Relationships are essential to leading a happy life. In fact, one could make the argument that all that matters in life is our interaction with each other. Human interaction is necessary; our minds feed off it in order to function properly. In a sense, interaction is what makes us human; healthy, strong relationships teach us to be compassionate and to value life. For this reason, it is crucial we only allow ourselves to engage in good relationships, avoiding negative ones.
However, there is always more we can do to profit from our lives and our relationships. We can focus our energy only on beneficial relationships. Good relationships can be beneficial, but that isn’t always the case. Sometimes, what we consider a good relationship would be better referred to as a relationship that isn’t bad: It’s not exactly good, but it’s not bad, so it’s good by default. The majority of us have at least one or two of these "not bad" relationships. While it may not seem like a big deal to entertain such relationships, it is.
Those who are most present in our lives become significant in our lives, whether we wish for it or not. By simply being present and by our awareness of their presence, these people become a part of our lives, part of us. The brain doesn’t so much forget as it does misfile; all the people that you’ve ever met, those you've even just noticed, are floating around in that head of yours, affecting your thoughts in one way or another -- at least on some occasions.
You won’t notice this, of course, but our memories become points on an intricate web of memories, which connects to full thoughts and later to actions. The more present a person is in our life, the more we interact with him or her, and the more we tend to think about this person. The more we think about him or her, the more he or she influences every other thought that goes on in our heads.
Of course, who’s to say that some poor, or even terrible, relationships don’t lead to great ideas and amazing results? However, seeing as positive relationships lead to a happier you, and since a happier you is a more efficient you, it would be wise to stick with beneficial relationships.
Beneficial relationships come in many shapes and sizes, but what it comes down to is whether or not the total benefit of each relationship has a positive or negative effect on your life. It’s simple math. Take out a piece of paper and list all the perks of being in any given relationship, as well as all the ways you are worse off because of the relationship.
If the difference is positive, the relationship may be worth keeping. The values you assign to each benefit and negative impact are completely up to you. It really depends on what you value the most. For some, relationships are completely about honesty and support; for other’s, it’s all about access to a rooftop pool and a 72-inch TV on game day.
Next, you can’t forget to adjust for the tradeoffs. There is only so much time in a day, and socializing takes up a lot of time. The busier you are with other things, the less time you have to spend on friends and lovers. If we wish to have the best lives we can possibly have, then we have no choice but to prioritize our relationships.
When it comes down to it, for every relationship you have, you are technically giving up the time that could have been occupied by another social interaction, another relationship. This is the tradeoff. Statistically speaking, you’ll be happier if you keep your “close” relationships to about five.
Once you start hitting double digits, each relationship you have begins to suffer because you simply don’t have enough time to maintain them. That’s something I should have mentioned earlier: Relationships require maintenance. But you already knew that.
Deciding which relationships you should keep requires some calculation and deep thought. Usually, relationships don’t need to be cut off entirely. It’s really more about spending time on the relationships that count and, most importantly, decapitating those that are destructive. Unfortunately, this is usually easier said than done.
Even more difficult than ending friendships is cutting off romantic relationships. Usually, the more poisonous these relationships are, the more we try to hang on to them and convince ourselves that they’re actually good for us. Getting your life together takes courage; no one is saying otherwise. It really comes down to how badly you want to reach your full potential, and how happy you'll be getting there.