How many of us tend to gravitate towards people who don’t consistently provide us with love and support? There are many instances where we tend to spend the majority of our free time with people who don’t really qualify as loved ones. You might have some friends who you always make time to see and speak with but who rarely, if ever, reach out to you. There might be family members who you are constantly giving support to, either in the form of money, time or other types of assistance, and these people view this help as an expectation and rarely are thankful for it. Some of us tend to fall into a habit of dating a person who does not appreciate us. As a result, we end up in a cycle where we are always having to prove our worth and there feels like an imbalance in the relationship. Embracing people who are part of your support system should be easy for all of us, but some of us struggle to surround ourselves with loved ones.
Part of the reason we might struggle to surround ourselves with loved ones, is because we often take love for granted. You might have the habit of not appreciating the love people consistently give you or even not noticing how much someone cares for you.
You might even struggle to realize how relationships have changed over time. All of us have experienced a relationship that changed over years. Either we grew closer to a person or more distant from them. A best friend who was your rock ten years ago may slowly become a stranger to you. A person you didn’t really click with immediately may slowly become someone you cannot imagine your life without. It’s very important to evaluate how your relationships currently are. It’s easy to invest too much of your time with a person who does not value you or to not appreciate the people who have consistently been there for you.
Why exactly is it so important to surround yourselves with loved ones? The answers may seem obvious to you but you still might struggle to be around people who help make you feel great. Below are some common characteristics of loving and supportive relationships.
- Loved ones cause less drama and stress. Be honest about your relationships. Do the people you spend time with tend to leave you feeling stressed? Are you constantly in this toxic cycle of drama? Constantly gossiping about other people, feeling general distrust of people in your friend group or wondering if your secrets are being shared amongst others is a clear sign that the people you spend time with are not loved ones. If you feel like you need to respond to certain messages very quickly, otherwise the person may erupt at you, get angry and unreasonably upset then that is an indication that something is wrong in this relationship. All great relationships have their challenges and struggles. It’s completely okay if there are occasions where things are a little rocky or you find a few sources of conflict with your loved ones that require time and mutual effort to resolve. That’s perfectly okay and healthy. However, if the drama and stress is consistent then there is a big problem.
- Loved ones make you feel cared about. If this person didn’t hear from you for a few months, would they get in touch with you? If you are dealing with a tragedy can you rely on this person to be there for you? Your support network is there for you when you need them. People show support in different ways. Some people may not be able to physically be there for you, but are able to stay consistently in touch via calls or messaging. Other people might not have the right words to give you when struggling with a death in the family, but they will be there for you whenever you need company. A person who truly cares about you, will make you feel cared about. You shouldn’t have to analyse if someone genuinely cares about you.
- Loved ones leave you feeling good overall. When you spend a day with this person how do you feel? Are you happy or do you feel sad or stressed? If you talk to this person regularly do you often feel like you need to watch what you say to prevent them getting upset? Or alternatively, do you feel like you can be yourself completely and that even if you say something wrong you guys can work it out and everything will be just fine? One of the biggest indicators that someone was not a good friend to me was realizing that I didn’t really enjoy spending time with them. We could spend hours together or I might see them multiple times a week, but I’d go home feeling exhausted or a bit sad because of the things we talked about. Keep in mind that you may feel this way around loved ones every so often but it’s not something that should be occurring regularly. If you don’t feel good around someone regularly, then it’s probably a sign this person is not compatible for you.
- The relationship feels balanced. If a friendship feels one-sided then that is a sign that someone is taking the other person for granted or simply does not want to effort to maintain the friendship. Over the past couple of years, I’ve had to get distance from a friend who I realized only spent time with me when I reached out to her. The conversations were also one-sided as well. I felt like I was very interested in learning more about her and strengthening the friendship with her, but she seemed to put minimal energy into the friendship. As I created distance, and gave her room to step up, she sadly never did and it made me realize that our relationship was unbalanced and that she didn’t want to put more effort into the friendship for whatever reason. As hard as it may be, be honest if you recognize an imbalance. If someone doesn’t want to put in any effort into the friendship, try to not take it personally and recognize that it is likely an indication that there’s an incompatibility in that relationship.
- You want to give love and support to your loved ones. A great relationship is reciprocal. If it feels one-sided in any way, then something is off with the relationship. Be honest about the people you spend time with. Do you genuinely want to support a person? If this person asks for your support do you look for excuses to not help out or are you happy to give your support? Do you want to do your part to build and maintain a strong relationship with this person? If you lack the energy or desire to be there for someone, then you might not actually value that relationship so much.
- You feel supported by your loved ones. The best people in your life should be the ones who really care and are there for you. One of the things I love about my boyfriend is that he makes me feel supported always. Even if I am feeling down on myself or doubt how my life is heading, he’s always there to pick me up and remind me that everything is okay. He never hesitates to make me feel good about myself and always tries to support me in the best way that he can. Your loved ones should always be there for you and should genuinely want to be there for you. If someone is unreliable, inconsistent or makes you feel bad about yourself, then that’s a sign that this person is not someone you should spend much time with. Be careful of how people talk about you too. If someone has an easy time pointing out what they perceive to be negative qualities about you to others, then that’s a red flag that something is off in this relationship.
- Loved ones want to encourage positive and healthy changes in your life. The people who love you want you to be healthy and happy. These are the people who will step in when you are battling addictions or bad habits. Even when it’s difficult for you, these people will push you to stay strong so that your life can be better. Loved ones don’t typically enable bad behaviour either. If you are struggling with your finances, a loved one would not ask you for money as a loan, encourage you to do reckless spending or other negative habits. A loved one might involve the people who invite you to social events so that you can make more friends and develop positive social skills. A loved one will remind you to make better choices even when it’s difficult. It’s often easy to take for granted the people who are consistently trying to help you make positive life changing choices especially since it may be tempting to ignore or not want to follow their advice, even if you know it’s best for you. Evaluate your relationships and take note of the people who give positive advice, push you across your comfort zone and truly want you to be happy in your life.
- You feel safe with your loved ones. Feeling anxiety and fear around certain people is a big indicator that the relationship is unhealthy. If for any reason you don’t feel safe and secure around a person, then you need to strongly consider limiting time with this person or even not being around this person at all. The best relationships are ones where you feel safe.
Below are some tips you can use to start surrounding yourself with loves ones more easily. Regularly practice these steps and eventually it will be easier to form a stronger support network that consists of relationships that consist mutual respect, reciprocity, support and love.
- If the relationship feels unbalanced, try creating a bit of space for the other person to make an effort. In some cases, the other person may step up more which is great. If the other person wants to create a more balanced relationship then that’s wonderful and means that this person is part of your support network. However, if that person seems to drift off or make minimal effort to improve the relationship, then you know that this person is someone you should spend limited time with.
- Communicate your needs. Don’t assume that the other person knows what you want or need. Someone may not realize that you need their support or that they have not been investing much into the relationship. Be open, honest and clear about what you need from this person. Don’t be afraid to tell someone that you need their support. Your loved one may make more of an effort once they better understand your needs.
- Let go of toxic relationships. Saying goodbye to someone you care and love can be very difficult but you need to do so, especially if the relationship is toxic. One of the first steps towards being surrounded by love is removing any connections to people who only add negativity to your life.
- Give more love to the people who deserve it. Be honest with yourself, especially about if you are taking others for granted and not appreciating them as much as you should. Identify the amazing people in your life and give them more of your time, energy and love.
- Give love to yourself. When you get into a habit of taking care of yourself, you’ll naturally start to distance yourself from people who don’t make you feel good. You will also better recognize behaviors that are not healthy for your life such as neglecting your own personal needs or measuring your worth based on the opinions of others.
Remember your support network can come from anywhere or anyone. The people who are your greatest supporters might be your coworkers, family members, partner, friends or even people you have recently met. Your supporters may be people who are similar to you or even your opposites. Everyone deserves to feel loved, including you. Work on surrounding yourself with people who love you. You will quickly notice that the amount of joy and positivity you feel in your life increases as you spend more quality time with loved ones.