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Step 3 of Being Happier: Meaningful Relationships

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Here is step 3 to living a happier life.  A little over a month ago, we outlined a 3 step system for living a happier life.  Check it Out.   Step 1 was to focus on the positive items in your life that you can appreciate.  Step 2, give back through action, not money.  Step 3 is to build and maintain meaningful relationships.  As humans, we naturally seek out others to avoid being alone.

In his Chasing Excellence Podcast, Ben Bergeron points out that the number 1 thing to take away from Step 3 is that quality is far better than quantity.  A deep meaningful relationship with 1 person is better than simply having a good friendship with 4 people.  If you have the time and energy to form deep meaningful relationships with more than one person, that is fantastic.  Keep in mind, you only have so much time and energy to put into building relationships with others.  Start with dedicating all of your time and energy to building 1 meaningful relationship.  After 1, your time and energy starts to be divided and diminished for each additional relationship.  That is not to say the you should have 1, and only 1, relationship.  Simply keep in mind the effect of diminishing returns.

Simply recommending that you develop meaningful relationships gets you nowhere if we don’t have a definition or illustration of what this relationship looks like.  We believe there are 5 overarching qualities to a deep meaningful relationship:  Trusting, accepting, vulnerable, satisfying, and reciprocal.

  1. Trusting:  You have to be able to trust the other person.  This doesn’t mean trust the other person to show up on time or make plans to go to the movies.  This means you are able to share secrets, thoughts, feelings, desires, etc with the other person and trust that it will stay between the two of you.
  2. Accepting:  Part of trust is also knowing that you are accepted for who you are.  Going through life pretending to be someone you are not will never lead to happiness.  However, having a core group of people, or one person, in your life who truly accepts you will allow you to flourish as your own person.
  3. Vulnerable:  You have to open up in your relationship.  This means opening yourself to the possibility of hurt or pain in a relationship.  You cannot build a meaningful relationship if you keep walls and limits.
  4. Satisfying:  A meaningful relationship must satisfy your needs.  We are talking about basic needs like we need someone to talk to, someone to hang out with, someone to laugh with.  You may need a sounding board or someone to share an experience with.
  5. Reciprocal:  Perhaps most importantly, a meaningful relationship must be reciprocal.  In other words, both parts of the relationship must be putting in equal effort to grow the relationship.  If only one half of the relationship is making an effort to spend time together, or share vulnerable details, then the relationship will never truly develop.

A great quality of a deep meaningful relationship is that such a relationship can be with anyone.  This doesn’t have to be a husband, wife, boyfriend, girlfriend, or lover.  We would argue that the above qualities should be present in any of these more intimate relationships.  However, deep meaningful relationships could develop between best friends, two men, two women, a man and a woman, etc.  Take your time, let the initial friendship develop naturally, and if you have an interest in developing a deep meaningful relationship with a person, start evaluating the qualities listed above.  If you find that the qualities, especially reciprocation, are present from both sides of a relationship, enjoy the ride, and enjoy the happiness you will feel.

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