The Most Important Thing You Can Do in Any Relationship

Without this, little else matters.

We require similar things from different types of relationships. Basic needs must be met in order to sustain the health of any connection, whether it is familial, friendly or romantic. We must feel safe and protected, valued, respected, supported and of course, loved. Yet, one thing matters above all else. Well, maybe not necessarily above, but it carries tremendous weight and serves as an indicator of the aforementioned elements. Think about when you’ve felt the most cared for. The people you’ve felt closest to and the best relationships may not be with those you’ve known the longest or have the most fun with — It’s the ones who SHOW UP for you. Showing up, simply being there is the single most important thing that you can do in any relationship.

I say simply, but if it were so simple why don’t more people do it? Showing up demands moments of selflessness. It means going to things you don’t really want to go to in support of someone else. It means being somewhere with someone, when you’d rather be anywhere else. Going out of your way to make time and ensure your presence is felt is essential. That’s why it means so much. Gifts are nice, as are compliments, fancy dinners and outings. But there’s something about the consideration of showing up that speaks volumes.

Showing Up for Friends

May entail purchasing books you don’t really want to read, going to plays when you’re not into theater, and venturing over to hear a friend’s band perform at a local dive bar. When we create or are passionate about something, we’re already a bit self-conscious about how it will be received. So, trust that your support means even more than it normally would during these times.

Celebrate your friend’s successes, and comfort them through losses. Cancel your date if a friend calls bawling his or her eyes out after learning of a death in the family. Go to them. Let them know they aren’t alone in the world. If a friend has suffered disappointment, serious illness or is just having a rough go of things lately, stop by and just sit with them — at a hospital, at home, wherever they are. Talk about whatever they want. Take them out for coffee or a drink. It doesn’t have to be anything extravagant. You are the most vital component. Make sure friends know you’re there when they need you, and available even when they don’t, in case they do.

Showing Up for Family

Includes all the ways you should show up for friends plus doing so even when surrounded by other family members. Don’t let your brother get ragged on and embarrassed at family gatherings. Ganging up on someone is rarely productive. If you agreed with your sister in private, voice your support as well when the topic comes up again and everyone else disagrees. Stand up for your mom when your dad and others scoff at her desire to finish her college degree at age 65. Make a fuss about your dad on his birthday even though he doesn’t. Bring a gift to your niece’s baby shower even if you think she’s too young to start a family.

Familial units have so many layers. They can get uncomfortable and downright weird. We sometimes extend family less consideration because of higher expectations, or even anger. Showing up doesn’t imply approval or agreement, it just helps in not creating or widening a divide.

Showing Up for a Partner

Involves all the ways you show up for family and friends plus placing an emphasis on things that make your romantic partner feel loved and desired. If you know they had a bad day, have dinner ready and cue up their favorite movie when they come home. If they get a promotion at work, run out and get a cake that says ‘congratulations.’ Make a big deal out of it. Go to the Christmas parties and company picnics. Don’t have them thanking a person who’s never in attendance when receiving recognition. Listen to them talk about things you may not have an interest in or possibly even understand. Even when you don’t necessarily believe in their dreams, believe in them.

Show up. Show up. Show all the way up. Please. You have no idea the difference that your presence or lack thereof can make on someone that you love. Showing up is what helps solidify a relationship. It doesn’t have to be something as huge as attending a wedding, that’s a no-brainer. It’s those seemingly less meaningful things that may not appear like much to you but that someone really cares about. Overlooking or dismissing them leads to hurt feelings and irrevocably strained relationships.

Life is filled with major frustrations and endless struggle. We all could use a little extra support from time to time. And when we’re are happy or excited about something, we’d love for others to be happy with and for us.

Make no mistake, we can show up for people without fail and when it’s their turn they will let us down, repeatedly. Show up anyway. Maybe not for them anymore, but for someone. If we are to have any shot at building something worthwhile with anyone, we must.

Author of the critically acclaimed book on women and relationship status, “Single That.”

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