If I were to ask you what you value most in life, I’d be willing to bet your answer would revolve around your relationships—with your children, your spouse or partner, your family, and your friends.
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!
28 responses to “How Meaningful Relationships Can Help Us THRIVE”
This is a post I needed to read today! That first part hits home. We’re in a time of struggle here and I’ve been forgetting that it’s the close, meaningful relationships in my life are what will not just keep me going but help me thrive. And oh how I want to thrive right now. Thank you so much for this!
I’m glad it struck a chord with you, Tricia…there’s no doubt in my mind that you will thrive!
Katie, your blog and your writing are just absolutely fabulous. Articulate, succinct and based on both research and personal experience, I truly enjoy reading your posts. Meaningful relationships are the catalyst for a long and fruitful life. I always say I’d rather have 5 amazing relationships than 25 acquaintances. Quality over quantity not only makes the distance more manageable, it carries us through the long distance journey of life. I would love to join in and write a post answering these questions. How does the process typically work?
I absolutely agree!
When I read Katie ‘s draft, I thought, “wow! That’s brilliant and timely for my life.”
I’m glad that you enjoy her writing and talent.
Thank you for your kind words, Lauren! I am right there with you on preferring quality over quantity when it comes to relationships. Right now we don’t have an official link-up set up (though we’re looking into it!) so we would just encourage you to write your post answering these questions and then come back and let us know that you did so we can be sure to share it far and wide!
Love the research and personal stories that went into this post. I would love to have a mentor or professional relationship at work. I admit I have no idea how to make that happen in my current situation!
It’s not an easy thing! I wonder, could you find a mentor in your same field but at a different workplace?
I’m nodding at what you say about strengthening current relationships, instead of worrying about developing new ones. Of course, I’m open to new people, but I really think I would benefit from reaching out to friends I haven’t spoken with in a while.
I think it goes back to the whole quality over quantity thing, which is so true for relationships! If you end up writing your own post answering these questions, please come back and let me know so that I can share it far and wide!
Oops – accidentally posted under Wendy’s comment first! Still relevant 🙂 Here’s my post: http://www.absurdshewrote.com/home/relationship-like-you-mean-it
Loved reading your perspective, Jessica!
As was noted on my answers to these (self-created questions), my hub and I live a very unique life that is pure wonderful!
Through marrying him, I earned and was blessed with 7 siblings, 7 sibs’ spouses, 15 nieces and nephews, and 2 great-nieces and 1 great-nephew.
These siblings were taught to be independent while sticking together. Together I’ve seen them accomplish greatness, and they were exactly what I needed (coming from a small, sometimes divided family).
Moving on…here’s to more joyous collaborations and sharing through meaningful relationships.
Katie, here’s what you and Wendy inspired me to write: http://www.absurdshewrote.com/home/relationship-like-you-mean-it
Great insights! I’m with you about looking to strengthen my existing relationships, rather than add more. Still, I’d love to find some strong work mentors as well.
Wonderful post and fabulous insights!
My husband is HUGE in the relationship department… he supports yet challenges me to seek more and dig deeper.
I also have a wonderful friend and our lives seem to be slightly out of sync so that we can support and serve one another through rough spells. We frequently go through the same experiences but only a few months apart. It’s bizarre and awesome all at once!
Thanks so much for sharing this… some very good thoughts here.
I truly realized the value of relationships after becoming a mom. Simply knowing other women were out there who were going through the same struggles, ups and downs, etc. has made motherhood so much easier. We truly are made for community. Lots of great info here!
I’ll take a few really good friends over a bunch of “here today, gone tomorrow” acquaintances. At this point in my life, I don’t have time for the non meaningful relationships. I’ve let go of a few friendships that I came to realize truly weren’t meaningful relationships.
I love these questions – and your answers! I am always amazed at how each relationship in our lives serves its own distinct “purpose”… I am going to think about these questions – and write a post too! Thanks for the inspiration. You always present things from such a well-thoughtout angle.
Cannot wait to read your post!!!
Deep, meaningful relationships have kept me afloat and sane over the past 6 months in particular. Going through divorce is like a roller coast ride that just won’t stop. There are people in my life who have lifted me up and helped me through the darkest of times. It’s amazing.
I’m so glad you’ve had that amazing support during what is surely one of the toughest times of your life.
Yes! I love this. And I agree. I’ve heard that having kids can make or break couples. Personally, I think my husband and I have grown so much together because we faced those challenges of being parents. We’ve learned how we communicate, how to respect, how to divvy duties, and be truly equal partners and solid rocks to rely on.
With my friends, I always say I only have 5 friends, and I make sure that those relationships remain strong. We’ve been friends since college, and while some have moved away, and we are much busier than ever with families, I still try to get on the phone and catch up.
Love what you said about your relationship with your husband. Parenting really does challenge even the strongest of couples, but like you, I think my marriage is better for it.
Oh yes oh yes oh yes!!! I always have believed in the power of relationships in order to not only survive but THRIVE. My entire life has been about them… and I can’t imagine it any other way.
They truly are the backbone of a fulfilling life!
I so needed this today – I’ve done a horrible job sharing my overwhelmed feelings of not having enough time for anything with anybody – and I know just talking about it would help. Thanks for the reminder. Going to call my best friend tonight.
I’m sure it will be a relieving, comforting conversation!
Relationships are what really matter, in the end! I am very grateful to have people in my life to listen, make me think, and surprise me every day.