With Valentine’s Day approaching, you may feel a sense of excitement or dread. Some people feel indifferent towards the romantic holiday. Regardless of your sentiments, healthy relationships improve life. Certain traits strengthen love, which isn’t reserved for couples only. Family ties, friendships, and pets give us warm emotions and compassion. Dr. Erin Leonard lays out the keys to maintaining a close relationship in her book, Loving Well. Two core qualities that foster emotional closeness are empathy and accountability.
Unconditionally loving someone seems easy, but both sides must maintain the bond. All relationships require work and self-awareness. Empathy requires selflessness and an emotional shift to understand your loved one. Showing sympathy, or feeling sorry for someone, isn’t a successful tactic. By being sympathetic, you strip away the other person’s self-sufficiency. When you feel sorry for another person, this encourages them not to change and grow. You can create behaviors where they rely on you and become too needy. Dependency doesn’t improve a relationship; it weakens it.
Empathy helps you understand others’ feelings, and your thoughts don’t cloud situations. You set aside your own emotions and shift them to your loved one in certain moments. If someone’s hurting, you’re aware of their pain. Empathetic people make sure others feel the love they have to offer. When you cultivate compassion in children, they’ll carry these traits into adulthood.
Parents can show empathy by making certain statements when their kids are struggling. You can say, “I’m sorry you’re hurting, I’m here for you, or You’re not alone.” Having empathy towards your children doesn’t mean you accept their behaviors. As a parent, you want to understand and support your kids. Love heals both children and adults and makes people grow closer to one another. If you don’t think you’re a warm person, practice caring in all of your relationships. Try recognizing how others feel and be supportive to those in your life. Show up when your loved ones are facing a challenge. Practicing empathy builds and sustains trust between two people.
Another crucial element to having a healthy relationship is accountability. We’re all human, and we all make mistakes but owning them improves relationships. Sincerely apologizing for your shortcomings prevents fractures between you and your loved one. Saying you’re sorry also helps sustain trust with others.
Some people may lack empathy or accountability, which makes relationships difficult. A person who lacks empathy won’t understand your thoughts, feelings, or perspective. Someone who doesn’t hold themselves accountable won’t admit when they’re wrong. If you’re on the receiving end, things can get ugly. People without empathy will blame you, get defensive, and gaslight you. There can be reasons for their poor coping mechanisms, and they may have good intentions. Everyone has feelings and different approaches to conflict resolution. Arguments can make someone feel defeated or forced to admit guilt. Another factor is that someone might think that they have to understand you. The relationship can become unhealthy or not right for you.
Love doesn’t require undivided attention or money. A healthy relationship will not have any finger-pointing or excuses. When you’re with the right person, you won’t have to justify your actions or behaviors. Unconditional love is acceptance, and you also need to feel this way about yourself. Thriving personal and professional relationships make you feel better. You’ll be happier, comfortable, and at peace. Love lowers depression and anxiety and doesn’t have to come from a romantic partner. Think about how you give and receive love, then see if you need to change anything.