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A Publication of WTVP

Nothing makes for a rich, fulfilling life quite like really great relationships. Our bonds with family members, friends, and (to a surprising extent) coworkers provide support, love, joy, and companionship and foster personal growth. They are vital to our emotional and even physical health. But have you noticed the quality of your relationships might be declining? And have you asked yourself why? Chances are, you’re just not putting in the time and effort it takes.

If anything has made a difference in my life, it’s the really close relationships I’ve enjoyed. Yet such relationships seem harder to achieve now. As we’ve gotten more “connected” (in the Facebook sense), we’ve somehow gotten less connected (in the human sense).

For example, when was the last time you spent an entire day—or even a whole weekend—with your best friend? Or asked a business associate out to lunch rather than saying, “Oh, connect with me on LinkedIn?”

Relationship atrophy happens for a variety of reasons, but much of the blame can be laid at the feet of 21st century realities. For one thing, we’re all seriously overcommitted. For another, while technology is a highly useful tool, it encourages a culture in which we spend more time documenting and recording rather than fully experiencing life.

We trick ourselves into believing that our social media connections are “relationships” when (let’s face it) they are not. And of course, when we’re using up all our time doing all these things—photographing, posting, updating, reading updates—it’s impossible to be having dinner with someone.

So if you’re feeling the depressing effects of this relationship deficit, what’s to be done about it? Well, plenty. The first step is to take part in what I call the “Bring Back REAL Relationships” project. (Don’t worry, there’s no joining fee.)

What gets focused on gets done. That’s why I’m urging women everywhere—men, too—to focus on the state of their relationships this summer. This begins with realizing that great relationships are not a luxury but an important human need. And the rest of it is just a matter of making a conscious effort to change your patterns.

When you ask a friend you haven’t seen in a while to meet at the coffee shop, expect some confusion or even worry. But once she realizes you’re not going to hit her with some bad news—or worse, try to sell her on your pyramid marketing scheme!—she’ll be thrilled you took the initiative. Here are a few tips for getting started:

Here’s the thing: It’s natural to want to improve efficiency, to conserve our energy, to make our lives easier and less stressful. It probably has something to do with the survival instinct. Yet a great life is about more than survival—and when we neglect relationships, we’re cheating ourselves of the full human experience.

Great relationships take time and effort. But living without them is like living without bright colors, or ice cream, or music. Sure, you could do it, but why would you want to? iBi

Nancy D. O’Reilly, PsyD, is an author of Leading Women: 20 Influential Women Share Their Secrets to Leadership, Business, and Life and founder of Women Connect4Good, Inc. For more information, visit drnancyoreilly.com.

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