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Take Care of Your Relationships the Way You Take Care of Your Body

Taking care of your body and soul feels so satisfying. Knowing you are taking steps towards a healthier "you" gives you something to be proud of. And maybe you want to feel proud about the relationships you have as well. This feeling is something that I have learned to appreciate even more over the last year.


How you treat the relationship can be an indication of how you treat yourself as well. A healthy version of you reflects in your relationships. A lazy version of you reflects in your relationships. Which version are you choosing?


Try this: apply the elements of physical, mental, spiritual health to your relationships with others and notice how they correlate to your relationship with yourself. This can be an exercise that challenges your perspectives of your relationships with others.


Different relationships will require different levels of those elements. They will not all be the same. As a (hopefully) obvious example, romantic relationships will have different emotional and physical levels than relationships with family members. Your close friends will have different feelings and impressions of you than acquaintances or co-workers. And so on.


When strengthening relationships, there is an example I now like to think about. This metaphor involves the idea of a person who starts a new workout routine. What happens? Let’s set up a scenario: first, a person makes a decision to begin working out [mental element]. She does what she needs to in order to get started (i.e., purchases new weights, works with a trainer at the gym, eats foods that will support her goals, etc.). After the first few days of a new routine, her muscles may become sore. This is because the targeted muscles are literally tearing apart from use, learning how to restore themselves to become stronger. Then said person takes a rest day. The torn muscles are given a chance to heal and create newer, more durable fibers. This process continues on and on, as work outs progress, until the muscle starts getting even bigger and more powerful [physical element]. It is at this point that the muscle becomes more difficult to tear. If this person is happy with the results, she can continue similar workouts in order to keep up her good work. If different results are the goal, she can progress onto more difficult workouts until she is content with the results [spiritual element]. In this scenario, said person has met all the elements for keeping the body and soul nourished through physical workouts.


How are you nourishing your relationships? Keeping up with how many “likes” you get on social media doesn’t count.


First things first -- which of your relationships need a workout?


Maybe your communication with others could use a few metaphorical push-ups. Or your intimacy skills could use some strength-training. Perhaps your trust and respect of others could use some figurative cardio techniques.


Take responsibility for your side of the street. Are you not agreeing with someone on a certain topic? Talk about it in a calm, objective manner. Are you looking for someone to blame in a situation? Explore what you are actually feeling. Feeling disappointed after an argument? Resolve it fully so you can continue moving forward. You can create boundaries with others and not feel like a doormat. You can learn from your mistakes. Anything can be worked out. If you don’t think so, you’re not being true to yourself or your relationships. If you’re honest, you can’t manipulate a situation.


Pay attention to where your relationships are in need of some "toning" and "weight loss".


Putting the "workout" skills into practice takes time and effort and vulnerability, and whatever else you are feeling. And, if it gets you what you genuinely want, it makes all the work worth it. Relationships have progressive goals; they are not a one-time goal that you reach and then move on to the next thing.


Have I done all of these things in my relationships? Maybe at different times, but I have definitely slacked as well... I have noticed that I developed a narrow vision of what my relationships "should" look like, instead of what I wanted them to actually be. Now that I can zoom out to a bigger picture, I can see that I sometimes allowed control and frustration to turn my relationships sluggish. A lack of physical intimacy and passion in my romantic relationships fostered something relating to "couch potato" syndrome. My stubbornness and over-reactions blocked metaphorical arteries, preventing my relationships from gaining new life. Unmet expectations, low self-esteem, and paranoid feelings felt like my relationship was carrying around unnecessary pounds. I made excuses for how I felt in my relationships. I blamed and argued. I reacted out of fear. And, my physical body reflected what I was doing in my relationships as well.


Am I perfect? Nope. Am I trying to improve these skills little by little? Yep. I share this with you, because I feel like I made myself learn the hard way. I'm stubborn and I like to think in my head that I know the best thing for everyone else to do. But, I don't. I can share my experiences, and hope that myself and others can learn and grow and continue moving forward. So exercise those relationships and earn those connections so you can live your best life.


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