In high school, I had a class called "Group Dynamics."
Its purpose was to teach us how to create, develop and and maintain healthy relationships. Like many of the classes at (then experimental) John Dewey High, this one was ahead of its time.
I think about the lessons I learned from that class to this day. The most important thing I learned was the concept of Relationship Renegotiation.
Have you ever had a relationship that started out really well, but over time - due to whatever reasons - soured?
You kept fighting, then making up, then fighting, then making up, and kept repeating that process without any actual progress?
Those relationships just become vicious circles that you can't get out of - until one day one of you simply leaves the relationship.
But there's a better way!
See, relationships are mainly based on two things: sharing information, and setting expectations.
When I say "sharing information," I basically mean "getting to know" someone. Knowing this and that about them. The stuff that makes you want to be in a relationship in the first place.
When I say "setting expectations," I mean "establishing what you want out of the relationship."
Needless to say, we don't sit down with the other person and draw up a contract, but these two ingredients - information and expectation - are nonetheless at the heart of all relationships.
The thing is, over time, the "information" is bound to change. The problem is, you don't always adjust your expectations.
For instance, the other person might get a new job, or get married, or have a kid, or get divorced, or start or stop drinking, or whatever.
When you keep expecting the same things from a person who undergoes a major life change, you're setting the relationship up for friction, if not outright conflict.
That's where relationship renegotiation comes in.
Maybe you have an old friend you're used to talking to every day, and that friend gets married or has a kid. Now it's unreasonable to expect to speak to that person every day. You have to readjust your expectations. You have to "renegotiate."
Now maybe you can only speak two or three times a week. The important thing is to establish that - to bring it into the open - before resentment starts festering.
Maybe - like me - your kids have grown up and gone off to college. Obviously you can be disappointed that you'll be seeing less of them. But you shouldn't be offended. You simply have to adjust your expectations.
Oftentimes, this simple "renegotiation," if it's honest and out in the open, can save a relationship from that vicious circle I mentioned earlier.
The key is to renegotiate relationships before resentments start piling up.
How are your significant relationships going - the ones with your colleagues, family, and friends?
Are your expectations for them realistic?
If not, can you adjust them to ensure that these important relationships don't devolve?