These connections are the backbone of a life well-lived, and what’s more, research shows that deep, meaningful relationships are essential to our physical and emotional wellbeing. People with strong, supportive relationships have been shown to have lower rates of morbidity and mortality, better mental health, and a more positive outlook on life.
Today I’m teaming up with Wendy from New Moms Talk to explore the topic of meaningful relationships through a Q&A format similar to the Writing Process BlogHop from a few months ago. We’d love if you joined in and wrote your own post reflecting on these questions!
What are the characteristics of a meaningful relationship to you?
A paper recently published in the Personality and Social Psychology Review noted that “people will be most likely to thrive with well-functioning close relationships that serve different support functions,” with those functions dependent on whether or not we’re currently facing adversity in life.
Let me explain. Researchers have found that when we’re in the midst of a major struggle—be it because of stress, trauma, grief, a health problem, or any other challenge life deals us—having meaningful relationships in our lives is what helps us not just survive but even thrive through our circumstances. Not because the relationships shield us from the struggle, but because they give us the strength, encouragement, and perspective we need to keep moving forward.
Alternatively, during times of blessing and abundance, the presence of deep, meaningful relationships promotes “full participation in life opportunities for exploration, growth, and personal achievement.” In other words, the connections we have with family, friends, and perhaps even co-workers and mentors can help us not just live, but live fully.
This research really resonates with me. I believe that the foundation of a meaningful connection with another person is mutual support through the tough times and encouragement to dream big during calmer seas.
Describe one meaningful relationship and how it has impacted you.
Based on the research above, my husband gets major kudos in the relationship department. His presence in my life has certainly helped me thrive in both good times and bad.
The perfect example? My personal struggles with body image, self esteem, and emotional eating. It never mattered that these challenges were completely outside the realm of his experience. He didn’t bat an eye when I told him things I was certain would shock him.
Because of his support, I was able to get through it, and so much more—I was able to thrive not in spite of, but because of these struggles, which resulted in an e-book that has sold thousands of copies so far.
What do you do or how do you contribute to a relationship to make it meaningful?
I think the answer to this question varies by relationship:
- With my husband, I (try to) prioritize our marriage despite the craziness that is life with jobs and a young kid. Last week that meant a date night where we purposefully didn’t talk about anything related to schedules or logistics (gasp!).
- With my son, I (again, try to) give him my full attention when we’re together, and parent intentionally as often as I can. This week that meant toeing the line between encouraging him to take risks and respecting the fact that new experiences are sometimes frightening to him—I intentionally used language that was supportive and encouraging.
- With my friends, I try to make a point of celebrating their successes and empathizing with their challenges, which I find key, especially when factors like distance or schedules makes it tougher to keep in touch.
Are you seeking to expand the meaningful relationships in your life? If so, in which areas?
In my personal life, I’m at a point where I need to focus on strengthening my current relationships more so than adding new ones. In my professional life, I’ve been reflecting on the importance of having a mentor, and wondering what that might look like in the current stage of my freelance writing career.
Because my writing takes on several forms—grant writing, magazine writing, copywriting, and blogging—I need to narrow down exactly what I am looking for in a mentor relationship before taking any further steps. But going back to the research on how meaningful relationships can help us thrive, I believe that professional mentors can motivate us to take our careers to the next level while also helping us scale the speed bumps our jobs might bring.
Thanks, Wendy, for these interesting questions!