Connectivity is an essence in life. Aptitude for life in enjoying the warmth of relationships is innate, that you can nurture. You can take stock. You can make some concrete actionable changes. Speaking for myself, my kindergarten soul sister and lifer at our school who lives in London suddenly got back into my life. My son asked, why did you lose touch with her in the first place. No apparent reason, but life got busy. I asked my self- Really? Now we let no Sunday pass without seeing each other even for a minute. We have too many memories and common ground to let that preciousness be not preserved.
Talking of intergenerational relationships- with parents, spouses or children, do you have rituals with them? They may be kissing or hugging goodbye each day as you part for the day and unite or kissing goodnight or calling them daily at a particular time on the phone. I think they are neat ways to create a consistent memory, your signature way of doing things. A young couple I know use the app ‘Love Nudge’ to remind them to express love to each other in desirable ways.
Hang on, what if you are mad with them one day? Arguments bring the truth through facts we won’t otherwise exchange. I truly think they are inevitable and healthy. What is the use of sulking if you are going to keep them? So, I say, it serves well to wrap the argument using the reset button. It is ok to say ‘Forgive me’ right? At times, the one who is not able to produce that sorry word may be asked (I suggest looking into the eyes) to “Say Sorry.” That makes the “climbing down process” easy. I really think it is much better to not fight though, and not raise the temperatures way too high. It gets too ugly with deep scars that will be hard to heal. Perhaps “checking for our blind spots” to not throw personal slights or humiliating might be an actionable item.
There will be sensitive areas among your loved ones with certain buttons that you press that may hurt them. If you are the best friend and have their back, will you be mean to them? ‘No’ right? There will be such landmines or difficult areas or taboo topics in interpersonal relationships. If you are not causing them, and there is no way to solve them, it is ok to let them be. You may need help to have open communication. But, one also needs to know not to push things to repair beyond a point and annoy people, and more importantly disappoint yourself. Know when to let go like the serenity prayer.
I always think in a couple’s relationship, there is one that can lead the two when things are falling apart. I know that it is important to think and treat each other as equals. I know that individuals are unique in the strengths they bring to the relationship and life together. That said, at an emotional level, maturity and depth, and/or based on the topic at question, one person may need to serve as a leader more than the other and smoothen the wrinkles through calm reassurance or problem solving or giving-in or whatever it takes in that context. Adjustment and acceptance go a long way.
Jealousy and control among young couples can niggle away. Say, a girl maybe a kindred spirit who loves the guy but charming with everyone else around as she is built that way. If you are insecure, you tend to create a war within your head. You look like a gentleman if you invest in enjoying the relationship and letting it settle than question and prod and shoot in your foot. Then comes the possessiveness and jealousy towards the inlaws. Love is like a rubber band and the kind of love towards partner and parents are two different kinds of love. Know that and don’t be in a scarcity mindset. An extension of such tension erupts in divided families. I ask parents to just focus on caring for your child under your roof and let go of the control under the other roof (unless there is abuse).
One thing I am noticing a lot is the angst some adult children feel about their own parents. I think most parents mean well and love their kids, but are sitting ducks of their own baggage and subculture from their childhood. The interesting thing is several millennials who are accusative of their parents also go on to lean on them for financial help or any other help during the crisis (which by the way is understandable and ok, but look at 360 degrees). It is tempting to egg on when one cannot take responsibility and become negative. In an ideal world, unless there is abuse, this can be solved through compassion, gratitude and negotiating one’s own blind spots. We are all big boys and big girls, yes?
Another thing. People constantly complain about their partners of the opposite gender that they don’t quite get it, I mean, they don’t meet all their projected needs. No one person can be all of what you need and should not be expected to! Recognize complementary relationships. Girls need girlfriends and guys need guy friends. We may plan accordingly to give some space and add some extra fun. Phone calls, coffee afternoons, lunches, dinners, trips whatever you can afford or fit in.
A lot of folks consistently tell me how they are seeking friendships and social platforms. It is amazing to me how great they are as individuals, yet not finding friends easily! Maybe you can initiate a gathering by pooling those you know some, and not be intimidated by it. That way, you have control over your schedule too. I always recommend activity or a small tapas dinner even, to add ambiance. One of my friends joined a historic walking group in town that takes 6-mile walks on weekends. I know of folk who made friendship groups around their gym membership. I know of an extremely anxious young woman who is a great baker and decorator who took cakes and added value to the Haloween office party that wooed people who now glued to her. And then, some who went to a hike to see fall colors with their undergrad friends. I know that availability is important and that is why having a list of at least a dozen close contacts is optimal if all your contacts are super active, but start with even one! We make dinner dates with friends weeks, and at times, months in advance to make it work. That date will come sooner than you expect.
Friendships are all kinds, some very close and others a bit less close. What you share with each individual is also different. I encourage people to not think all or none criteria of suiting your likes and dislikes as far as they fit your values. I often draw the visual diagram of concentric circles around a person with various levels of closeness; It is not stationary either as you move them in and out of circles at times, as life is dynamic and consists of developmental phases. Weed out toxic people, we don’t need them right?! We deserve love and happiness. Ideally, we all like WOFIs- WARM, OPEN, FUN and INTELLIGENT (Not talking Einsteins here, but those who can connect). Do not settle for onesided relationships where you are pleasing the other, or imagine they are onesided when they are not and start appreciating.
People find discussing negative things as burdensome. Turning their friends into therapists is no picnic! In scenario one, there is such a thing as oversharing. In scenario two, people put up huge filters when they need to be intimate. End of the day, sharing with the right people, being honest and plain may serve well. It is a matter of judgment. We all need to give advice only on the provision that we are not responsible for the outcome; we mean well and that is the end of the story. I think that in the spirit of everything in moderation, you lean on each other some, but also know the limitations. Always think of balancing some negative things with positive things. See, even you do not want to be Negative Nelly as you end up feeling too sorry for yourself. When you add value to those around you, you ‘hear your own voice’ adding value to yourself too. Share with others good secrets of how your life is made better with your own actionable items. Bring in your spirit!
We are GungHo about giving, fine and good. But there are a lot of mere takers too! I think the taking is not their intrinsic fault perhaps, but they are not prepared in life to be thinking of the nuances of ‘give and take’ in relationships! You should not be depleted in relationships. My common lore is bend as far as others bend as well, and give as far as you don’t expect in return! That way, you avoid resentment! One thing I tell my boys, never ever visit anyone’s home with empty hands and if in doubt whether to send a thank you card, always send one!
If you are not the type to cook, entertain in your home, an idea would be to meet in a familiar local cafe, like “my trattoria” mentioned in an article in WSJ recently. It gives you a sense of security to have familiar staff and an extended kitchen like atmosphere in your neighborhood. Marc and Angel’s words ring true: Be present with what matters most. There are few joys in life that equal a good conversation, a good story, a good laugh, a good hug, or a good friend.
A 10-year-old child rolled into my office in a wheelchair, a twin of my patient. He was so radiant, happy and full of life that nothing affects him. So confident, what a gift! He instantly became my guru, I took a picture with his permission and saved it and wanted to carry him in my pocket if I could! I like to conclude emphasizing what you know that self-compassion is more important than self-esteem. Yes, stop being mean to yourself. Start being kind to yourself. Stop giving power to others like they are important than you. Others’ riches or beauty or power do not add or subtract from ALL OF WHO YOU ARE! YOU MATTER THE MOST!
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