Last week, I entertained two groups of women whose relationships with me matter. They took time from their lives to drive to our cottage for a social occasion where we shared an afternoon and evening of food, wine, laughter, and conversation.
One group consists of the women in one of the book clubs to which I belong. Most are people whom I’ve known for less than two years yet a strong bond exists among us. Perhaps we connected over intense discussions about books. Perhaps we connected through the fellowship that comes from meeting in each other’s homes. Perhaps it’s the good food and wine that every hostess serves at book club meetings. After only a couple of years of meeting together, acquaintances are changing into friendships.
The other group is comprised of women I met when we worked together in a children’s mental health centre during the 70s and 80s. We have an annual get together on a September Saturday where we re-connect, catch up with life events, eat dinner together, and celebrate years of friendship. What is unique about this group is that our relationships have endured for decades although some of us see each other only once or twice a year. Interestingly, when we see each other, conversations start seamlessly from where they stopped months ago. Time does not diminish the bonds among us.
Building Relationships that Matter
Often relationships begin with a shared history such as in the case of my former colleagues. Treating emotionally disturbed children and their families involved intense experiences on work teams. Our lives overlapped on a daily basis as we struggled with treatment plans, program development, and funding issues. In subsequent years each of us built professional careers that drew from the practical skills we learned in those early career days. Shared memories are integral to the long-term relationships in our group. Nobody objects to hearing the same stories or jokes — sometimes embellished in the telling — at every gathering.
Social relationships are often built around common interests. The women in our book club lead very different lives and have diverse hobbies yet we enjoy sharing our perceptions of books chosen for discussion every month. The chosen book provides a common interest and starting point. We learn from each other through lively discussions about the chosen book, about other books, about authors, about values, and about life.
Fun events help to build relationships. Fun activities entertain us while strengthening the bonds that hold us together. Recently, our book club was invited to a Mehndi ceremony where each of us had a henna tattoo. We laughed and laughed as hands, arms and legs were beautifully decorated. The ceremony was an experience that we’ll never forget.
People connect when eating together. It’s legendary that sharing food and wine forms a special fellowship. There is always lots of food when my groups gather — usually far more than can be eaten at one meal! I cook and many ‘potluck’ contributions arrive. The unity around a dinner table provides a social glue and creates a social community.
Relationships become satisfying as emotional connections develop. Longtime friendships support and encourage us, thus reducing stress. Commitments to one another strengthen as we become part of each others’ lives. Sharing thoughts, opinions, hopes, and fears means taking personal risks for the reward of being understood by others.
Social relationships enrich our lives. Studies find that happiness is best predicted by the number and quality of social relationships. Whether formed at work, in church or temple, in clubs or interest groups, or in our neighbourhoods, social relationships increase feelings of belonging and self-worth.
My wish for every postworksavvy reader is that you have many relationships that matter including relationships with family, with friends, and with neighbours. I welcome your comments.
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