10 Areas of Life – Part 2: Partner, Family, Friends

Part 1, introduced the 10 Areas of Life and further elaborated on the 3 health areas: Physical, Mental, Financial. This post covers the people aspects: Partner, Family, and Friends.

1. Partner

3 lessons on dating, and 3 lessons on being in a relationship.

Lesson #1: First be complete with who you are, before considering a new relationship

This is hands down the most important truth I learned when I was single / in between relationships.

If you’re not complete with who you are, then you’re probably not ready for a new relationship. It’s unhealthy, unfair, and perhaps even dangerous to rely on someone else to complete you.

Rather than trying harder to attract people, instead focus on becoming better. Eat well. Exercise. Do things that make you feel alive. And be in that mindset that you’re meeting new people because you want to share the good life you’re already living with them.

I strongly disagree with:

“Perhaps it is true that we do not really exist until there is someone there to see us existing… in essence, we are not wholly alive until we are loved.” – Alain de Botton, Essays in Love (1993)

But I strongly agree with:

“The problem with needing others to legitimize our existence is that we are very much at their mercy to have a correct identity ascribed to us.”– Alain de Botton, Essays in Love (1993)

Simply put, if you don’t like yourself, how can you expect others to like you?

“If you’re lonely when you’re alone, you’re in bad company” – Satre

Lesson #2: Date with sincerity

When going on dates in my youth, there were countless times when I over-analyzed and over-complicated every experience.

Eventually I came to understand that dating is simply about showing them who you are, making it easy and fun to see who you are, and just enjoying the conversation and time spent togethe – regardless of where it ends up. Cherish it as an incredibly unique way of getting to know another human being. Everyone has an interesting story. If it leads to meeting again then cool, if doesn’t then cool. Be sincere, but also ditch the unnecessary heaviness.

Lesson #3: Celebrate rejections 

Learn to accept, welcome, or even celebrate rejections.

“I don’t understand why people get mad when they get rejected by somebody or something. They have done you a favor by not wasting your time.”

Also learn to reject others quickly and directly. It may hurt them to suddenly cut things off as soon as you realise you don’t see it going anywhere. But wouldn’t it hurt them even more if you drag things on when you don’t see it going anywhere? It’s unfair, disrespectful, and just plain mean to waste their time.

Lesson #4: One way to tell if your relationship is healthy is by asking “Are you both becoming better people as you spend more time together?”

Some couples lift each other up. Others, tragically, drag each other down.

Lesson #5: Over-communicate in your relationship

It’s usually better to risk being annoying by over-communicating, than to risk creating distance by under-communicating.

Lesson #6: The 5 Languages changes faster than you may think

The 5 Love Languages (quality time, acts of service, words of affirmation, physical touch, and gifts) changes surprisingly quickly. So it’s worth revisiting what yours are now (way you like to give vs way you like to receive), and also what their preferences are.

2. Family

Lesson #7: Spend quality time with your parents before they get old

Key word here is quality. There exists a golden window when you’re:
(i) you’re old enough to truly appreciate what your parents have done for you, and
(ii) you’re old enough to have some money to treat them to incredible experiences, and
(iii) they’re young enough to enjoy them

Make the most of it. You never know when they might be gone.

Lesson #8: Return your parent’s unconditional love

When you’re young you think your parents are the smartest. As you get older, you realize they are human beings with flaws. As you get even older, you realize actually they have a lot of marvelous qualities that you didn’t fully appreciate before.

They may share starkly different worldviews – on political and social issues, on parenting styles. They may even lecture you to do factually unscientific things – especially during the pandemic when eveyrone was suddenly a health expert. They may have said things in the past that cut you deep.

Just remember they were raised in a different place and time (especially if you have immigrant parents). Recognise that they are humans no different to you. Return the unconditional love to your parents.

3. Friends

Lesson #9: You will continue to make new friends

In my mid-late-20s I had this irrational fear that whatever friends I have now, that’s it.

I couldn’t be more wrong. Some whom I consider my closest friends now, I met only a few years ago. Maybe it’s because when you click with someone later in life you really click with them. Maybe, for me at least, it’s because it’s rare to find people with similar interests, so when we meet, we both recognise how rare and special that is. I’m excited going into my 30s because I think I’ll meet even more people with shared thinking and interests.

Also remain open minded to to re-connecting. The world is small place and you never know when and where you’ll bump into old friends again. 

Lesson #10: Appreciate your oldest friends, but also accept that some friendships naturally drift apart.

Especially if you’re changing too quickly. It can confuse your friends that have known you longest. They could be suspicious that you are faking it. Pretending to be someone you are not. Don’t take yourself too seriously. And just show them that you are still you.

If they are good friends, remember that they have a good intent. Also make it easy for them to accept the newer aspects of you. Show them parts of your old selves and gradually transition into the newer aspects of yourself.

Also remember that life’s too short for flaky friends. If someone flakes on you multiple times, just let it be. Maybe now is not a good time for them. Or maybe they aren’t interested in spending time with you anymore. Don’t hold any ill feelings about it, just accept that it is. If they want to re-connect later then cool, if they don’t then cool.

Lesson #11: Don’t push those with drastically different political views away.

The curated content / social media bubble / positive feedback loops / echo chamber stuff is very real and very scary (See This Person Does Not Exist: Deep Fakes and Synthetic Truth for more on this).

You don’t have to hang out with them all the time. But it’s important to proactively listen to the opinions of those you disagree with – assuming you care more about getting it right than being right.

Lesson #12: Having great friends is an incredible luxury that not everyone is fortunate to have 

I really subscribe to the notion that “your network is your net worth.” I’d go to great lengths for my closest friends. And I’m grateful that I have many that’d (I think) do the same for me. I like to tell myself “If I happen to be really unlucky and incompetent, at least I have good friends who will be there for me. If there’s one thing I’ve achieved in life it’s this.”

Be grateful for those you have in your life.

Partner questions for introspection:

  • Have you been a good partner? Have you been giving your best effort into the relationship?
  • How have the activities / way you spend time together changed over time? 
  • How has the relationship dynamic / way you communicate with each other evolved over time? 
  • Where is the relationship going? What excites you about next year?
  • Are there any areas of discomfort that have not been addressed/brought up? Why not? What are you going to do about it?
  • Are you both becoming better people as you spend more time together?
    Healthy couples push each other up, while unhealthy couples drag each other down.

Family questions for introspection:

  • How are your parents’ physical and mental health? How do they like to spend their time?
  • If they have any unhealthy habits, how could you help them?
  • How’s your relationship with your parents and siblings? How has the dynamic changed over time?
  • If one of them suddenly got into a fatal accident, would there be anything you regret not telling them earlier?

Friend questions for introspection:

  • Who do you consider as your closest friends? Would they say the same?
  • How do you define close?
  • Would you invite them to your 30th? 40th? 50th? Will they be at your wedding? Your funeral?
  • If you didn’t see them for a year, would it feel like there’s distance that has grown between you? Or would you just pick off wherever you left things last as if the year never went by? What about 5 years? 
  • Who are people you don’t see / talk to often, but still consider them as good friends?
  • How to distinguish acquaintance vs friend: would you want to have 1 on 1 lunch with them?
  • How has the activities, interests and conversation topics changed over time?
  • Which friends would you like to interact with more next year? Which friends would you like to interact with less?
  • What kind of friend are you? How do you add value to others’ lives? (entertainment is a valid value)



10 Areas of Life Series:

  • Part 1 introduces the 10 Areas of Life goes into 3 sustainability enablers: Physical, Mental, and Financial Health.
  • Part 2 covers the people and relationship elements: Partner, Family, and Friends.
  • Part 3 covers the value creation elements: Career and Contribution.
  • Part 4 (coming soon) will cover the experience elements: Intellectual and Adventure

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