• Project Adulthood

How to Build and Maintain Healthy Relationships as an Adult

One of my first Valentine's Day memories is my dad peeling off heart-shaped stickers off his work shoes -- stickers that my mom had stuck on the night before in an effort to surprise him. Sadly, my dad did not appreciate the gesture. In fact, he was furious -- he was already late for work.

After my mom’s suggestion that he just wear the shoes as they were, he grew even angrier. What would his colleagues think if he showed up to work wearing shoes that had little hearts all over them? So he kept peeling the stickers off until they were all gone. He then left for work in a huff.

While my dad was annoyed, I was fascinated by the way my mum decided to showcase her love. Sure, it was cheesy. But it was also (I think) creative and fun.

So much so that years later, when I was staying over at my grandma's for Valentine's Day, I did the same to her shoes. Unlike my dad, my Grandma was delighted. And I was delighted that she was delighted. So I upped my game.

Every year after that I'd wake up early on Valentine's Day and get to work. I'd stick heart-shaped stickers onto the mirror in my parents' bathroom, scatter heart-shaped confetti around the house, and leave treats and love letters for my parents on the kitchen table (yes, I was a strange child).

Valentine's Day doesn't mean as much to me anymore. Today, I think it's far more important to show your love for those you care about -- be it your romantic partner, friends, or parents -- all year round.

Unfortunately, the older you get, the harder it becomes to maintain relationships. And don't even get me started on the difficulty of making new friends.

With that in mind, here are a few tips on how to develop healthy relationships:

Romantic relationships

  • On whether they like/love you: If they want to talk to you/see you/be with you, they will make the effort. If they don't, it's probably time you moved on.

  • On arguing: Don't argue when you're tired or hungry; when arguing, remember that it's not you vs. your partner, it's you and your partner vs. the problem; and finally, never ever go to sleep angry.

  • On love: Something I read in the novel "Captain Corelli's Mandolin" has stayed with me: "Love is a temporary madness, it erupts like volcanoes and then subsides. And when it subsides, you have to make a decision. You have to work out whether your roots have so entwined together that it is inconceivable that you should ever part. [...] Love itself is what is left over when being in love has burned away, and this is both an art and a fortunate accident.”


  • On making friends: Get involved in activities that require you to interact with others. Join a club, volunteer, take a community class... But don't expect others to invite you to do things with them. Just like you, most people are afraid of rejection. Or, they may not want to bother you. Be the one to initiate things.

  • On keeping friends: Check up on your friends regularly. A simple "hey, how are you?" can go a long way in maintaining a lifelong friendship. Also, don't be afraid to reach out after a year or two of not talking to them. The worst that can happen is they won't reply.

  • On feeling "boring": Ask questions. Being interested is more important than being interesting -- that's a scientific fact. According to research, there's a strong correlation between question-asking and likeability.

Parent/child relationships

  • On accepting them: Part of growing up is understanding that your parents are flawed human beings doing the best they can with what they've got.

  • On setting boundaries. Whether it's unexpected frequent visits, comments about your weight, or unsolicited input about your partner, be clear about what's off limits and don't give wiggle room.

Do you have any tips on how to develop & keep healthy relationships? Share them below!

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