How to Increase Joy in Your Relationships
Human beings are social creatures. Most of us need at least some contact with others throughout the day to avoid feelings of loneliness, sadness, and/or anger. Being a part of a community or a relationship can bring its challenges though. Relationships take work. Our history with others is often impacting our current relationships. And so, sometimes it feels easier to accept the loneliness than to work through the hard things that come up.
It’s true that if you have ever wondered what exactly makes you feel miserable, take note of some of the things that come up in your head when you are with others. People carry long-held beliefs about themselves and their worth into every relationship they have. Sometimes these beliefs are great. Maybe you believe that you are more productive with others around you, or that you are a great friend and have a lot to offer other people. You might also have a belief, however, that pops up here and there that you are not loveable, or even likable. You may have gotten the impression in past relationships that your value is dependent on others needing or wanting you, or that you have too many needs or wants and that nobody will ever be able to meet those needs. These beliefs are so common that everyone has something negative to say about themselves. You are not alone. But, it’s also possible that you can have those very positive beliefs about yourself and your relationships more often too.
Why Is It So Hard to Be Happy in Relationships?
If you have all these long-held beliefs about yourself, it’s highly likely that your partner, your friend, or your parent also has some form of negative belief about themselves as well. The challenge is when these beliefs stay subconscious or unsaid, we allow them to become our truth. You are a much more complicated and wonderful person than those limiting beliefs indicate. I know it is so hard to get outside of our brains and our thoughts sometimes, and you may have had relationships in the past that feel like proof that you are unlovable, too needy, or not important.
Here are some basic ideas of how you can combat those negative beliefs and “proof” from past relationships.
At the risk of sounding like everyone else, maybe journaling could help. Create a journal that is only for the thoughts that come up when you think about your relationships. What’s inside your brain? Write it down.
Counter the Belief
If you can be honest with yourself and discover any negative belief you have, develop a counterargument for that belief. For example, you think to yourself “Nobody ever wants to spend time with me because there are more interesting or fun people they’d like to be around.” A counterargument would be going through your phone, social, or email and counting how many times people tried to invite you somewhere or tried to get you to engage with them in some way. It’s just a number when you count and it’s harder to argue with a number.
Schedule Time to Feel Valued
This might be volunteering in some way that gives back to others. You could help at a shelter, become a mentor, or visit with elderly people who miss their families. If it’s easier to avoid the whole people thing, then volunteer to work with animals. You are valuable and anything you have to offer would be great. Just be sure you are helping someone who needs it or has asked for it. The danger in this suggestion is believing we are helping those we are in a relationship with when they haven’t asked for our help or advice – this can create more upset and isolation for you.
Create A List of All The Things You Would Like To Do
Instead of dismissing that list, carry it around with you, and try and invite someone to join you in an activity from your list. Review your list often and look for opportunities when you might hear someone nearby sharing that they’d also like to do (enter activity), or that a class has popped up, or a trip is being created. The crazy thing here is that maybe the people you are closest to aren’t interested in the things on your list. This doesn’t mean you have to give those things up. It just means that you have to find someone else to join you, or to give things a try on your own or with strangers. Taking away the pressure that someone specific has to join you allows that person to enjoy their own list along with hearing about or watching you enjoying yours.
Talk and Listen
A final suggestion would be to talk and to listen. Talk with the people you are in a relationship with. Share what you enjoy about them first, but also share the worries or fears you have. It’s not that person’s responsibility to fix your worries or fears, because they also have their own they will need to work on. But, if they can listen and begin to understand, it helps when the hard stuff comes up.
As much as we all can try to work on ourselves in relationships, sometimes we need a little bit more support. Mental health therapists are available to help begin to counter the negative beliefs, to help share them with your partner, friends, or parents, or to even begin to see them first and foremost. Consider working with a therapist if you could use this additional support. It doesn’t mean anything is wrong with you, just that you would like to be happier in relationships and are ready to do the work to live that reality.