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Build positive relationships that bring you joy

Positive relationships are important to being able to live life the way we want. They bring us joy, love, connection, empowerment, support and freedom.

How do you nurture your most important relationships? Do you have:

  • A significant other?

  • Children?

  • Another family member or friend who means a lot to you?

Take a moment now to reflect on a particularly important person – what was the last thing you did to help bring them joy?

I have wonderful relationships with my husband and son and amongst my other relationships, I have some very close friendships.

What made this possible?

There are three key factors that have made this possible:

  • I am the real me

  • I accept that some relationships have to end

  • I cherish and nurture my positive relationships

My husband and I were sharing some of the things we love about each other earlier in the week and one of the things he said about me is that I’m a genuinely lovely person. I was delighted that the person I’m closest to, who knows me better than anyone else and who has spent almost every day of the last 10 years with me still sees me as a genuinely lovely person.

Before I go on, I’m going to rewind…

I have been in relationships that didn’t last. I don’t regret any of them, because they all brought me to where I am now – including because of the lessons I’ve learnt along the way and because those relationships ending made it possible for new and better relationships to be made.

What have I learnt?

The short answer is ‘a lot!’. What I would say have been some key lessons that stand out to me from over the years are:

  • Friends matter. However much you enjoy being with the person you’ve met, who may (or may not) be ‘the one’, remember to keep your friendships going. I have been in a position where I went from going out every week and having fun with a friend to not going out with friends at all. That wasn’t great for various reasons, including the fewer friendships you maintain, the more reliant you are on your romantic relationship. In reality, we need different relationships in our life to meet different needs. While you’re in some sort of honeymoon period, that might feel fine, but in the longer term it can become quite lonely and isolating. By the time I met Rich, I knew I wanted someone who had their own friends who they would spend some time with and who would be happy for me to have time to do what I wanted.

  • Clearing up misinterpretations matters (to me). I once dated someone who I noticed each time I saw him would misinterpret something I’d said and for some reason, I didn’t correct him. I don’t think it was important at the time, but I knew when I met Rich that I wanted him to fully understand me, so any time it seemed he was misinterpreting something, I’d clarify. I wanted him to really get to know me and not make assumptions.

  • When it didn’t feel right, it wasn’t right. There are times when I dated people and they were nice and I was being open minded, so I’d agree to another date and possibly another, only to find the feeling I had at the start could have been trusted – we weren’t right for each other.

  • We can have the loving, fulfilling relationships we hope for. I didn’t grow up surrounded by people in loving marriages, so to me, it was just something I knew from books, films and my imagination. It was something I always hoped for and wanted, but wasn’t ever convinced I could have. Until I finally realised that I’d rather be single than settle…then all of a sudden, Richard appeared! This applies to other relationships too. I have some friends who I’m really close to and love them dearly. I don’t see them very often (apart from one lovely friend who now lives closer to me), but when we are together, it’s like we’ve never been apart. I’m there for them anytime and I know they feel the same about me.

  • Being our real selves brings joy. Although being who I really am means I’m not going to please everyone or make everyone want to be in my life, but it does attract more of the type of people I want in my life. Being me also pleased the one person who matters most and him being his real self made him stand out to me too. We’re not cool (and we know that – do people even use the word cool anymore? Perhaps a point in case?!) and we’re not that funny, but we see and appreciate the adventure and comic in each other and both think the other is amazing for many reasons.

Lessons I learnt that were specific to being single or dating included:

  • Make sure someone knows who you’re with and where you’re going – safety is important;

  • Be careful about sharing your phone number (I once had to change my number because I kept receiving unwanted texts from someone I’d dated – although now, I expect you’d simply be able to block the caller);

  • Don’t do anything sooner than you want to;

  • Be honest with yourself about what you want in a partner; and

  • Even if you like them, if they’re not treating you the way you want, move on, the right one for you is still out there.

Being so happily married never would have been possible without previous relationships coming to an end.

Being single and wondering if you’ll ever meet the right person can be tough. What’s tougher is being in the wrong relationship or holding onto the thought of being with someone when it already hasn’t worked out or they don’t want to be with you.

a failed marriage led to a better life

I was married before and although the relationship wasn’t what I dreamt of, I meant my vows and intended to make the marriage work. However, that wasn’t meant to be. One thing that really surprised me once I knew he was having an affair is that instead of the sense of betrayal I might have expected to feel, I felt a sense of relief. It was like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders and the person with me at the time commented that was how I looked. I was suddenly less stressed. Don’t misunderstand what I’m saying, I was upset that I had a failed marriage, vows are meaningful to me and I think marriage should be taken seriously by both parties. What I am saying is that I realise that relationship wasn’t meant to be – and with the 20:20 vision of hindsight, perhaps never was meant to be, but it’s impossible for me to regret any of it, because it was all part of my journey to where I am now.

Three of my closest friends came to me following the breakdown of my first marriage, in fact, there is so much positive in my life that I never could have experienced without that relationship ending. I never would have become close friends with some of the most important people in my life, I wouldn't have moved back up to Liverpool and met more lovely friends, including a particularly close friend who lives near me. As I’m writing this, each time I think of one person, I think of another and every time I think of one experience I think of more. I've been on fabulous holidays, met great people, done brilliant things. None of which I would have imagined during the life I used to have or even when life as I knew it then came to an end.

Some of the things I did, which were possible because a relationship ended:

  • Went with friends to places like Poland (including Auschwitz), California, Las Vegas, Vietnam, Cambodia, Barbados, Bulgaria (my first snowboarding trip - something I'd wanted to do since being a teenager)

  • Completed my compulsory bike test (although realised having a motorbike wasn't going to be practical for me)

  • Lived alone for the first time ever

  • Really got to know what I did and didn't want in life and how I want to live my life

  • Met my wonderful husband and have a marriage that makes my heart grow whenever I think about it...and we have our amazing son

  • Made more lovely friends and see more of the friends I've always had

  • Thought about what I wanted in life and how to make it happen

Dating for the first time in my life

When I was younger, I had three long-term relationships – and I married the third. I’d never really dated or spent much time being single…until I was about to turn 30.

When I became single, it was the first time I ever lived alone. I really enjoyed my new found freedom and over time wondered if I’d be able to live with someone else again given how much I liked living alone. The one challenge with that is, I did want to meet someone special.

I realised as a 30-year-old, I was unlikely to meet someone organically, I didn’t want to date anyone at work and although I met a few people in random places like in a nightclub and on a bus, I knew I had to do something if I wanted to meet someone to spend the rest of my life with.

So, what did I do? I signed up for internet dating!

Okay, so that was an experience. I went on quite a few first dates; and met some people I dated for a while. I even went out with one person for long enough to be boyfriend and girlfriend.

For every date or set of dates I went on that didn't work out, I learnt something that helped me to be ready for when I met Rich.

I got to know me, became happy being me, realised I'd rather be single than settle - I believed it 100%, then almost immediately met Richard!

He heard everything he needed to know before we got married because I kept nothing from him, made sure there were no misunderstandings and leading up to our wedding, I was interviewed by the vicar (with Rich in the room) and we had a marriage prep course. I think some form of marriage preparation is incredibly important and in time, I see myself coaching couples who want to make sure they’re ready to enter the longest, happiest relationship of their lives and want to do all they can to keep their love, support and kindness growing.

Something worth remembering is that whatever situation we’re in, we always have choice. Choice to leave a situation that’s harming us; choice to improve a situation that’s not how we want it to be, but could be great; and choice to nurture a situation that’s wonderful so it can stay that way and continue to blossom.

I realised that ultimately, only I can be responsible for my life and how I live it; and only I am accountable for the decisions I make. Likewise, apart from my young son, who my husband and I have to make decisions for (although he still makes lots of decisions for himself every day), I’m not responsible for anybody’s else’s life or the decisions they make.

My husband and I have such a loving and supportive relationship and besides the fact we've always really liked each other and get on well, communication is key and has always been a strength of ours. On the occasions where something has driven is to frustration, it's our willingness to talk and listen that helps us to better understand each other’s point of view and find a way forward.

If you take nothing else away

We all need to feel loved, that we belong, that we matter to others and that we have people there for us. Think about who you want to spend time with. What positives do they bring to your life? What positives do you bring to their life? It’s important to let go of negative relationships to make way for positive ones.

If you take nothing else away from reading this, remember:

  • Nurture your positive relationships by being you and getting to know people for who they are as an individual, not just in terms of what they are to you. Share your thoughts and feelings, be willing to let people see who you really are and connect with them.

  • Communication is key – be willing to talk and to listen. Share positive thoughts and feelings. Think about the intended outcome of a disagreement. I remember having the last word was important when I was a teenager, now I realise it really doesn't matter; someone has to be the one to stay calm – take a breath and think about what's happening. What's the disagreement about, how important is it, how can you listen to each other and find a way forward?

  • It’s okay to let go of negative relationships (in any form – romantic, familial, friendship or other) to make way for positive relationships, where you can be yourself, feel you belong and make the most of your life.

Note to self

I have loving relationships with people who value me

Do you ever question how loved or valued you are, even though there’s evidence to tell you that you matter? If so, I want to share a positive statement with you (a ‘note to self’) to help you focus on the feeling you want.

Something as simple as saying this short line to yourself can help you to come closer to where you want to be. Give it a go and see how it makes you feel. If you want to, you could even say it out loud!

I have loving relationships with people who value me

Saying this regularly will help you to see the things that make it true. It will also help you to increasingly appreciate and nurture those relationships.

If it’s something you’d like to achieve, try saying it every day (even twice a day). Whenever I want to remind myself of a positive statement, I like to do it each morning when I get up and each evening when I’m getting ready for bed.


Get your pen and paper out and write your answers down...

1. Think of someone important to you

2. What makes them important to you?

3. What do you appreciate about them and why?

Now you've thought about it, let them know.

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