My life’s work has revolved around the study of relationships—including friendships, acquaintanceships, partnerships, and any other human interaction that we tend to bring into our lives—and make no mistake, we are 100 percent responsible for our relationships. We create them in our minds and hearts, and we have a hand in the twists and turns they take.

If you don’t accept responsibility for your relationships, and you are unhappy in one or more, look to yourself first. It’s very easy to blame someone else for your uncomfortable feelings, so be sure to look at how you may have contributed to whatever is upsetting you at the moment.

All relationships take nurturing and work, and we make this investment for a number of reasons. First, you get what you want by giving it away to those you love. Then it is returned. That nurturing is what keeps the bond strong when you can’t be with one another, at special times or just when you feel the need. Nothing beats seeing and being with those you love, but if you need to connect, knowing you have a strong relationship allows you to get a lot out of a phone call or even a text. Just the fact that those who love you are willing to be supportive and connect with you makes it easier to feel good about your life, and having someone you trust to help you deal with an issue is one of life’s great rewards for working on your relationships.

Relationships also give us a sense of purpose, and that too is a gift. Without feeling like you have a purpose for being here, life can get emotionally uncomfortable, and feeling like you have no purpose can do damage to your self-esteem. Raising a family and being a good family member or friend are great reasons for being alive and moving forward in life. Relationships are also motivational. Anything I do for those I care about seems to go a little easier than the things I do for myself, and the rewards are a sense of inner peace and fulfillment. Really nothing can take the place of wonderful relationships.

If you don’t have an idea of what you need to do to get your relationships to where you want them to be, simply ask the people you are involved with. You can say something like, “I know things haven’t been the best, but I’d like to make them better. What can I do to improve our relationship?” Just asking the question is very powerful and tells the other person that you care. Even if things are seemingly great, it’s wise to check in with others and ask if there is anything thing they need to keep your connection strong.

Our relationships are what we look at when we evaluate our lives. I have spent hundreds of hours with people who were dying, and no one ever said, “I wish I’d spent more time at the office.” But I often hear, “I wish I’d spent more time with the people who loved me.” Please don’t let that be you.

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