Simplify Your Relationships | The Best Way to Build Healthy Relationships

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By Josh Rueff on May 08, 2013

Define the Purpose of Your Relationships

“Treasure your relationships, not your possessions.

-Anthony J. D’Angelo

The word “relationship” covers a very broad spectrum of social roles and functions. There are relationships built on love and trust, relationships that revolve around political alliances, and relationships that exist for nothing more than hedonistic pleasure. Defining the purpose of your relationship will help you separate the good from the bad. Here’s a few common relationship purposes:

1. Business alliances: To climb the corporate ladder.

2. Political alliances: To climb the political ladder.

3. Love: To give and receive the romantic, sensual, brotherly, or unconditional gift of love.

4. Intimacy: To feel and help others feel a sense of belonging.

5. Fun: To enjoy life with people.

6. Status: To make yourself and/or other people look good.

7. Workplace: To achieve a common goal in the workplace.

8. Organizational: To achieve a common goal in an organization.

9. Mentoring: To help other people reach a certain goal.

10. Family: To fulfill an obligation for some, to belong and help other members of the family belong for others, and for still others, a combination of a number of the purposes listed above.

Understand Your Role

“Yet, taught by time, my heart has learned to glow for other’s good, and melt at other’s woe.”


What role do you play in your relationships, and does that role fit in with your desired purpose?

If your desire is to cultivate mutually beneficial, close friendships that give a sense of belonging, but most of your time is spent pursuing business relationships, maybe it’s time to cut back on the work to spend time on what fulfills you (and other people) more.

Chasing after unfulfilling relationships not only keeps you from the best in life, but others as well – think of what you have to offer to others; what they can learn from you, how they can benefit from your optimism, quirkiness, ethics, drive, or other personality traits.

Determine Their Role

“Staying in a relationship with someone who doesn’t appreciate you isn’t loyalty, it’s stupidity.”


This is a great way to determine the health of your relationships. Be honest with yourself, but remember that this is not a pass or fail test. Your focus is only on the present so you can improve the future. Keep your mindset on forward thinking, not what you should have done or how you wish things could be.

To determine whether your relationships are healthy, you need to think about your needs as well, separate from your desire to help and benefit others.

Ask yourself:

1. What kinds of friends/acquaintances do I have?

2. How do my relationships benefit me?

3. Are my relationships compatible with my purpose for having relationships?

4. Where do my relationships take me in life?

5. Do my relationships help me meet my needs?

Be Aware of Time Constraints

“Lost time is never found again.
-Benjamin Franklin

The most overused statement in the English language is “I just don’t have enough time”. As you apply the minimalist concepts of simplification, you gain increasing amounts of extra time. -Read more.

However, even when we simplify and create additional time, that time always gets filled by something, quickly. Evaluate the time you spend in your relationships, and do your best to get the most out of the least amount of time.

Compare the amount of time spent on building relationships to other important areas of your life, and determine whether you should be spending less or more time on them.

Simplify Your Relationships

The concept is simple. Carrying it out may not be so simple.

Keep these things in mind as you simplify your relationships:

1. Less is more: This is the prevailing philosophy of minimalism, and it hasn’t failed me yet. The fewer unhealthy relationships you have the better – that much is obvious – the hard part is cutting time from good relationships if you fee you need to focus on higher priority relationships like your wife and kids.

2. Setting priorities is a necessity in relationships: People tend to feel guilty about the thought of setting priorities on relationships, let alone taking action on those priorities by cutting time from some to focus on others. It may seem callous, but you have to get over it – time is the most valuable commodity, and sharing your time is a gift. You can’t give everyone everything. Be wise about who you give your time to.

3. Everyone has feelings: A lot of men consider emotional constipation – or the more preferred term, stoicism – as an essential part of their manhood. That doesn’t make it okay to trample their imaginary absence of feelings. Although my natural instinct is to confront and speak the truth, this is one of the rare situations that calls for less blunt truth, and more subtle tact. I’m not saying to lie – I’ll never say that for both moral reasons and philosophical reasons (lying complicates and is thus the enemy of the minimalist lifestyle). However, I don’t see anything but a lose-lose in addressing the issue. It’s best to make your decisions, carry them out, and let time take it’s course.

4. Be aware of what you’re losing: Simplifying almost always results in some form of sacrifice. Shredding fat from your body is a painful process, both on the diet side and exercise. The same goes for relationships. Most friendships and other social ties exist for a reason. There’s always some kind of benefit on both sides; that’s what makes a relationship a relationship – there’s no such thing as a one sided relationship because the fact that it’s one sided voids the relationship “status”. Be aware that you’ll be giving something up, and be prepared to accept that. But don’t dwell on it.

5. Keep the focus on what you’re gaining: The end goal and the benefits you’re gaining – that’s where your focus should be. Simplifying will benefit you with more fulfilling relationships – one’s that add more value to you, and one’s you can add more value to.


1. Define the purpose of your relationships.

2. Understand your role.

3. Determine their roles.

4. Be aware of time constraints.

5. Simplify your relationships.

Good luck!



  1. Neil Houghton May 14, 2013 at 8:11 pm #

    This is good…things we must all take into consideration at some point. I have found “Less is more” to be particularly difficult with friends I have had since childhood. It’s hard when you have memories…a history with a person, but it’s not always a healthy or beneficial relationship. Tough place to be.


  2. sneakerologist June 23, 2013 at 11:23 pm #

    This is a great post, Josh! I find it difficult to manage relationships when they change in nature, especially if it only changes for one person.


    • Josh June 26, 2013 at 10:13 am #

      I hear you sneakerologist, been there – certainly is a fact! Thanks for the comment, always good to see you (:



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