Lakeland, FL


Bill Abbate

Can you imagine what life would be like without good relationships? Not so great!

Good relationships are an integral part of living a good life. Without them, life would be empty.

Relationships are not only meaningful, they are life itself!

Let’s look more closely at relationships and how we can create relationships that will enrich our lives greatly!

The awakening

I will never forget that moment driving down FL-570, the Polk Parkway in Lakeland, Florida. Out of nowhere, a thought arose from the depths of my heart. I was in my late 40s, and it was a time of awakening. This thought prepared me for what was to be one of the most challenging times in my life, losing my wife to cancer.

What had dawned on me was how empty my life would be without someone to care about that cared about me. So empty I would practically cease to exist.

I began studying relationships and their importance. Some of what I found astonished me. For example, many studies on solitary confinement have taken place. Such confinement deprives a person of associating with another human being. Did you know it is considered one of the cruelest forms of punishment, tantamount to torture?

“Something in our nature cries out to be loved by another. Isolation is devastating to the human psyche. That is why solitary confinement is considered the cruelest of punishments.” Gary Chapman (1938-present)

Solitary confinement underscores how vital relationships are in life.

Let’s look at four aspects of creating strong relationships that will help us live a better, more fulfilling life.

Relationships change us

Relationships change us and our lives. Your life is indelibly changed when you establish a relationship with another person. Depending on its depth, it will naturally affect us differently. At one end, we meet many where the relationship is superficial. On the other end, a relationship can be life-changing. Between these extremes, our lives are affected in many ways,

The fact that just meeting someone can forever change your life tells you how important it is to be around the right people and to stay away from the wrong people.

“The meeting of two personalities is like the contact of two chemical substances: if there is any reaction, both are transformed.” Carl Gustav Jung (1875–1961)

Everyone you meet has some effect on you as you have on them. They condition you, and you condition them. How does this happen? Notice how you behave differently with your spouse, children, friend, or boss. Think about when you first fell in love with your spouse. Did you not behave in the way you thought they wanted? Of course, you did!

Although they gave it little or no thought, the way they spoke to you, touched you, held your hand, wrote to you, and everything else they did shaped and conditioned you. This shaping and conditioning affected your behavior toward them. In the same way, you affected how they behaved toward you.

So yes, part of every relationship is how we condition one another’s thoughts and behaviors. Why not spend some quiet time with your journal in hand and give some serious thought to the following questions:

  • How am I conditioning others in my life?
  • How are others conditioning me?

Perfection in people does not exist

Have you ever heard the phrase “perfectionism is a disease?” Attempting to hold another person to such a high standard as “perfect” is unreasonable and almost always disastrous. No one is perfect, including you, so why allow the impossible to get in the way?

“When you stop expecting people to be perfect, you can like them for who they are.” Donald Miller (1971-present)

Why not give them some grace since they are a unique creation like you? As scripture says:

“I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” Psalm 139:14 NIV

Yes, we are wonderfully made, and since man’s fall in the garden, each of us is also flawed. No man on earth is perfect, including us, so why should we expect anyone else to be?

Become and remain best friends

The most important relationship for many of us is with our spouse. When we first meet, there is no limit to what we will do to be with them and make them happy. They become our best friend, with whom we share our hearts and deepest secrets.

“The relationship between husband and wife should be one of closest friends.” B. R. Ambedkar (1891–1956)

Over time we become so familiar with each other our relationship becomes less exciting. As the old saying goes, “familiarity breeds contempt.” We quit valuing them as the best friend they were when we were courting.

“Relationships end too soon because people stop putting in the same effort to keep you, as they did to win you.” Unknown

Should something happen suddenly to them, our view can instantly change.

What if they are diagnosed with cancer or a serious disease? The potential of losing the one we love changes how we see and value them. Because they occupy such an important place in our world, the resulting void would be enormous.

The simple way to remain best friends is to remember that none of us knows what tomorrow may bring. As the old saying goes, “No one is promised tomorrow.” Appreciate them every day.

When you wake up each morning, realize how fortunate you are to have them in your life. Take a few moments each day to think of something you appreciate about them. This simple act will change you and them, helping you become and remain best friends.

“A great relationship doesn’t happen because of the love you had in the beginning, but how well you continue building love until the end.” Orebela Gbenga (1978-present)

Continually strengthen your most important relationships

The is no secret to creating a strong relationship. It is only common sense, and every person already has what it takes. The ingredient you need most is desire.

It starts with your ears, eyes, and heart!

Do you listen to those you care about without distractions, with your whole heart? No phone, iPad, television, newspaper, or magazine. Only looking into their eyes with complete attention as they speak. When you do this, they know they are important to you. They know you respect and care for them. They realize nothing else matters when you are with them. They can see what is in your heart.

“Ultimately the bond of all companionship, whether in marriage or in friendship, is conversation.” Oscar Wilde (1854–1900)

Other things like smiling, appropriate touching, honest compliments, and kindness strengthen a relationship in ways little else can.

“Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.” Leo Buscaglia (1924–1998)

You have one of two choices to strengthen your most important relationships. You can either be thoughtful or thoughtless. Thoughtlessness comes from selfishness, while thoughtfulness comes from selflessness. Why not be as thoughtful and selfless as possible in communicating and spending time with the people in your life?

Final thoughts

Relationships are the stuff life is made of, and building great relationships is a choice. It is up to you to be more and become more for your sake and theirs.

Simple things like being a respectful, honorable, responsible, mature, and caring human being strengthen relationships in a way nothing else can. The cost is small for the value you receive in return. All it takes is a little of your time and attention.

“Far too many people are looking for the right person instead of trying to be the right person.” Gloria Steinem (1934-present)

Invest time in working on yourself. Become the best you can be for all those for whom you care. There is no more valuable investment you can make in your life!

Lastly, remember that what you appreciate appreciates, and what you do not appreciate depreciates. Appreciate every friendship, and live that meaningful, fulfilled life you deserve!

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Semi-Retired-Leadership/Executive Coach -Personal & Career Growth Expert -Editor and Leadership Writer at Illumination -Author

Richmond, VA

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