Conflict Resolution in Loving Relationships

In the fairy tales, the hero and heroine walk off to get married, and “live happily ever after.” In real life, we know that it’s not quite so simple. They have to die someday, for one thing: they are human after all, and man is mortal. And that’s not the only difference between fairy tales and real life.

In real life, real women have days when they just don’t feel happy. In his book Men are From Mars, Women are from Venus, John Gray cites research indicating that women have a monthly self-esteem cycle that rises and falls. Sometimes she feels on top of the world, and sometimes she just doesn’t. And then there’s pregnancy—raging hormones, strange symptoms, weird random pains—pregnancy can be difficult, and not being able to be pregnant when you want to can be even more difficult.

So real life isn’t as simple as the fairy tales make it sound. Marriage does not mean that you and your spouse will be confirmed in virtue, and suddenly have no human faults or failings, no mood swings, and no financial difficulties.

But that’s no reason you can’t be happy ever after with your spouse, as long as you are both willing to put in some work.

Here’s a few tips to help you deal with those days when you and your husband are just driving each other up the wall.

#1 Realize that it’s okay

So one day, you just feel like you can’t stand your husband anymore. Maybe yesterday, or a week ago, he was the love of your life and perfect in every way, but now, you can’t imagine what you could have seen in him, and you feel like everything you are doing is annoying him, too. Panic might set in: Love is gone! Oh no! What are we going to do?

First of all, you need to take a deep breath and realize that this is perfectly normal. People who live together drive each other insane sometimes. That’s just the way humans are. Even saints who spend all their time trying to be perfect and practice charity towards their neighbor end up rubbing some people the wrong way.So if you and your husband are bothering each other one day, it doesn’t mean your relationship is over, it doesn’t mean it’s even in trouble. You don’t need to put a marriage counselor on speed dial. Your situation is normal, and almost definitely temporary–as long as you handle it right.

#2 Try to identify an underlying cause

Sometimes, after you take a deep breath and remember that it’s not the end of the world, or even of your happy marriage, it becomes very easy to identify the issue. Sometimes it’s as simple as lunch being a really long time ago. After a nice dinner, it’s possible everything will be better. Sometimes you are worried about something and so your stress is rubbing off on your husband who reacts by getting stressed and thus stresses you out still more. This is very common.

Sometimes, though, there isn’t an easily identifiable underlying cause.

#3 Give it some time

Sometimes men need some time alone to regroup, solve a problem, or just relax. If you and your husband are driving each other insane, and it’s a recent thing—not a chronic problem for the last five years (in which case maybe you should try getting some help) then it’s possible that your man just needs some time to regroup. If he’s the mechanical sort, he might need to go tinker with whatever machine he’s working on at the moment. He might need to go out with some of his guy friends, especially if he rarely does that, or if it’s been longer than usual. Or he might need to go sit by himself and read a book for a few hours.

When he gets back from whatever his retreat is, you will probably find him as affectionate, considerate, and pleasant as he ever was. And it might not take as long as you think.

If you can take the opportunity to do something you enjoy at the same time—like hanging out with one of your buddies, or doing a project you enjoy, you might find that all you both needed was a very, very small amount of distance, and that your appreciation of each other is redoubled afterwards.

#4 Be careful how you say things

Sometimes you can’t wait. Sometimes you really do need to discuss a difficult topic right now, or you really need emotional support right now, even if your man is not really in the mood.

This can go well, too, but it takes some care. Men hate having their competence questioned, and hate being insulted. To attack the man’s ego is the fastest way to lose his love.

A lot of women have no desire to insult their husbands or boyfriends but manage to do it anyway, especially when they are not feeling great themselves.

Here are a couple of tips to avoid insulting your husband while you are having a hard time getting along:

a) Express your needs as your needs and not as his duties.

Suppose you need to discuss some issue that has come up, and he’s not in the mood, but it’s urgent. Try saying something like, “I’m really sorry, but I really need to talk about this right now. It won’t take long.” This is straightforward and non-accusatory. It simply states a fact. Now, this doesn’t mean it’s going to make him super happy—he might end up feeling bad because he knows it’s something he should be doing and doesn’t want to, but the point is to avoid giving him the impression that you are judging him and finding him wanting. If he takes your statement as a judgment on himself, that’s one thing. You don’t want to make it any harder than it has to be—you love the guy, right?

Try to avoid saying things like: “Why do you always avoid these discussions?” Or “You’re supposed to be the man in this house. Why are you trying to get out of making decisions?” These comments might seem innocuous, and justified, but they attack the man’s self-esteem. And the last thing a man needs is having his wife attack his self-esteem. It is hard for a man to love someone who makes him feel like a loser. These sorts of comments will inevitably escalate your conflict into something worse. Men in general, good men especially, want to feel that they are protecting and providing for their families—not doing chores assigned by their wives.

b) Be straightforward and calm.

Sometimes calm isn’t possible, but at least try to avoid hysterical exaggeration and raised voices. Also, nearly all men ever surveyed have stated that they prefer direct questions and direct requests to hints and vague suggestions. So if you really need something, just say so, and understand that if you husband loves you, he appreciates knowing what you need so that he can give it for you, and that if you don’t tell him what you need, he really genuinely won’t know. He might be grumpy about doing a particular thing at a particular moment, but if you have a solid relationship, and ask in a non-judgmental way, your husband will appreciate knowing your needs and being able to meet them.

c) Say thank you afterwards

If your husband does something for you, or talks over a difficult topic when he wasn’t in the mood, you should thank him afterwards. Thank him, and tell him it made you feel better. Men in general have a different way of looking at the world than women generally do, and it helps if you can give him a window into your world and how he made it better with what he did. (Also, if you show your appreciation for what he does for you, he’s more likely to repeat the behavior in the future, and who wouldn’t want that?)

Even the happiest married couples have their rough moments, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t happy. If you can handle those moments well, they will actually strengthen your union, deepen your love, and contribute to your mutual success as married people.

 

Some resources for helping your relationships thrive. (These are affiliate links)

This book describes how men (in general) and women (in general) react differently to different things. Its goal is to help people deal with the men and women in their own lives.

Yes, I recommend this book a lot, but that’s because it’s so good. Even if your relationship is marvelous, you can get something out of this book.

This is one I only read recently. Written by a woman who interviewed and surveyed dozens of men, it talks about what men want, how they think, and how women come across to men. I read it in one day. It’s a fun, easy read with a lot of interesting information. In the companion volume For Men Only, she explains to men how women work. 

A classic book on interpersonal relationships of all sorts. You might be surprised to discover that you’re making all sorts of mistakes in dealing with people.

And sometimes, the solution to our problems is chocolate…. or wine…. But Amazon doesn’t seem to sell wine…

Ten Questions to Ask Before You Get Married

10 questions before you get married

So, you want to get married, and there’s this guy… and he’s cute, and he’s nice… Is he the one? How are you supposed to know for sure? Well, one answer is that you won’t—not until you’ve married him, for better for worse. Then, he’s the only one you’ve got, so he’d better be the one.

But before you take the leap, and make the vows, it’s good to get some information on the prospective husband. Here are ten questions that should help you not be disappointed.

Ask Him:

Does he share your values?

This is the first and most important question. Does he agree on what the priorities are? This is a good question to ask your boyfriend fairly early on in your relationship.

Does he share your religion? If religion is important to you, then you are going to want a spouse whose religion is the same as yours. Otherwise it’s likely you will end up with constant misunderstandings and confusion.

Does he ask you to do things you’re uncomfortable doing? Things that you don’t approve of? IF he does, this is a bad sign, and you should almost definitely not pursue the relationship further.

Other questions you might want to ask would involve his attitude toward having and raising children, the relationship between husband and wife and their roles in marriage, how he thinks about money. These are issues that are important to most people. If there is anything else that you consider a core value, do be sure to discuss that too. If eating sushi every Wednesday night at precisely 7:13 pm is something you consider vitally important, you should probably make sure he’s okay with that.

Does he have a goal?

Sometimes people are planning on getting married, but don’t look beyond that point in their lives. Then, once they’re married, they have nothing to strive for. And having no goal to work for is bad for people. Before you marry a man, find out if he has a goal beyond getting married to you. And make sure that goal is something you can invest in too. Being able to work together for a goal as a married couple will strengthen your relationship so much.

Why does he want to get married?

This can be a revealing question. Make sure that his reason for getting married is not because he wants a slave to do all his housework for him. He should want a companion on life’s journey, not an ornament or a minion.

Ask friends:

Is he a psycho?

Sometimes a person with a psychological or personality disorder seems perfectly normal. I suggest investigating the person you are thinking about marrying. (Of course, if you’ve known him all your life, you should know already, but it never hurts to make sure)

Now of course, this is not a question you would ask your boyfriend. Instead, do an amateur background check by asking his friends, siblings, and roommates, if he has any. As long as you keep it simple, and don’t spy on him, steal his phone and call all his contacts or read all his emails or something crazy like that, this is a sane and normal precaution, and he shouldn’t take it the wrong way.

Does he have good manners?

We assume that since he’s trying to impress you, your boyfriend treats you well. If he doesn’t, dump him now! But will he keep treating you well, once you’ve married him and he’s not trying to win you over anymore? There’s only one way to find out.

When you are dating, be sure to arrange to spend time with your boyfriend and some other people. If he treats you well, and everyone else badly, you can be fairly sure that he will treat you badly too, once he’s not trying to win you over anymore. If, on the other hand, he treats other people well, and other people like him and think he has good manners, you can safely assume that he has habitually good manners, and that he will likely treat you with courtesy and consideration after you are married too.

Ask Yourself:

Do you admire him?

They say that you become the average of the five people you spend the most time with. If this is a weighted average, it is heavily weighted in favor of your spouse. You will probably end up thinking and acting a lot like your husband after you are married. That’s just the way people work. So, are you okay with that? Would you be better if you were more like him? And will you be able to set him up as an example for your kids? Will they be better for knowing him?

How does he deal with you when you’re upset?

A good indication of how your boyfriend thinks of you is how he treats you at your worst. When you are crying or angry or otherwise upset, you probably aren’t your most attractive. If he is impatient and uncaring with you when you are upset, this could definitely weaken a future relationship. Especially if you are going to have kids. If my experience is anything to go by, then you will probably cry more during your first pregnancy than you did in the five years leading up to it. You will want a man who can stay calm and reassuring during your emotional meltdowns—because if you’re realistic with yourself, you know you’re going to have them sometimes.

Is he resilient? How will he handle an emergency?

Related to how he handles your emotional upsets is how he handles stress and emergencies. This is very difficult to know unless you are in an emergency with your boyfriend—which we all hope won’t happen. Though the idea has crossed my mind that dating would be a more productive exercise if people who were thinking about getting married chose unpleasant activities to do together, rather than pleasant ones. You’d find out so much more about your companion that way.

Now if your boyfriend is a police officer, EMT, army medic, or fireman, you can probably be pretty sure he handles emergencies well and would be a good guy to have around in a pinch. But if not, you might have to base your answer to this question on other things. If your boyfriend handles your emotional upsets well, then that’s a good sign. If he’s willing to go into situations that are outside of his comfort zone without freaking out, that’s a very good sign. And if he can admit his mistakes, that means he’s probably willing to take a chance in a risky situation, too. Which leads us to our next question.

Does he admit mistakes?

When I was dating the man I married, I remember being happy to note that first, we argued, but in a civilized way, and that I won some arguments, and he won some arguments. And that’s the way it should be. You don’t want a pushover who agrees with everything you say, but you also don’t want a man who stubbornly insists that he is right even when he’s wrong.

A person who is intellectually honest will be willing to recognize truth wherever it is found, whether in your ideas, or in his own. This will allow you and your spouse to have meaningful, constructive arguments, rather than bitter, pointless ones.

The next question is related, and is in some ways the most important of all.

Does he have a growth mindset?

Now, your boyfriend is definitely not perfect, and neither are you. And that is completely okay. If you are holding out for a perfect man, you aren’t ever going to get married. And the same goes for holding out for perfect women.

But the question you want to ask yourself is not, “Is he perfect?” but “Is he trying?” You want a man who is trying to improve, because if he is really trying to improve, then you won’t grow tired of him as you find out all his faults. Instead, you will find new things to admire every day of your lives together.

 

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Getting Along with Middle Schoolers.

Getting along with your middle schooler

I used to teach 7th and 8th graders, and I loved it. But when I told most people about my job and how much I enjoyed it, they looked at me as though I was insane.

A large percentage of the population seems to think that middle schoolers are about the worst kind of human there is, and that dealing with them on a regular basis is nothing short of torture. Many parents live in dread of their children turning thirteen, and savor the childhood years, assuming, for some reason, that parenting will be miserably from that moment on, until, perhaps, grandchildren show up on the scene several years later.

But I think that middle schoolers are wonderful, and that the reason so many people have difficulty with them is that they don’t understand how to deal with them. In my experience—though I must admit I don’t have middle schoolers of my own yet—middle schoolers want three things, and if you give them those three things, the majority of them will be happy and cooperative.

Respect

Middle schoolers, like most humans want respect more than almost anything else. We don’t usually have a lot of difficulty giving fellow adults respect. We are used to thinking of them as people like us who have similar wants and desires. The trouble with middle schoolers, is that they are developing adults, who are only partially grown up, and only have the beginnings of the qualities we automatically respect in fellow adults.

The trouble is that while middle school aged children often seem to have the self-control of children, they are as touchy about their dignity as an adult would be—more so in fact, because they have so little to base their sense of self-worth on as yet. This would be hard enough to deal with, but when you add to that the fact that it is often hard to remember that your children are growing up and that they aren’t your helpless babies anymore, you get a hopeless mess.

In my experience, what middle schoolers want is to be treated like human beings. They want to be recognized as no longer children. Many civilizations had special coming of age ceremonies for children who of about 12. Psychologically, this makes a lot of sense. 12 year olds have minds of their own, and want to be talked to as though their ideas mattered.

I was always very careful not to call my students “children.” I tried to call them students, or boys and girls, ladies and gentlemen, or any other age-neutral term. By listening to their ideas and thoughts as though they mattered, just as I would to a fellow sdult, I not only modeled respectful behavior, but bolstered their self-esteem.

And when I treated them as if they were somewhat grown up, this gave me the right to expect more grown-up behavior from them, which further bolstered their self-esteem.

Responsibility

While many adults try to avoid responsibility, middle schoolers, in my experience, rarely do. They understand that responsibility is related to growing up, and that if they are entrusted with responsibility, this is an honor. At this age, they need to be given more and more autonomy, but they also need strong limits. Giving them responsibilities will fulfill both these needs.

If they have responsibilities that they understand and have accepted, they will accept correction for failing to do them better than they will accept correction for breaking rules which they see as arbitrary and pointless.

I allowed my students to help write their own rules for the classroom, and they admitted that the rules we created were reasonable and helpful. As a result, I never once had a student complain of unfairness when I reminded them of the rules. I did have to remind them, but I always tried to do so in a way that was respectful. Rather than saying, “You disobedient child, how dare you disobey MY rule?” I tried to remind them that there was a rule that they had agreed to, and that they understood the reason for. If they persisted in breaking the rule, I tried to keep the consequences what we had discussed, rather than arbitrarily making up stuff. This sort of system allows young teens to feel that they have control over their lives, and makes them much more cooperative.

But young teens don’t just want respect and responsibility, they also want something more.

Adventure

The young teens I have met, and my past self at that age, want something more from life than comfort and ease and material success. I remember reading Last of the Mohicans and Lord of the Rings, and wishing desperately that I too could do noble and glorious things, preferably in a romantic setting like untouched American forests, or the mysterious mythical land of middle Earth.

People this age want noble ideals. We can help them develop strong ideals by giving them good books to read, and especially by modeling noble behavior. Twelve and thirteen-year-olds are harsh judges, as anyone knows who spends time with them. They need to be given good principles to judge on, and they need to see their authority figures living in accord with those principles.

And if they can be given an opportunity to do something exciting and fun, that is also noble and virtuous, they will be the happiest people around.

Some books that will inspire and entertain your middle schooler: (These are affiliate links)

I loved these four books as a kid, and I still love them. They center around the fictional country of Letzenstein, and its royal family and are full of adventure and excitement. Each book stands alone, but they are more fun as a set.

 

This action packed story follows one of the Czar’s couriers across the expanse of Russia and into Siberia on a quest to give an important message to the Czar’s brother. Michael Strogoff is equal to all obstacles, and courageously sticks to his quest despite seemingly insurmountable obstacles, including a barbarian invasion.

 

Set in Holland in World War II, this story follows the adventures of a couple of young boys who face challenging experiences and learn about courage and sacrifice for a good cause. Their family shows them examples of true courage and nobility, but it’s not at all preachy. It’s an exciting adventure story that kids love.

 

Ralph Moody writes about his experiences as a young boy living in Colorado in the very early twentieth century. His father and mother and their friends teach him how to ride horses, the value of money, and most importantly, how to be a strong upright man. The rest of the series is amazing too. (Content alert: His father dies.)

 

Tolkein’s magnificent tale should inspire and entertain both teens and adults.

Unromantic Ways To Say I Love You

(This post contains affiliate links.)

Today I haven’t done much but fold a mountain of laundry and wash a pile of dishes. I have nothing particularly insightful to say—but then, would you have anything insightful to say if you were recovering from stomach flu while taking care of an energetic, stubborn, easily bored nine-month-old?

One thing that the whole experience did remind me of, though, is the fact that while romantic things are nice, in many cases it’s the unromantic things that are really the most important. Boxes of chocolates and bouquets of roses are lovely, but nothing says, “I love you.” quite the same way as cleaning up vomit. I have had the opportunity to watch my husband clean up my vomit a truly astonishing number of times since we got married (think morning sickness and a couple of bouts of stomach bug), so I should know.

Now of course, it is important to have nice shared experiences too. A very wise marriage counselor I met said that one of the biggest mistakes that parents make is only having unpleasant interactions with each other. Discussing the kids’ bad behavior, discussing money problems, discussing rules… and then blowing up because you are so unhappy. He reminded all of the couples who came to him that it was very important for married couples to remember to deliberately have fun together so that they don’t start to subconsciously associate each other with only unpleasantness.

So dates (or date-mornings, if that’s your thing) are something you should really try to do. And if there’s some reason you can’t make a regular date-night work, there’s still plenty of simple things you can do to make sure that not all your interactions are unpleasant. The Five Love Languages has a lot of ideas, actually. (We’re still running a giveaway for it here.)

I think some people feel like they have to do certain types of things on their dates just because someone, somewhere decided that that sort of thing is more romantic. But it’s more important that it be enjoyable. Exercising together might not be romantic—nothing so romantic as baggy workout clothes and the smell of sweat—but if you enjoy it, then you should do it as often as you can. It will make you happier, and make your marriage stronger. Or if that’s not your thing, just sitting and chatting about pleasant things after the kids are in bed can be fun, though not necessarily very romantic.

When all is said and done, if you want to eat a candlelight dinner with roses and orchids, and then dance by moonlight afterwards, while playing the song that you played during your first dance at your wedding, do it! But don’t feel like it’s necessary. In fact, I am pretty sure that no moonlight dance says “I love you” quite as effectively as when your husband takes away the bucket you’ve just been puking into and hands you a kleenex, a glass of water, and a nice clean, dry wastebasket.

Shop the post: (Yes, this is sort of a joke)

 

How and Why to be Socially Connected

(This post contains affiliate links. Purchases made through these links will support the website at no extra cost to you.)

A couple of years ago, I visited a homeless shelter with a youth group. While we were there, we participated in an activity, a sort of game that the leader of the shelter had created to educate people on the reality of homelessness and how people become homeless, and the cycle of hopelessness that results.

The narrative of the game was that we, the players, had just been released from prison—the situation of the majority of the homeless men in the shelter. We had an amount of money typical of a person in that situation, and a certain number of resource cards. Then there were event cards where things happened to us that we needed resources to deal with. For example, we had to go see our parole officer, and this involved somehow getting a ride. We could ask a friend for a favor, we could pay a taxi, or we could walk…. Anyway, to make a long story short, my group didn’t get to see their estranged family, ended up sleeping under a bridge, but we stayed out of jail—just barely.

What I learned from this activity was how much I depend on my network of friends and relations. In all of the hypothetical situations that our group ran into, my real-life answer would have been, I’ll ask a buddy. I’ll ask my parents, my cousins, my friends.

The Benefits of Social Connectedness

Everyone should have a positive social support network. In many cases, it is literally the only thing that protects people from becoming homeless, going to jail, committing suicide, or many other negative outcomes. The one biggest difference between successful and unsuccessful people is what their social support network looks like.

Imagine a successful young man or woman. After graduating from highschool—which they do, thanks to supportive parents, school staff, and classmates—they move onto getting a job or going to college. The people that they and their parents know will be invaluable at this time in their lives. While some people get jobs by filling out employment applications, I for one have never been hired this way. The only jobs I have ever gotten were jobs where I knew someone, and other people’s experiences confirm that this is often the case. People like references that they know and trust.

This is just one example of how a positive social support network can help a person. Dr. Emma Seppala at Stanford.edu writes “that lack of social connection is a greater detriment to health than obesity, smoking and high blood pressure.” And that “people who feel more connected to others have lower levels of anxiety and depression. Moreover, studies show they also have higher self-esteem, greater empathy for others, are more trusting and cooperative and, as a consequence, others are more open to trusting and cooperating with them. In other words, social connectedness generates a positive feedback loop of social, emotional and physical well-being.”

Shawn Achor, the happiness researcher, writes in his book, Big Potential that working together with other people makes your productivity rise exponentially. One study showed that even standing next to a person who is viewed as a friend will make obstacles seem smaller and more manageable. (in the study, people were asked to estimate how steep a hill seemed. People with friends nearby found that the hill seemed more climbable than people who were alone did.) The book is filled with other fascinating studies showing similar things.

What Can We Do About It?

So what does this mean for you? Social connectedness is good for basically everything. It makes your health better, enriches your life, makes you happier, more likely to have a good job, and more likely to achieve your personal goals. But who do you need to get to know? How will you avoid losing touch with your friends?

A lot of people want to go back to their highschool or college years, not because they fear the responsibilities of adult life, but because highschool and college was the last time they felt like they had a close network of peers to look out for them. Once you leave highschool or college, it is common to feel friendless, and the longer you wait to make friends, the harder it can get. Young people are more adaptable and tolerant of others (in general), so it can be easier to make friends when you are young.

So, how do you cultivate social connections?

Where to start

First of all, recognize that you and everyone else is lazy. You are likely to see people who it is easy to see, and not see people that it is hard to see. This makes it important to engineer your life to encourage social connection.

Family

The most obvious people in your life are the ones you live with. You see them everyday, and their behaviors and attitudes affect you the most. Studies have been done on spouses and their behavior and its effect on each other. As you might expect, a happy wife does make a happy husband, and vice versa. Similarly, a person whose husband or wife who succeeds in losing weight to become more healthy is considerably more likely to do the same. The first thing to focus on then, is the people who live with you. A strong healthy spousal relationship is one of the best predictors of success, while divorce is a strong predictor of unhappiness and poverty.

Spousal relationships are not the only family relationships that are important, however. Married couples who have children are less likely to be lonely in their old age than those who raise dogs or cats instead. Parents should have good relations with their children—after all, you might need their help in old age, and the empty nest can be lonely if the kids never want to visit. It is also super important for parents to try to cultivate good relationships among their children. A supportive sibling is such an asset to an adult, and a loving extended family, complete with aunts, uncles and cousins, is the best environment for a child’s growth and development.

Work

Not everyone lives with family, but many people work with others. Forging relationships with co-workers can be extremely helpful for accomplishing work-related goals, but it can also enrich your life with real friendships, if these relationships are extended outside of work hours. (if you only see your co-workers at work, their presence might do little to relieve your feelings of isolation.)

Not everyone leaves their homes for work, however, and even among those who do, many people don’t seem to have much in common with their co-workers. So where will you find friends?

Church

In the book Coming Apart Charles Murray cites some fascinating statistics on self-reported happiness and church attendance. Apparently, Americans report higher levels of happiness the more frequently they attend Church, all other things being equal. There are probably other factors involved, such as feeling more spiritually well, but one cause of this correlation is doubtless the effect of Church community.

If you have strong religious convictions, and spend time weekly with other people who share those convictions, the likelihood of your making friends is much higher. If you have trouble just walking up to strangers after Church and talking to them, most churches have events and volunteer opportunities which will give you an opportunity to mingle with people in a more structured way, and eventually make friends. These events are not a substitute for an active social life where you invite friends to your house and are invited to theirs, but a gateway and a necessary supplement to it.

Community Events

Most towns have a few organizations for getting things done. Whether its volunteer groups trying to help people who need help, or volunteers for the town parade, there is usually something that you can do to with other people in your neighborhood. There are often events at public libraries, and local schools.

If one is not isolated by a disability or by living too far from anyone else, there is usually some way to meet other people in person and develop relationships that will enrich your life.

A Word of Warning

Now, of course, a social network is only as good as the people in it. Gangs are very strong and connected social groups, but they tend to lead to crime, prison, drug use, and other negative outcomes. Social support networks of this kind do more harm than good and need to be replaced with better networks before you can make any progress.

Gangs are an extreme example, but toxic relationships can exist in any social milieu. Jordan Peterson has famously advised people to “make friends with people who want the best for you.” And to walk away from bad friends, and people who want to keep you in self-destructive behaviors. Whatever you might think of the rest of Jordan Peterson’s ideas, this advice just makes sense. Good friends are people who try to help you become better and happier, not people who try to keep you in your cycle of bad habits.

 

That said, forming strong social connections is the best investment you will ever make. The best social network will contain people who are older than you, so that you can learn from them, and younger than you, so that not all your friends will die before you. It will contain men and women, married people and singles. And these people, ideally, will look out for you, will help you and your children, will broaden your horizons and make you a better and happier person.

 

A few resources for becoming more socially connected:

This is THE classic guide to improving all your relationships with people you meet.

Shawn Achor shows how happiness and productivity are linked to social connectedness. It’s an entertaining and compelling look at how we do things and how we can do them better together.

Rule 3: Make friends with people who want the best for you. (And other advice that gets you out of yourself and vibrantly in contact with others.)

The Five Love Languages is a best-seller for a reason. It is a quick, fun read that tells you how to improve the most important relationship in your life–your marriage. (I’m actually running a giveaway for this book right here.)