Relationships make the world go ’round. Good, positive, healthy, meaningful, happy relationships provide us with the richest experiences we have. Your loving spouse who shares everything with you, that best friend who connects with you like few others do, the people at work who appreciate you and help you become the best you can be—they bring joy to life.
But relationships can also be the bane of our existence. What causes more pain in this life than a broken relationship, especially when it isn’t just broken but downright ugly?
So it behooves us to do all that we can to keep our relationships zipping right along. If we put our very best into our relationships, we can almost guarantee getting the very best out of them, too.
Characteristics of a healthy, happy relationship
There are three things that, when done over time, begin to create the kinds of relationships that you truly desire, that you have always dreamed of. The key to remembering the three items that can improve any and all of your relationships is the acronym Z.I.P.
1. Happy relationships have ZEST.
Relationships should be fun. Think about it: Don’t healthy relationships start out with a lot of good times? Whether it’s going out to dinner or a ballgame, fun is a major aspect of your relationship. It’s part of the glue that bonds you together.
But as life goes on, the fun starts to fall by the wayside as it increasingly becomes about getting the job done, whatever the job may be.
To restore the relationship, to put a little zip into it, reintroduce the idea of “zest.”
What can you do to get the zest back if you’ve lost it? Think of a specific relationship you have. What were the fun things you did at the beginning of it? Commit to doing those things now—alongside trying some new fun things together—and see if your relationship doesn’t begin to soar again.
2. Cultivate more INTIMACY for a healthy relationship.
That is, taking your relationship to a deeper level.
That doesn’t mean you have to start engaging in group hugs with your workmates or having revelation sessions where the tissues flow freely. Every happy relationship that is mutually satisfying has a level of depth to it that provides meaning. And isn’t meaning what we search for in our relationships?
At the beginning of a relationship, time is spent opening up, telling each other who you are, where you’re from, what your likes and dislikes are. There is a deep sense of satisfaction with the relationship—that’s why it continues. You like who they are and you enjoy them knowing you.
But then something happens. We get to a certain level and the pursuit of depth ends. We stop sharing feelings and joys and dreams and fears. Instead, we settle into routine. The daily grind takes over and we stop knowing one another—we simply exist together.
Now, every time you get together doesn’t have to be deep—sometimes just having plain old fun is good, too. But there is also a need for regular intimate connection. After all, meaningful, happy relationships develop when others love and accept us for who we are at our core.
Think about the relationships you would like to see improvement in. Take some time in the coming weeks and months to really talk and get to a deeper level—to let the other person deeper into your world. You can’t force them to be more intimate and you certainly can’t say, “Let’s get together and have an intimate conversation,” because that would be too contrived. But you can make a decision for yourself that you will let others see more of who you are. Perhaps this will even be the catalyst for them doing the same.
You can guard yourself from intimacy, but then you won’t go much deeper in your relationships and you will feel a longing in your heart for more. Or, you can begin the process of deepening your relationships and see them change for the better.
3. Happy relationships share a PURPOSE.
The most meaningful relationships are those held together by a common purpose and vision for what it can accomplish.
When people have a common purpose, they feel bound together, like they are part of a team. Think about your strongest relationships. Aren’t they centered on at least one common purpose or goal? What about your weaker relationships? Think back and see if you used to have a common purpose that has since fallen by the wayside.
What about the relationships you want to grow? Take some time to begin to cultivate a common purpose. Sit down with that person and tell them that you would like to have some common goals that you pursue together. As you develop these, you will see your relationship strengthen in ways you never imagined.
This article was published in April 2016 and has been updated. Photo by bbernard/Shutterstock