No doubt you’ve heard me say before, to be a healthy caregiver you need a team of people around you that you can count on for assistance and support. However, building those relationships, and perhaps more importantly, repairing those relationships if they’ve become fractured, is an important skill set for all of us.
I suspect each of us has at least one relationship that’s not in the healthy condition we’d prefer it to be. Distance, time, misunderstanding, almost anything can begin to build barriers within a relationship and if such things are neglected, the relationship can become uncomfortable, even seem to dissolve over time.
Relationships matter – we’re a species that’s meant to be in connection with other people! We need each other, not just to borrow the proverbial cup of sugar, but for conversation, support, validation, laughter, fun, shared memories and so much more!
It can happen in friendships, especially in a society where we’re so mobile – friends move away, they’re not in our daily lives anymore, we don’t run into them at the coffee shop, the drug store or the supermarket. We don’t see them with their kids at the soccer match or the school play – and we lose touch.
This is especially true for family relationships where it can seem the work of repairing the rifts is most difficult. It doesn’t matter when or where the rift occurred, in adolescence, in young-adulthood or in midlife – finding a way to reconnect can be one of the most healing things you can ever do!
When you have the desire to rebuild a relationship, where do you start? May I suggest that such a venture begins from a place of humility.
Here are three things I’ve found useful when trying to rebuild or repair a relationship, perhaps they can help you create a plan for your own desire to reconnect with someone who matters in your life. . .
- Own your part of whatever has pulled the two of you apart. Were you the one who moved? Were you the one who lost her temper at the reunion? Were you the one who stopped sending birthday or holiday cards (because you were busy or forgot)? Own your part in the rift – acknowledge that your actions helped create the distance and invite reconciliation.
- Make it plain that you value, cherish, and probably now miss the closeness that once existed between the two of you – recall a story where you shared that closeness, something personal, even intimate, where the two of you were uniquely bonded in the moment – and let them know how important those times were to you.
- Start small by finding a way the two of you might begin to rebuild the relationship. Maybe it could be a coffee date or a regularly scheduled phone call. Perhaps you punctuate that with friendly texts or even a card or note sent via snail-mail. Be willing to reinforce your intent to rebuild the relationship, whatever it takes!
I’ll also add a few precautions –
Boundaries — First, every healthy relationship (whether it is a work relationship, a friendship or a family connection) needs boundaries. Letting people know what your boundaries are will actually help strengthen your relationship. So, whether it is helping others understand that you don’t use your cell phone during the dinner hour or that you put your kids to bed at a certain time and need that time with them – being clear about when you are (or are not) available is an important boundary to build.
Sometimes I discover that it was the lack of clear, healthy boundaries that fractured the relationship in the first place. In order to be in healthy relationships with us, people need to understand our boundaries!
Expectations – Second, it can be wise, especially when rebuilding a relationship, to rein in your expectations. You may never be as close to your “best friend forever” from high school as you were at seventeen. Our needs are different in adolescence, our insecurities greater, and our responsibilities are much heavier as adults. Your dear old friend may be eager to reconnect but may have a very different life than the one you remember. Be open to building your relationship based on what’s possible now!
Be prepared to repair any damage you created– If there’s an apology needed, and you genuinely want to rebuild, repair and reconnect, you must be willing to honestly own your role in the separation and apologize graciously. It is okay to admit you behaved badly (Short tempered? Judgmental Poor choices?) and ask for forgiveness, if that’s what’s required to heal the hurt your actions caused. Repairing a relationship can be one of the best gifts we can give to ourselves! Learning to be brave, to be humble, to be vulnerable (admitting that you need, want and miss the connection to the other person) is what allows us to reveal our humanity. Connecting with honesty and forgiveness can heal both the relationship and your own inner longing for love.