Four-hundred years ago, English poet John Donne wrote Meditation 17 while seriously ill. If you are like me, you are familiar with only one often quoted line: No man is an island. While you can look up and see how the intellectuals explain this five word phrase, I am going to attempt to do the same. In probably much less space with a lot less fancier words.
I have the same qualifications as you do because the past two years have been our tutor. One glaring lesson our experiences since 2020 has hammered into us is how valuable our relationships are. When we know the value of something, we learn how to take care of it. In theory anyway. Here are three of my relationship takeaways I have learned.
Note: when discussing relationships, I am referring to all relationship types. Friends, family, romantic, etc. They all fit into this guide (I told you it would be brief).
This first fundamental principle seems like a no-brainer. But yet, here we are. This is the fuel sitting in the tank. It is the motivator for the connection. Of course, there needs to be a desire to have a relationship. Without the want, we would remain strangers or merely acquaintances. So, why mention it?
Because the desire must be found in both parties. It does no good – and I would dare say more harm – if the desire for the relationship is only one-sided. If only one makes the effort, the relationship will eventually die. And that death will be a nasty, grueling parting. For a healthy relationship to exist and live, it needs to be wanted by both parties.
Even primitive animal circles practice a form of communication. For a relationship to be real and more than a facade of good will, true communication must develop. Appearances are deceiving. In some form, we can all be actors. But if a relationship is important to us, this is not the time to vie for an Oscar.
What is true communication? It is not interviewing. Sometimes we tend to run through a check list of questions to get to know someone. There is a time and place for such basic questions, but if we want to level up in our relationship this can’t be the norm. Rather, open communication may involve such unpleasantness as hurt feelings and forgiveness. It is about being willing to attempt to understand another perspective. It is about practicing love. And it requires focus. Which means it can be both exhausting and liberating. Like a bandaid peeling off, it may hurt in the moment but provide healing in the future. For a healthy relationship to survive and thrive, it needs true, open communication.
Time is essential. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints used to run a series of ads showing us families. The tag-line was “Families, isn’t it about time?” It was a clever play on words with dual meaning. So clever that I have not forgotten it.
Healthy relationships are not just going to happen magically. It takes effort. Effort requires time. Your time. Bonds are forged by experience. Experiences give us memories. The more memories the stronger the bond. One of the most valuable assets anyone has today is their presence. Whatever you spend time with today will more than likely be strengthened. Whatever you neglect today will wither.
As I mentioned, I’m not an expert rather an observer. While I am not familiar with all relationships, the few that I have seen have all had a mix or lack of these three components. Healthier relationships have all had the equal part desire, the true communication, and time spent strengthening it. The not so healthy ones, lacked one or more.
As always, I tend to cut my lists off in threes. There are probably many more relationship tips that we have been reminded about or learned the last couple of years. I keep my lists short. Short attention span, and all. I’m curious, what takeaways from the past two years have you learned or improved on?