We all want meaningful, supportive relationships, but they don’t always come easily. Friendships and family interactions can be filled with conflict and miscommunication, and it’s common to drift toward isolation. What does healthy, real relationship even look like? If fulfilling relationships have been hard to come by in your life, you’re not alone—and help is available.
When you feel lonely, hurt, frustrated, or uncertain about the relationships in your life, there’s a way forward. In this guide, we’ll explore some practical steps to finding and maintaining healthy relationships. Before we dive in, let’s consider why we even care about relationships in the first place.
Why Do Relationships Matter?
Positive interactions with other people simply make our lives better. One of the longest running studies in the world started 85 years ago in 1938 at Harvard University: Researchers started tracking the lives of 268 sophomores. Over the course of decades, this study has found that the best predictor of health and happiness is healthy relationships.
The Bible says the same thing in Genesis 2:18: “It is not good for the man to be alone.” From the very beginning, we’ve been hardwired to thrive in real relationship—but life can get in the way. Friendship building often falls off our list when we’ve got a full schedule. School, work, kids, and chores can consume our attention and prevent us from nurturing our relationships to help them grow.
So, how can we approach our relationships with focus and care? That’s the question we set out to answer in Season 5 of the You’ve Heard It Said podcast. We spent each episode looking at different kinds of relationships and figuring out how we can make them work. Keep reading to find out what we learned, or use the links below to skip ahead.
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 1 Corinthians 13:4 NIV
Family relationships are difficult because no family is perfect. We’re all unique individuals with different personalities, strengths, and weaknesses. It’s no wonder these differences often become a source of tension over time. Obstacles like unmet expectations, comparison, and poor communication can add to the tension we feel with the people we’re around most.
While no one will ever have a perfect family, a loving, supportive, healthy family is within reach. Wondering how to improve your family’s health? Start small. Think about one change you could make that would let your family know on a regular basis that you love them. You could make dinner a couple of nights a week or call a far-off family member once a month. This small change will look different for each person, but taking some kind of loving step is what matters most. As an added bonus, a foundation of healthy relationships at home will positively impact all the other relationships in your life as well.
Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up … Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 NIV
Healthy friendships require work. This is true of most good things in life. An occasional visit to the gym won’t lead to much progress, but consistent workouts will produce the results you want. Friendship works in a similar way: The more you do together, the closer you get. If your friendships have lost the closeness they used to have, or finding friends has just always felt like a struggle to you, putting in a little more effort can yield a worthwhile reward.
If you want to develop a friendship, one of the best ways to start is simply by inviting someone to spend time with you. You could go out to coffee, lunch, or whatever you’re most comfortable with. If talking face to face seems too intimidating, try a conversation by messaging first.
Once you have a friend or two, consistency is key if you want to go deeper. Try setting up a regular time to hang out together. This could mean going to a book club or grabbing coffee at the same place on Tuesdays. Consistency will help you both see your friendship as a priority.
Instruct the wise and they will be wiser still; teach the righteous and they will add to their learning. Proverbs 9:9 NIV
Mentors are people with valuable skills and wisdom to pass along to you. They’re one-on-one teachers who allow you to learn from their successes and failures. What’s an area of life you hope to improve? Once you know how you want to grow, pick someone who is where you want to be or has the knowledge to get there. If you want to be a better husband, ask the guy who’s been happily married for 30 years. If you want to be a better cook, ask the woman at church who always brings the best snacks.
Finding a good mentor isn’t always easy. We often assume the people we look up to have more valuable things to do with their time, and approaching someone you respect and asking for their time can be uncomfortable. What if they say no? Fear of rejection is real, but the benefit of a good mentor is worth the risk. If they say no, it’s not your fault—they may not feel confident in their mentoring ability, or they may simply not have available margin during that season. Remember that it’s also possible to learn from people unofficially, without a long-term commitment from them. Even one conversation can yield a lot to think about and put into practice.
Do not rebuke an older man harshly, but exhort him as if he were your father. Treat younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, and younger women as sisters, with absolute purity. 1 Timothy 5:1-2 NIV
Boomers, Gen X, Millennials, and Gen Z—we have four generations of adults living together in the world right now. Regardless which generation you fit into, your life will be filled with opportunities to interact with and learn from people of other generations, whether family members, friends, mentors, or coworkers. Sharing diverse experiences and perspectives with other people is one of the best ways to grow.
These relationships can feel awkward to step into if you haven’t had much intergenerational experience so far. One easy way to make interactions more productive is to spend time with others without an agenda. Whether you’re talking with a new coworker over lunch, a retiree while volunteering, or someone in an entirely different setting, just do your best to find out more about their story. Also, remember that their life experiences are likely very different from your own. When you set aside your expectations for how others should talk and act, that can help you approach someone with more understanding and patience.
As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another. Proverbs 27:17 NIV
Looking for a practical on-ramp to new friendships and lasting relationships? A LifeGroup can be a great place to start. LifeGroups are made up of people of varying ages, backgrounds, and stages of life who meet regularly (usually weekly) and grow together. These gatherings can consist of anything from an hour of intense Bible study to a Skee-Ball session with prayer afterward. The point of a LifeGroup is to bring people together to create real relationships and encourage one another in following Jesus together.
The previous sections may have seemed challenging. Thankfully, LifeGroups are an easier way to start and deepen relationships without the awkward texting or calling to ask someone if they want to get together. Meeting together regularly comes built in! Learn more about LifeGroups and get connected, whether online or in person.
Jesus replied: “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” Matthew 22:37-39 NIV
Here’s an amazing thought: The God of the universe cares about having a relationship with you. When God created the land, oceans, and sky, he said they were good. When He designed the sun, moon, stars, plants and animals, He said they were good, too. But it wasn’t until He made people in His own image that He called the situation very good.
Our self-centered actions and thoughts separate us from God. But God loves us so much that He sent His Son, Jesus, to the cross to restore relationship with us. We can know this God who loves us because of the price Jesus paid on our behalf. How can you have a relationship with God? By spending intentional time with Him. You can talk to Him, slow down and listen to His Spirit, get to know Him in the Bible, interact with Him out in nature, and follow the example of love Jesus showed us. Do you want this kind of relationship? All it takes is one step of faith to start.
With all these options, you might not know which step to take next. Whether you prefer to read more, watch a video, listen to a podcast, or just jump in and meet some new people, here are helpful resources to start building relationships with God and the people around you:
- The Importance of Healthy Friendships
- Mentoring Relationships: How to Find Them, Why They Matter, and What I’ve Learned
- Want to Improve Your Relationship? Live Intentionally
- 5 Ways to Build Lasting Friendships