Water is powerful. Necessary for life, it’s also one of nature’s most destructive forces. It can rage quickly in a storm, leaving chaos and significant damage, or slowly erode over time, ruining a landscape or structure beyond repair.

Human interactions are susceptible to the same kind of damage. Both a sudden torrent of angry words or repeated passive-aggressive comments can wear down and change a relationship.

Like home maintenance, doing an annual self-check for leaks, areas needing repair, and possible upgrades to prevent relationship damage is worthwhile. Here’s how:

Check your gutters.

Do your words and actions flow smoothly, or is there an overflow of gossip, innuendos, spiteful
comments, and negative thoughts toward others clogging your interactions? Has a blockage based on an old confrontation built up over time that now seems impossible to break through?

A watered-down version of yourself.

Whether an adult beverage, coffee, tea, or lemonade, being served a watered-down drink makes us feel short changed and cheated. The same applies to our relationships. If you’ve watered down your interactions, you’ll never have the whole experience of fully enjoying someone’s company or them yours. A few ways we water down include only communicating by text, going along with someone else’s wishes – even when they don’t match our principles, talking about others and judging their actions, and only discussing safe subjects such as kids, school, sports, the weather, etc. All these make for an empty interaction with little to grow on.

Try this: Think of someone you interact with regularly, yet the relationship feels superficial or empty. Search your memory for how your conversations flow. Are they one-sided, where you let the other person do all the talking? Or do you monopolize the conversation? Do you plaster on a fake smile when you see them or agree with what they say to avoid confrontation? Is there a good back-and-forth discussion, or are topics confined to a small box of the latest weather forecast, how’s-the-family, or vacation plans? Ask yourself how you can share a more genuine version of yourself. It might include reevaluating whether you even want a relationship with that person. If yes, then change it up! The next time you see them, focus on them, be genuinely present in the moment, and really try to build a stronger bond. Look at them as if you are seeing them for the first time.

DIY or hire a professional?

Many free resources are available online to help you recognize issues and breakdowns in your communication style. Equally, there are suggestions and fixes to try. Sometimes, however, it’s best to consult with a professional if you feel out of your depth and unsure where to start, especially if you suspect your mental health needs a tweak.

Maintenance issues.

The older the drainpipes, the more maintenance issues there are, right? Not necessarily so. Yes, physical structures – and our bodies – break down over time, but by paying them regular attention, we can prolong healthy existence. The key is identifying and proactively working on concerns before they develop into issues. Consistently monitoring for leaks and addressing weak spots is more effective than waiting until the entire ceiling falls in after a big rainstorm. Identifying and working on ourselves over time means we will be well-positioned to face challenges, usually with more sustainable results, and in a way that benefits all.

Water is the source of all life. Let’s aim to have all our relationships flow gently.