If civilization is to survive, we must cultivate the science of human relationships – the ability of all peoples, of all kinds, to live together, in the same world at peace ~ Franklin D. Roosevelt
The art of relationship has been heavily on my mind as of late. Actually, truth be told, it seems that it is constantly on my mind, so perhaps a more accurate statement would be that it has been more heavily on my mind. And it is most certainly that, an art. Cultivating and maintaining relationships seems uniquely human. I’m no expert on the subject matter, but I have watched a lot of ‘Bones’, and I just don’t believe that there are many animals in the animal kingdom that develop friendships. I have a fairly healthy imagination and creative streak, but I can’t see kangaroos hanging out, talking about their dating problems with their best friends or putting on lipstick, straightening their hair and laughing at terrible jokes with a member of the opposite sex.
Although on reflection, I have predominantly focused on romantic relationships, all human relationships have similar characteristics and all require an investment; energy, attention, time, patience and genuine care and interest in the other person. Many of us do tend to focus on our romantic relationships, whether that’s maintaining the one we are in, working on our current relationship or attempting to find and/or establish a partnership. However, as much focus and attention is required for our friendships and the relationship we have with ourselves.
Recently, I have re-learned the value of friendship. I have seen how, when I send out the Bat Signal, I have great friends who are willing, able and available to come to my rescue. I feel incredibly fortunate and grateful to be surrounded by people I can count on when the chips are down and I just can’t manage on my own anymore. I think it takes incredible strength to truly be there for another person, and just as much strength to ask. My most recent situation, has shone a light on the importance of maintaining these relationships, in light of the friability of new romance, my girls are, and have, always been there for me. In the spirit of disclosure, I haven’t been great at practically doing the same thing. I am guilty of getting swept up and away with the development of a new romance and of retreating and licking my wounds in private when the wave comes crashing down. As this seems to be a recurring cycle in my life (I’m an incurable romantic and refuse to be bitter or cynical) I have become hyper-aware of leaning on friends and potentially burning them out. And also of reciprocating the energy sent my way.
My intention and desire to be available for my friends and their setbacks is unwavering, but my ability to be is impacted by where I’m at in my own healing, dealing and moving on process. When is it too much? How do I “do me” but also maintain that space for my friends that they so graciously and unselfishly provided to me? And when am I just being selfish and not extending the same lifelines to my friends?
My most recent “situation” tops my list of extreme examples of needing assistance from my friends; practical, emotional, financial, you name it, and there is no doubt I’m still recovering from the sting of it all. What I have found is that within my depleted energy stores, my tendency to feel overwhelmed has increased significantly. My tolerance for setbacks and ability to handle the minor emergencies in life is greatly reduced. But life still marches on, and my closest relationships continue to experience heartbreak, hurt, joy, confusion, dilemmas and decisions and in many cases and in many different ways, I’m asked to be there in a supporting role. Balancing my needs for self-care with the needs of my closest friendships can be a challenge. In my pursuit of being present, brave and kind, I am called on to dig deep and to be there in whatever capacity I am capable of during times of challenge. This is when relationships are strengthened and friendships are essential. However, it’s not always possible to be there for others at the expense of yourself. I’m hoping this is when the brave and kind can kick in and an honest, sincere and sensitive message can be sent and received about the limits and boundaries required to protect our own well-being.
Do you give too much of yourself? How do you know when it’s too much? And how do you protect and respect the place you’re at and know how much you can give to others?