How to review your relationships

August 10, 2020

Lockdown has changed our relationships. We've been spending little to no time with work colleagues that we would previously have spent large proportions of the day with, and much more time with the people that we live with. For some, this has meant weeks or months with children and/or partners for 24 hours every day. For others, a choice between temporarily heading back home to live in childhood bedrooms again, or isolation.

The impact of this has been different for everyone. When the Chinese province of Shaanxi emerged from lockdown, an unprecedented amount of divorce requests were made. Meanwhile, in the UK, over a quarter of singletons report that lockdown has helped them realise that they're happier alone.

Either way, the changes forced by lockdown offer a great opportunity to review and reflect about the state of your relationships and any changes that you might want to make. Here's how.

1. List your relationships

You can use this model for all types of relationships - work, friendships, romances, yourself. It could even be with an organisation (your employer). You can combine them all together or do a separate list for each category, whichever you prefer.

Note that we are focusing on people that you have a relationship with (rather than an acquaintance, say) - some people feel the connection of a relationship more readily than others and so will have a longer list - remember that relationships are usually reciprocal in some way (though not necessarily equal).

If your list feels long, take a minute to ask yourself if everyone on your list would say that they have a relationship with you - do some people need to be removed? If your list is feeling short, ask yourself if who you've missed anyone that might put you on their list - do you need to add anyone?

2. How much do you enjoy your relationship?

Start by thinking back over your relationship - overall, what is the ratio of stress to enjoyment? How easy do you find spending time with this person? How often do you feel happy, content or energised as opposed to upset, frustrated or drained in this relationship? How often do you have fun?

Give each relationship a score out of 10 for ENJOYMENT. Enjoyment might mean something slightly different to you in different contexts (e.g. work versus family). That's ok, the scales are personal to you. Think of a 10 as being the most enjoyment possible in this type of relationship.

3. How healthy is your relationship?

Next, you're going to score each relationship out of 10 for HEALTH.

Every relationship is likely to include, or have included at some point, a characteristic of unhealthy behaviour - that doesn't necessarily mean that it needs to score low. Just because I lied to my mum about where I got cigarettes from aged 14 does not automatically mean that we have an unhealthy relationship! Focus on the repeated behaviours and patterns that you experience where possible.

A healthy relationship will include:

- mutual respect

- trust

- honesty

- support

- fairness/equality

- good communication

Think about what these things mean to you in the context of each relationship. Again, it might be that a healthy relationship with your boss looks different to one with your partner. Get curious about this - what makes your expectations differ? How different do you want them to be?

4. The relationship grid

Draw yourself a grid like the one below, and using the scores that you have given, mark each relationship onto the grid using a symbol or the initials of the other person.

Relationship grid

Bottom left: these relationships are the ones that you score low for both health and enjoyment

Top left: these are healthy relationships that you don't get a lot of enjoyment from

Bottom right: these are relationships that you enjoy but that aren't that healthy

Top right: these relationships are both enjoyable and healthy to you

5. Reviewing your grid

Take a look at your grid.

Which section holds most of your relationships? What patterns can you see? On which sections do you spend most time an energy? On which sections do you want to spend your time and energy?

What do you want to change?

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