In any interaction with other people, hurt feelings, disagreements, and personal failures are inevitable.
The key to building long term relationships is not avoiding conflicts or problems, but knowing how to respond to them.
Here are the 3 essential things you need to learn:
As a family of 10, we have plenty of opportunities to practice skills of reconciliation and re-commitment. It is a normal part of our everyday life, but I am amazed at how many adults lack these basic relational skills.
The model we have taught our children, though simple, is very effective for restoring damaged relationships.
If you can learn to communicate these three messages with sincerity and love, you will be better equipped to develop and maintain meaningful relationships in your life.
See also: 20 Reasons We Love Our Big Family
It’s important to recognize your mistakes and be willing to admit when you are wrong. Yes, the other person may also be in the wrong (most relational challenges have error on both sides), but you still need to own your contribution to the problem.
Some people have difficulty apologizing because it requires humility. It’s uncomfortable to point out your own faults, but pride kills intimacy. Do you want a meaningful relationship or do you want to pretend you’re always right (even though everybody already knows you aren’t)?
Attempting to cover up your wrong doing only makes matters worse. Chances are, your blunder will eventually come to light anyway. You might as well own up to it and face it head on. You and the other person will both be better off if you do.
2. “I forgive you.”
The good news is: you’re not alone. Other people make mistakes too.
The bad news is: that means you have to get good at forgiving them.
Contrary to popular belief, forgiveness is not about the other person. It’s about your own heart. Forgiving a wrong done to you isn’t minimizing the grievance or giving approval to the person’s actions. It’s simply clearing your emotional life of grudges. They will only rot and ferment if left untreated, infecting your other relationships with bitterness as well. Forgiveness is necessary for your own personal well-being. More good news: you don’t have to wait for the other person to apologize in order to forgive. You can forgive whether the other person ever says sorry or not.
If the hurt is big, forgiving is more of a process than a single event. We can experience many layers of forgiveness over time as we cleanse our hearts at deeper levels.
When it’s hard to forgive someone, it helps to remember your own imperfections and times others have forgiven you (or you wished they had). Be willing to give others the same amount of grace you would want to experience if the tables were turned.
3. “Let’s be friends.”
We try to resolve all sibling squabbles with a reaffirmation that the relationship will endure despite the bumps and bruises. Having young children each say, “Let’s be friends” and offering a hug or a handshake is a clear way to demonstrate this.
I don’t say these exact words in my adult relationships, but the sentiment is still there in my heart.
Our attitude of reconciliation should be, “We’ve stumbled, but let’s keep walking together anyway.”
Now sometimes, the pain or offense is so grievous, the relationship cannot endure. We can still forgive, but we can no longer walk together. Since this post is about building lasting long term relationships, I will simply acknowledge that reality and move on for now.
My husband and I have an imaginary RESET button. When we find ourselves down in the weeds of some controversial discussion we didn’t intend to enter, one of us will often ask, “Can we just hit the RESET button?” Not every issue can be reset or tabled for later discussion, but this is particularly helpful when we discover that we are arguing over a petty matter.
An important part of building a relationship that thrives rather than one that is choked by the consequences of mistakes is to learn to let it go once it’s been forgiven.
Don’t keep bringing up past issues over and over.
Nobody enjoys being repeatedly reminded of their faults.
That’s a huge intimacy killer. Don’t be like the dog that goes back to eat its vomit. Just move on.
Even in the closest of relationships, there may come a time when we have to agree to disagree.
We must ask ourselves how important the contentious issue is and whether the relationship is able to overcome it or not.
Essentially, we must decide to value our relationship more than our opinion. That is difficult (but very doable) when we are especially fond of our opinions. Just keep in mind that your opinion won’t be there to encourage, comfort, and support you in your time of need, but your friend will if you have worked to build a lasting relationship.
See Also: Meant for Community
The tasks of building solid relationships that can endure are not easy. Good relationships require hard work, but then, so does everything in life worth having. If you do not develop the skill to say these three things on a regular basis, then your relationships will not last long, or if they do, you will not find them very intimate or satisfying.
But if you set aside your pride and put in the effort to communicate to people how much you value them, you will be rewarded with joy and fulfillment that cannot be bought nor found in solitude.
Is there someone you need to say one (or more!) of these three statements to?
Well, what are you waiting for?
Talk, call, text, or write them now and share how much they mean to you. You never know when the opportunity to tell them will be lost forever.