The older I get the more I’m impressed with how long-term relationships enrich my life. This not only applies to my spouse of almost 35 years but many other people who I love and adore.
I recently sat around a table with family, some long-term friends and some longer term friends. We were planning a Dawson family celebration and each person brought a unique talent and perspective on what might be fun and meaningful from the history that we had shared over the years.
I was suddenly overwhelmed by a feeling of gratitude and love for these special people who were once again pouring into the life of our family, this time to celebrate a milestone. To have these close friends excited to make this special time even more significant by helping with the celebration means they value me and our family as important in their lives, just as we value theirs. What a joy and how honored I felt by the love being poured out.
There is a tremendous value in engaged long-term relationships with friends and family. Some might argue that family relationships aren’t something you can get out of. Just because you’re related to someone doesn’t mean you have an engaged relationship with them.
Relationship by definition: the way in which two or more people,
groups, countries, etc., talk to, behave toward, and deal with each other.
Steps to an Engaged Relationship
1) Finding Common Connection: It is usually easiest to connect with people where we have something or someone in common. This could be family, kids, faith, work, sports, hobby, civic cause, illness, location (neighbors), etc. There are many avenues to connect with people. And sometimes we have to cultivate these; they don’t happen just by osmosis.
2) Sharing the Common Connection: Whatever connects the two of you, begin sharing opinions and developing ideas together to create a mutual history and flavor.
3) Share more of yourself: Sharing your ideas, opinions, like and dislikes, creativity and talents can help develop a relationship on a deeper level. As you get to know what makes someone else “tick” then you can understand more about how they think and why they feel the way they do about life. Cultivate shared meaning!
4) Care more about your friend than yourself: Don’t make life all about you. Think of others often before yourself and this will go a long way to developing an enriching relationship.
The steps above are the steps to begin a fairly surface relationship, but what is it that makes a relationship rich and fulfilling to your heart over the years? There are lots of events and emotions that bring us close so let’s just list a few.
If your usual relationship pattern is to make yourself sub-servant to others, take item #4 with caution. Mutually engaged relationships DO NOT include one person always being in charge and the other is there only to service. Healthy relationships are mutually beneficial, give and take, serving and being served.
1) Sharing – being open and vulnerable to let someone know how we feel about things and why we feel this way.
2) Joy – honest celebration on a deep level for the good things in either person’s life.
3) Laughter – there’s something so basic about sharing a good belly laugh with a friend. The precious giggle you hear from a 3 month old baby that turns into a big laugh as they get older is one of the most basic ways a parent and child connect. Besides the obvious physical benefits of laughing (smiling does so much for us mentally) there are hormones released in our human brains that make us feel better all over when we laugh.
4) Sorrow – There’s nothing quite as connecting as being there for someone in a time of great sorrow. It can be uncomfortable for us, not knowing what to say or how to connect with someone who is extremely sad. Sometimes just saying, “I don’t know what to say” is the perfect way to express care and concern.
The Cost of Long-Term Relationships
Walking through life and emotions with others is how we connect. The rich feeling of being cared for and loved comes through long-term relationships but there is a cost. The cost is time and time is a limited resource. No one in this world can create any more of it and so my advice is to choose those people you want to have long-term relationships with very carefully. There is a cost of time and emotional energy that when spent on one person, cannot be spent on another.
I am not saying that you shouldn’t develop relationships with people who cannot, for various reasons, pour back into your life. Sometimes a one-sided relationship can be very rewarding. However for choosing those Long Term Relationships choose wisely.
The Benefits of Long-Term Relationships
As I said in the beginning of this blog, the benefits of these rich, engaged, long-term relationships are a sense of community, gratitude and love for these special people. It is an honor and privilege to have them in my life and be loved by them over the years. Definitely worth the effort!