Even in the best of circumstances, relationships require work. Whether it’s family, friends, or coworkers, interacting with other people (even those we love) can be confusing and exhausting at times. 

If you find yourself dreading interactions with a specific person, or you feel some underlying tension, your relationship might need a tune-up. Here are some steps you can take to get back on track. 

Get Honest

Are you irritated or resentful toward someone close to you? If so, have you talked to him or her about it? It isn’t easy to bring up difficult topics, but unresolved issues tend to grow, not go away. If these feelings have been simmering for awhile, it’s probably time to get honest. Set aside some time to sort through your thoughts and feelings; it may help to write them down. Try to pinpoint what sparked the resentment, and your own role in the situation. Once you have a handle on the issue, approach the other person in a calm and positive way. Confronting conflicts can be downright scary, but letting them fester doesn’t do anyone any good. If there’s an elephant in the room, discuss it. It takes too much energy to keep things bottled up inside.

Build Boundaries

There’s a saying: “people treat us how we let them treat us.” There’s nothing wrong with having standards, yet we often feel guilty or unjustified if we attempt to enforce them. Be honest about behavior that is unacceptable to you, and stand your ground. Bending to please others will only create more resentment. People have no way of knowing what you want unless you ask for it. Their actions will tell you whether they respect and value your company.

Be Patient

If you are working through issues, don’t expect things to change overnight. Yes, you should see immediate signs that everyone is making an effort (yourself included!) but change takes time. 

Instead of dwelling on what’s still not working, acknowledge any improvements. Focus on the positive, even if you have to remind people of your boundaries or the agreements you’ve made. We are all works-in-progress, so be patient and kind to yourself and those around you.

Know When to Walk Away

Unfortunately, even when we have the best of intentions and do everything right, our efforts to repair a relationship may fail and you may need to walk away from a relationship, or at least take a break. 

If you get to this point, make a final attempt to communicate with the other person. If the same negative, destructive patterns continue, you’ll need to create some distance, even if it’s  temporary.

Working on a relationship is seldom easy but it’s almost always worth it. The holiday season is around the corner, so try to clear up conflicts before you sit across from someone at the pressure cooker also known as Thanksgiving dinner. Be honest, be kind, be patient.