How to Love the Hard-to-Love People in Your Life
You know who they are. The needy friend. The bothersome great-aunt. Teenagers (yours sometimes, everyone else’s all the time). These aren’t people you can cut out of your life. So how do you foster some affection for trying people? Start with these strategies.
This is a story about love. But not the heart-eye-emoji, romantic kind of love (sorry, February). This is a story about how to love family and friends who are part of your life, for better or worse, but whom you don’t always like. “We all have different perspectives and needs. We’re bound to encounter people who are hard to form relationships with,” says Alexandra H. Solomon, PhD, author of Loving Bravely. Sometimes those people are related to you—often, ahem, through marriage—and sometimes they’re thrust upon you (hello, child’s friend who seems to be a first-class meanie but whom your child inexplicably adores). In either case, it’s your job to grow, compromise, and learn to, yes, love, even if it’s in a small and temporary way. And it pays off: “Through cognitive reframing and the occasional heart-to-heart, it’s entirely possible to make long-lasting changes in a currently tenuous relationship,” says Kathryn J. Lively, PhD, a professor of sociology at Dartmouth College who focuses on emotion management. Here are seven common relationships, with advice on how to start—plus long-term ways to work on your happily ever after.