What was my general intention?
I was addressing what I perceived as a great imbalance. Socially I’d never been busier and yet I wasn’t spending enough time with some of the people I really cared about.
I tried all kinds of ways to keep and stay in touch with my loved ones. I believe that we must try to express our love in the ways that we are able and to receive love when it is offered in return. Our relationships are absolutely essential. We can be in poor health and still be happy because we are surrounded by our friends.
I live abroad from my family and many of my friends so keeping in touch isn’t as simple as popping round for a coffee. Everyone is busy so for a lot of people this can be the case even if you live on the same street. As a result of my efforts I learned a thing or two about some ways to get the most out of keeping in touch. Here’s some practical tips.
Some people love to text back and forth like a conversation. Others hate the phone but will Skype for an hour. It could be that face to face is the only option.
Using the wrong method can create a barrier and using the right method can make a great step towards keeping you connected.
If you are always at your friend’s house it’s your turn to invite them over to yours.
If someone has a lot of commitments or is going through a tough time cut them some slack. The important thing is that everyone tries to keep in touch. Sometimes all we can do is try to keep the friendship intact until the day things ease up.
If contact is not happening naturally, encourage it to happen unnaturally by picking a date together and trying to stick to it. Plans can change but it’s more likely to happen if you’ve been looking forward to it for 3 weeks.
Don’t over/under book
If you feel rushed and hassled or, even worse, resentful, you may have overbooked. You don’t need to see everyone every week or even every month. Less can be a lot more. Conversely, don’t sit at home waiting for someone to call on you. Make the first move if you fancy a night out.
If you’re exhausted or someone is making you feel bad say no. Get some rest! Deal with it when you feel a bit better.
You might not always feel like it, but especially if you are often alone, sometimes it’s simply more beneficial to say yes because you probably will enjoy it when you get there.
For anyone that has friends and family spread around all over the place this is my #1 tip; visit one at a time for quality time. Be focused and attentive for the time you have together. Parties can be fun of course but the contact you have will be wide and thin rather than deep and narrow.
Keep it simple and afterwards get some additional rest. (Quality time can be intense even when it’s wonderful!)
Suggest doing something that you’ve never done together before. I didn’t realize that a friend I’ve known for years was extremely knowledgeable about art until we spent a day together in a museum. Open up a little and see what comes of it. There’s still plenty to discover!
We do what we want
People do what they want for their own reasons.
We do what we can
People do what they feel capable of and for their own reasons.
You have a mouth
Talk to each other! If you can’t speak, write.
Beginnings and endings
Sometimes relationships do end. Remember you can always make new friends. It seems obvious and yet it’s still worth the reminder. As we age making friends can feel a lot harder but it isn’t necessarily so.
The danger zones
It pays to pay attention and there are two things to watch out for in all relationships.
Habit It’s easy to fall into a routine and take for granted that this is what we always do and so we keep on doing it. Habits are comforting but can lead to resentment, boredom and can eventually estrange us from one another. Mix it up occasionally! Do something new to keep learning about each other. This is how people fall in love all over again…
Insecurities We act strangely when we feel insecure which can take its toll on our relationships. You are ok and need to feel ok. Your relationship with yourself really is the most important relationship of your entire life. You are half of all your relationships. That’s a lot of You! So take good care of yourself. Try putting aside your insecurities and say yes or no anyway – f&%$ it! We’ll all be dead soon enough.
The broken seesaw of unhealthy relationships
If it feels like too much or too little it probably is. Healthy relationships usually have some movement up and down. If your seesaw is stuck think about:
- What’s holding you two together?
- Is it a long history or an actual connection?
- Are you the one calling or being called?
- Have you seen too little or too much of each other?
- Could it be time to let go or is it time to jump in?
Like someone who is afraid of spiders and sees them in every room, since I first drafted this post a couple of months ago I have been seeing, hearing and reading about loneliness all over the place. As I said, I have never in my life been more socially active and I am surrounded by many wonderful friends and family. And yet things do change, including me, and slowly I began to realize that I am quite lonely in different ways and have been for some time.
If you are feeling lonely or are curious about the different types of loneliness I really enjoyed this post by Gretchen Rubin. There’s also a dedicated podcast on loneliness during which they say that it’s a bit taboo to mention it. So here goes:
I’m a bit lonely.
What did I learn?
Looking back I think I got confused by ideas of ‘you get what you give’ and ‘you are in control’. With relationships that is simply not always true. You are only one half and that’s all the influence you can ever have – half.
Some bonds we have are obvious and some are completely mysterious. Sometimes we are friends because of our history together or a friendship starts because we are excited by each other’s newness. It can take a big event like a holiday or party, a life change or a crisis to really know someone better or to know them differently.
I’ve come to the conclusion that your friends are your friends and then maybe one day they aren’t anymore. Perhaps you will know why and perhaps you won’t. Even if you take some time to talk things over you may not feel satisfied by the outcome. That’s just the way it goes sometimes.
As ever, it’s important to know yourself. Some folks prefer a thin spread of many acquaintances, some want to be part of a gang or tribe and some need a close connection with very few. There are transmitters and receivers and seesaws. Introverts and extroverts and ambiverts. And of course all the other millions of variations that make up our personalities.
If you know what you need it’s much easier to nurture and appreciate it when you come across it.
Relationships are important. But! Relationships are not everything. They are a part of life together with everything else. Your relationships are not You.
Co-founder, The Clean Sheet