewhat true. But I’ve also had to learn a lot in my relationship with Fred! I’m a planner, and Fred is the flexible one. It’s not always easy for me to be open to change in my plans, but Fred has shown me the value of being flexible with change. Some of our greatest adventures have been off-schedule! I still plan, but I can appreciate the flow just as much as Fred finds use out of my plans.
No. 5: Like all good things, relationships take time.
I don’t believe growth in our relationships has a destination. There’s no substitute for time spent crafting and improving your relationship, and it takes a lot of practice, mishaps, and conversations to get into a good spot. It also takes great experiences and learning about each other to continue to grow. And that process of getting to know one another is what we should look forward to the most.
As I said, I’m by no means a relationship guru, but I do have a lot of experience with many different kinds of relationships. As you celebrate this Valentine’s Day, I hope my thoughts gave you some extra guidance to create more meaningful interactions with those who mean the most to you.