Fostering Relationships the Old-Fashioned Way

It’s funny how we’re in the midst of the most connected society that exists, but it seems like the true fundamentals of connecting human to human have disintegrated before our eyes.

Most of this vanishing period has been in part to the constant presence of technology, but it’s also our society’s glorification of being busy and having packed-to-the-brim schedules.

These two things mixed together has left us yearning for true connections again, but it seems like there’s so many barriers with the way we all have become consumed with our current way of life. In reality, the barriers are ones that can be taken down as easily as they’ve been put up.

All we have to do is revert back to our younger years and go back a couple of decades. People were healthier, happier and less stressed. These are some of the “old fashioned ways” (isn’t that sad?) to get back to the root of being truly connected with your families, friends, neighbors and yourself.

Taking Meal Time Back to the Table

This tip is a common one, and it’s far from groundbreaking, but the number of families who don’t gather around the table for meals outweighs the number of households that do, so clearly it’s a concept that needs to work its way back in to the norm.

Here’s our argument for sit-down family meals:

– You have a designated time to talk to all of your family members (your spouse, your children, your parents, etc.) about what’s going on in your lives, what’s happening in the outside world and what your current mood is.

With very hectic schedules, which is one of the reasons many families claim they can’t have dinner together, this time acts as glue for the family. If you don’t take time to come together regularly, even if it’s only a couple meals a week, crucial elements of the family dynamic can be missed. For example, children struggling with a problem at school may not be as apparent when you only see your children in passing, and spouses can miss out on opportunities to support their partner in both good times and rough patches.

-You have the opportunity to teach your family about balanced meals and healthful eating habits. Your dining room doesn’t need to be a classroom per say, but people learn through routine and habits.

When you make meal time a “grab what you can find in the kitchen” mentality, children lose the fundamentals of proper meal preparation using whole ingredients.


Shutting Off Screens

Again, something that has received more and more attention over the past few years, but still needs time to sink in since more studies are showing the link between screen time and disintegrating relationships.

Whether it’s your romantic relationship or friendships, filtering your life through a screen doesn’t produce any benefits, only drawbacks.

Tips for fostering a healthy relationship during the perma-screen era:

– When embarking on an experience with another person feel free to take a few pictures to capture the experience, but wait on posting and don’t overanalyze what you’re taking a picture of. You can find a filter, create a caption and upload at another time when you’re alone. Take a quick snap and move on with enjoying your experience.

– Not sure where I originally read this, but it stuck: only post something online if it is positive, educational or out of love. Everything else needs to stay offline. The minutia of your relationships are not things you need everyone on your friends list reading because you’re essentially inviting others in to your relationships. Social media has also become a huge forum for passive aggressive messages, and we guarantee no good will come from that offline.

– When you are spending time with someone, show them that they are more important by keeping your phone and other devices tucked away. This shows your attention is dedicated to them and will not be dropped at the first sign of something else to provide entertainment.

A caveat to this guideline: If you’re expecting a call or need to keep your phone on an audible ring due to a certain situation just let the person you’re spending time with know. They’ll appreciate knowing that if you do need to take a call or answer a message, it’s not because you thought it was a better alternative then giving them their undivided attention.

– Set a time where all screens are off. No more TV, no more computers, no more phones. It may seem unrealistic to get everyone in your family on the same page about it, but doing so even one night out of the week can really open your eyes and the rest of your family’s as to how much else there is to do. Reading, going outside, playing a game, sitting around talking; all these things mean so much more than everyone being lost in their own world on a separate screen.


Sharing Accomplishments

Accomplishing something on your own is rewarding, but when you get to accomplish something as a team you get to relish in it with others, which is always more gratifying.

This might be in part to putting you and your team member on equal playing ground, but it also reinforces communication and joint problem solving.

Whether it’s renovating part of the house, taking a workout class or getting the house cleaned, joining efforts to reach a common goal helps build healthy relationships.


Spending Time Alone

And last but not least, your relationship with yourself is hands down the most important. If you can’t find peace with yourself, or be happy on your own, you will never be able to have healthy relationships with others.

Why? Because your insecurities, your hang-ups and aggravations, your dependent nature on someone else will interfere with your ability to truly connect with and trust another person.

If you’re not naturally inclined to spend time alone, I strongly encourage it. Not saying you need to go live alone (although, that is one of the best self-learning experiences you can have), but just taking the time to go to a cafe and eat by yourself, or sit outside and read on your own, or stay in on a Saturday night to craft and watch a chick flick.

One of the biggest objections to spending time alone is that it’s boring, but this provides insight in to what you truly enjoy doing without the influence of others, and it gives you time to just think. Often times when you have the chance to hear your own thoughts you can really dig deep in to the things that you want to improve in your life whether that’s your personal health, your career status, your relationship status, or furthering pursuits that you’ve always wanted to do, but have convinced yourself isn’t possible.

Once you can hone in on these things comfortably on your own, you can reach out to others to help you to achieve your best version of yourself for yourself.


Obviously these aren’t the only ways to foster healthy relationships in our lives, but when you’re feeling like relationships are slipping away or people, even those that you live with, seem distant, it’s time to take a step back and do a little reworking.

What are some ways you and your family and friends work on fostering your relationships?

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Elle Michels

Elle Michels

Based in Washington, D.C., Elle Michels is a contributing writer to Womenshealth.com.

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