Are Relationships In Your Life Running A Little Thin?

Are The Relationships In Your Life Running A Little Thin

I was leaving coffee after meeting with a client when he mentioned that he and his wife would love to have us over for dinner. This was not the first time he had asked, and not the first time I responded idiotically with a “er, a, yea, mmhmm.” It was as though English was not my native tongue. We side-hugged, I got into my car and I sat there for a few minutes. I picked up my phone and slowly typed him a text; words I should have spoken just inside the door of Starbucks minutes before.

More on that in a minute.

Are Your Relationships Running A Little Thin?

About a year ago I gave a presentation on friendship. It was a thirty-minute power point on the importance of true, deep friendships and how culturally we have lost our way. I used the example of how not so long ago you moved into a house and, wait for it, you actually stayed. Like, for your whole life. You had a neighbor lady to your right and a neighbor lady to your left, and you did life together. You birthed babies, hung out laundry and sipped lemonade on Sundays after you got back from service. This was a world where you had only a few close friends, but you had them for life.

Now you have work friends, play-group friends, soccer-mom friends, social media friends and personal friends. We are not talking about a few; we are talking about hundreds or thousands of acquaintances. We are simply stretched relationally too thin.

In his book MARGIN, Richard Swenson writes that perhaps anxiety and prevalent diseases of our time have nothing to do with genetic miscoding and increasingly to do with a much more significant issue. He blames our present day troubles on “lack of margin” in our schedules, finances and you guessed it, our relationships. He suggests we are trying to balance way too many social relationships at once and not enriching the ones we already have.

We are getting back to my client. Hang on.

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Mario Forleo recorded a Youtube Video entitled  “How To Say No To People Who Want To Pick Your Brain.” In it, she talks about “valuing” your services and not giving your energy and expertise away for free. She uses the example of saying no to “free pick your brain” dates with people who potentially should be paying you for your services. She suggests using a statement like “If I haven’t had personal time to take my mama for coffee, I don’t make personal time for other coffee dates.” This stuck with me. Not the whole thing about brushing off freeloaders with vague excuses, the part about, “if I haven’t had time for mama, or a dear friend, or my spouse…”

We are getting to the text, I promise.

I love meeting new people. That is why waitressing was one of my favorite jobs. Wow, ‘em with my sparkling personality, and leave them duly impressed without ever having to give anything of my deeper self. The truth is new relationships are fun and exciting. Seasoned relationships are deeper, more intimate, scarier and easy to take for granted. But it is the seasoned relationship you call at three in the morning on your way to the hospital, or from your couch, through tears, surrounded by Kleenex. Seasoned relationships are the solid foundation upon which we navigate life’s trials. This foundation of friendship cannot happen unless we dedicate time together like the neighbor ladies drinking lemonade.

I had been failing at this concept miserably. People that needed me, my ear, or my time, were being left for weeks or months because I had created a marginless social calendar.

I became aware of a deep conviction. A leading, if you will, to passionately protect the integrity of relationship to those with whom I was already close. So I made a commitment.

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Now, the text.

“Dear (Client who’s name I am protecting)

I am so sorry I behaved like an idiot in response to your kind offer to host my husband and me for dinner one night this summer. Recently I have been convicted about some of the close friendships I have and my lack of attention to them. The result of that conviction is a firm decision to nurture the relationships I have, instead of creating new ones. I have been neglectful of those in my inner circle whom I love deeply. It is important for the health of those relationships that I check in with them first and make myself available should I find myself with discretionary social time. Thank you so much for reaching out. I adore you and your wife. I appreciate your understanding in my decision.”

I got the most beautiful response.

“Heather

I got your message. I completely, completely, completely understand. Like, completely. Friendships and family are the most important things we are placed here to respect and love. It is so important to set boundaries so we can give those relationships the energy they need. When you come up for air, let me know. We would love to see you.”

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What friendships need your attention? What relationships do you “coast” on knowing that you will just “pick up where you left off.” Do you need to allow a little margin in your social agenda to give breathing space for those relationships most dear? This week, instead of coffee with the bus-stop moms, is there a special someone you need to call?

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23 Responses

  1. Love this so much, Heather! LOVE your writing style. This is so important! I’m at the stage of life where I only have 1 good friend in the area – making friendships is hard as an adult. I wish I was able to still grow my good relationships, but I live hours away. The most we can do is chat by phone or online. Loved the point of this!

    1. Thank you, Summer! It can be so hard to move away from those relationships. Very painful. I know it can be so hard to connect as adults. Everyone is busy and has their own lives. xo

  2. As an introvert, I’ve had to really work at expanding my social horizons. It’s not that I don’t to meet with people, it’s just that it takes so much energy (mentally and emotionally) for me when I do it. I love pouring lots of love and attention during my meetings so I often do one-on-one to keep me from being overwhelmed, and they are few and far between. I’ve come to accept this as part of my personality but this is not an excuse, and I’m working towards being more consistent. Thanks for writing this article!

    1. I love your honesty, Patricia. Thank you so much for sharing your heart. I am actually an extroverted-introvert so I get the concept of relationships being an energy vacuum. I call them social hangovers sometimes!

  3. It’s so important to make time for those we really love and care about. I love how you explained yourself so well to your client. I think we do some things out of obligation, when time is just too precious. This is a really great reminder to connect with our people.

  4. This is really thought provoking….especially the part about our neighbors. My husband is involved in a standing Tuesday night poker game and it’s been a great way for him to nurture old and new relationships as it’s an easy place to invite people. It seems that unless it’s in the calendar it won’t happen.

    1. So true! And I love the idea of a neighbour event. I live in a complex with nineteen townhomes and we all face each other. I have lived her for fifteen years and NONE of us know each other! It’s terrible!

  5. This rings SO true in my life. With 5 kids and a husband who all need my attention my amazing friends often get second best when it comes to me being present for them. This is a great reminder to build in quality time for them too.

  6. Love this post! This totally fits in with some things that I was thinking about over in the weekend in terms of some of my friendships. I’m actually blogging about it on Friday. 🙂 This is such a great reminder to focus on the relationships that really matter to us.

  7. This is beautiful. I so agree for the most part. I recently moved, so for me cultivating new friendships is really important. Showing those new friendships the type of care your post is about is something I am most definitely going to make a priority. Beautifully said!

    Sara
    http://www.thelegallybrunette.com

    1. Thanks, Sara! I think it is important to cultivate new friendships but not at the expense of the old ones. 🙂 Thank you for your comment.

  8. Omg, thank you so much for this post! As someone that is juggling college, work, and a blog all at the same time, I often find myself neglecting my closed ones all too often and brushing them off when asked out for lunch or dinner because I’m too “busy”. This was a much needed reality check! <3

    xx Abby
    http://www.marblelouslypetite.com

  9. As someone who stays busy, I absolutly hate when someone tells me they miss me but never tries to make plans. I twist myself like a pretzel to make sure I am there for important moments or just when they need me. Don’t say you “miss me” then never call me for lunch and every time I call you say no. Okay… I’m ranting. We all have to make time because they aren’t just handing out extra hours like flyers for an up and coming band. Great post!

    1. So good! I totally agree. I had to let a few of those friendships go away when te efforts were not reciprocated. Too important to spend time on the ones that do put effort into the relationship. Not a rant! Great comment, Dia!

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Dr. Denniston is a wellness strategist for elite leaders and their teams, bridging the connection between personal well-being and professional success. She provides custom solutions for burnout and stress and facilitates cohesive habit-training strategies that maximize vitality, productivity, and resilience.

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