All too often in our lives, we lose focus of the importance of relationships. Whether it be with a significant other, a close friend or group of friends, or your family members, all of these relationships need a significant amount of nurturing and care. It is not enough to gain and collect relationships with others — you need to assure they continue to not only remain, but to thrive. This takes your time and your attention.

In today’s fast-paced world, we tend to place relationships low on the list of things to attend to. Sometimes, we don’t even realize there is a need to attend to one’s relationships. We say, “Ahh, Jack… He’s alright. I should call him sometime and see what he’s doing this weekend. But I got to finish this project for work…” Instead, we should be saying, “Jack’s a good friend and I need to do something with him this weekend. Work will always be there, but good friends are hard to find.” This may seem a little silly to some people, but it is the very thing which distinguishes good, healthy relationships from dying and unimportant ones.

Relationships need as much, if not more attention, than nearly everything else in our lives. Because relationships are about people, not things. Being social creatures, human beings crave social contacts and actually need them… You can probably do without a 27″ screen TV, but you’d have a much more difficult time doing without a friend.

You think you get along fine without friends? Well, sure, some people seem to get along better without them than others. I’m speaking in generalities here… Most people need them.

Contrary to what some people might tell you, who your relationships are with is not as important as how healthy they are. It is not important whether you have stronger bonds with a good friend rather than your family. What is important is that you have a few good, strong relationships in your life, no matter who they are with. Even online friends count, since strong social support is what leads people to live a longer, less stressful life.

And yes, even your relationship with your doctor or therapist needs attention. It is especially easy to take for granted that since you’re paying your doctor, nothing more needs to be done in terms of the quality of your relationship. Yet I find, all too often, people find it difficult to sometimes talk to their doctors. This difficulty seems especially true for people who have simple questions about their medication and are afraid to bring them up with their doctor. The questions might range from, “Is it normal for me to be throwing up every morning since I started this new medication?” to, “I wasn’t expecting X side effect! What can you do to help me lessen it?”

Maybe this is because of the type of doctor you’re seeing. Maybe you’re hesitant to ask because you think the doctor will think less of you. But guess what — it doesn’t matter! What matters is what you plan on doing about it. The sooner you ask, the sooner you will increase your knowledge and decrease whatever problems you are experiencing. This openness is an important part of the relationship, and it is a part that both you and your doctor should work on building.

This week, look to the relationships in your life and give a little more attention and nurturing to those which are important to you, but which may have fallen a little by the wayside. You will feel better in the end that you did, and the recipient of your attentions will also greatly appreciate it!

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A similar column as this one originally appeared on the now defunct Prodigy Internet’s Mental Health area.

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