It's all about relationships! proclaimed my father during our recent holiday visit with my parents. Santa Claus coffee cup in one hand and a wagging finger toward my wife, Elizabeth, with the other. When you retire, thats what you realize is most important in life (okay, so thats not him in the photo).
Dad recently retired from 30+ years as an orthopedic surgeon and the major shift in lifestyle seems to have brought about a significant shift in his outlook on life. For me, his statement about relationships became much broader and more profound than I thought such a simple and reasonable statement could ever become.
At first look, it makes sense that relationships are vital to our lives. Whether it is friendship, dating, marriage, family or community, relationships with others are a part of our everyday life. They give us belonging, meaning, companionship, intimacy and love. But, pulling back from this view and taking a broad gander at the subject I realized that relationships are more than just meaningful interactions with people. When we relate or interact with something we are, in fact, in relationship with it. For instance, our relationship with work, our relationship with ourselves, our relationship with our health and our relationship with our spirituality. By defining relationships from this broader perspective, our relationship list becomes almost endless.
You see, when we look at our relationships, we look at our interaction with every part of our lives; people, places, things, and events. So, what is our relationship to our work, ourselves, our environment, our health, our spirituality? How do we relate to these things? Or, better yet, if it is all about relationships how are our most important relationships?
Coming from the psychotherapy world, I often helped couples, families and individuals improve personal relationships by working through a series of 4 questions. Once I broadened my definition of relationships, I found that these questions are applicable to all types of relationships. The questions go something like this:
1. What relationships do you value most?
Be clear about what you value and which relationships are truly priorities to you.
2. Why do you value them?
Understanding the value these relationships have for you underscores the importance of the relationship and clarifies why a relationship feels important.
3. How do you nourish each relationship?
Now that youve identified how and why a relationship is important, you must define what it is that you do to keep that relationship alive and growing.
4. How do you maintain your commitment through the tough times?
Are the divorce stats really any different from the number of other relationships that end in our own lives (i.e., dropping the diet, forgetting exercise, leaving job after job, putting personal goals and dreams on hold, getting around to the God/spiritual thing when you have more time, etc)? These relationships may not necessarily be a marriage but like a marriage these relationships have their challenging times. Similar to a marital relationship, we must work through the difficult times in our other relationships rather than set them aside until a better time or just plain hope the struggles go away. This is often the point at which my coaching clients seek my assistance.
You will inevitably find that nurturing these relationships is often like a juggling act. Though, once we identify the key relationships in our lives and begin relating with them rather than leaving them on our To Do list, we will soon find that balance in life is an attainable goal and that, in fact, life truly is all about relationships.
© 2004 by Dr. Robert A. Eubanks
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