Last week, my post about assessing our relationship with technology and experimenting with some deliberate disconnection really seemed to hit home. It might be one of my most shared posts. Toward the end of that post, I invited readers to use some of the time that was created by setting down your tablets, or turning off TVs and laptops, to connect in relationships. One thing that I consistently hear from clients is how lonely they feel. Here are a few questions that I ask them:
- Do you have a group of 3-5 family members or friends that you know you can call to support you in a time of pain or rejoice with you in moments of excitement?
- When was the last time you had a conversation with someone? A real conversation, that explores what’s going on with both of you, how you feel about your lives, your plans, your stresses and joys? (Hint, real conversations require voices, not text.)
- How often do you do activities that will allow you to sit with someone else and talk?
That last question is what we are going to tackle in this post. During graduate school, I had an extraordinary group of friends. They were smart and funny and supportive. They now live all over the country. In the past few years, as our lives have gotten busier, it’s gotten harder to connect. I caught myself feeling pretty lonely. And I realized that I wasn’t making space for new friends to enter my life. So, when my kids started school, I made myself look for other parents to connect with. (That’s not my normal comfort zone–I’m pretty shy outside of my office.) Once I found some people that I seemed to click with, I made it a priority to set up play dates, or get a babysitter for actual “dates with grownups.” Over the past two years, I have been able to grow a new group of friends. They are pretty smart and funny and supportive too. But I wouldn’t have them if I hadn’t made the space.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to say this is simple. For some of us, the act of reaching out feels overwhelming and scary. Maybe that’s you.
Reaching out pays off though. For women, there is research that suggests that our friendships have significant emotional and mental health benefits. I suspect that, if men were given social permission to connect in the ways that women do, they would also experience those benefits. Every relationship counselor worth their salt will tell you that romantic partnerships need time and space in order to flourish.
So, if you answered no to any of the questions I asked earlier, maybe this can be your gentle invitation to make some space. You might do that by taking a technology break, or by condensing some other commitments. Maybe you can combine a great conversation with a walk, and get a two-for-one health bonus! Oh, and space for a relationship with yourself counts, but differently (look for a follow-up post on that before too long).
Any way that you go about it will be good for you. I would love to hear your favorite strategy for making space for connection.
Image Credit: Photo by rockmixer via Flickr under Creative Commons License