Managing relationships

Relationship status: it’s complicated?

From your bae, to your bro, to your bff, every relationship is as unique as a fingerprint. Some relationships flow naturally, and others can take a lot of work, so it’s important to learn how to balance them whilst also looking after yourself and your wellbeing.

We spoke to Isaac, Khadija, Jemmar and Autumn about their strongest and their most challenging relationships, and found out how they strike the right balance.

Let’s recap on those wise words again.

It takes two to tango

It takes two people to make a relationship work so, if you find you’re clashing with someone, don’t immediately assume you’re in the wrong. It isn’t a reflection on you but the two of you together.

Try to work on finding a solution as a team. Be open and honest about your feelings, and make sure you listen to theirs. “Talk about things,” explains Autumn, “when we don’t talk about things they become taboo.”

Celebrate positive relationships

Some relationships are easier than others. Some are calm and laid-back, while others can be more dramatic or demanding. It can be easy to take the steady relationships for granted and focus on the ones that cause us more angst, but we absolutely shouldn't.

Recognise and appreciate those positive influences in your life, whether that’s a family member who is always at the end of the phone, or a friend who shares their snacks when you’re stressed. Try to switch your focus from negative to positive relationships, and make sure you nurture the relationships that make you feel good.

Learn from past experiences

Whether a relationship is positive or negative, you can always learn something valuable from it. Sometimes you might learn something about how other people behave, and sometimes you might learn something about yourself, such as a better way to react to situation. As Autumn says:

“I’ve learned from negative relationships in my life to be more patient.”

Look for patterns too. Does anything feel similar about this relationship and suggest that it’s going to be a success? Or are there any warning signs hinting that you might want to walk away? Khadija learned from experience how to recognise the signs that might suggest a relationship doesn't feel right:

“I don’t’ want to judge the person,” says Khadija, "so I’ll give them some time but when more patterns start adding up, that’s when I remove myself from the equation.”

Put yourself first

Some relationships can be detrimental to your happiness and wellbeing. When Jemmar is in an unhealthy relationship like this, she says: “My work ethic goes out of the window, I treat my other relationships badly and lose my sense of self, I’m no longer Jemmar, I’m someone that I shouldn’t be.”

Be proactive. If you need time to yourself, know that you are allowed to do this. If the other person needs space, try to be understanding. Communicate. Make changes. It might be that walking away is the best thing, but it might be that working together to fix the problem is the solution. Make sure that, above everything else, you are doing it because it makes you feel good.

If it is a relationship that doesn’t show signs of improvement or one that is draining you or affecting your mental or physical health, ask yourself if it might be time to call it a day. Think about what you would tell your best friend or family member if they were in that relationship. It’s tough, but as Khadija explains, in order to deal with a negative relationship you need to:

Know your self-worth, your values and understand the boundaries that you have, so no one can overstep them.

Knowing what you know now, how would you handle difficult relationships?

See things positively and try to not shift blame onto others.

Talk about things – when we don’t talk about things they become taboo.

Have the confidence to check out earlier instead of trying to fix something that can’t be fixed.

I should have learned more about myself and who I am as a person, and set boundaries for myself.

Where to go for more support

There’s lots more advice and guidance on the Bitesize Support pages. Have a look at our mental health collection to get started.

You could also explore the advice on Young Minds, ChildLine and The Mix.

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