As we grow up and navigate the waters of our relationships, we inevitably run into some rough seas, so to speak. A lot of times going through that experience, the biggest challenge is the emotional roller coaster we almost always end up on.
In my life, which at times has seemed like that ride was unending, I have gained some great wisdom and tools that have helped me to overcome in these moments and maintain a connection. I’m not saying I have mastered the art, but I can definitely say that as I apply this more and more there have been many more advances than setbacks.
Growing up, a lot of the experiences I had only caused me to go into survival or protection mode. I did not feel that anybody was safe around me. There were not very many people in my life that I could trust. Not being equipped with the tools to walk through all these difficult circumstances, I went into a self-preservation mode that kept me from going very deep emotionally with people. Without an understanding that a connection between two people in a relationship is the most important thing was a foreign concept. It became easy to maintain a surface relationship. Someone would start talking about something that would make me feel uncomfortable and I could easily check out because I didn’t have any significant connection with them.
Living under this premise, trying to have close relationships with people became extremely difficult. It was not until I had been in a marital counseling session and I was told “your love is a mile wide but only an inch deep” that I was able to truly take a sobering look in the mirror and have someone, who l loved and trusted, tell me bluntly how they experienced our relationship. These words crushed me and I wept as a result.
Today, I can say that I am extremely thankful for those powerful, life changing words and to the one who loved me enough to tell me the truth! That moment compelled me to go on a journey that would allow me to experience deep, meaningful relationships that stay connected. Praise God!
In a game-changing book I’ve read called Keep Your Love On, author Danny Silk talks about an important way to put our relationships in perspective called the circles of intimacy. They represent an order of priority for the relationships in our lives. The innermost circle is your relationship with God, followed by your relationships with your spouse or closest covenant friend, other close friends and family members, extended family, work colleagues, acquaintances, community members, and beyond. It’s our job to make sure that we are nourishing these relationships according to their order of priority in our lives.
Here are some helpful questions we should ask ourselves about these relationships concerning connection:
- How can I send the message, “I care about you and our relationship”?
- How can I send the message, “I want to be a safe place for you?
- Is there a healthy exchange of truth in this relationship?
- What is the level of safety in this relationship?
- Am I listening to understand and staying willing to adjust?
Speaking people’s love languages is a powerful way to show them that we care. For the quality time person in your life, taking time to connect and join them in an activity that’s important to them. For the acts of service person, it might be helping to cook dinner or running errands. Words of affirmation people might appreciate a thoughtful letter, and touch people will be thankful for hugs. When it comes to being in a safe place, healthy communication is essential. Refuse to engage in disrespectful conversations. Bravely step into vulnerable conversations where you show the person your heart and invite an exchange of truth. Listen well, seek to understand them, identify what they need, and help to meet that need.
These are some important ways to start having healthy connections with family and friends in our lives. It is also an incredible way to allow the Kingdom of Heaven to be revealed through our lives. When the disciples asked Jesus what the greatest commandment was he responded by saying,
‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’
I pray that you would have the courage to go on this journey to strengthen the relationship connections in your lives starting with your Father in Heaven.
In Jesus, the name above all names, Amen.