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Relationships have different levels of connectedness depending on how we relate to the person. And relationships are continually changing. Seldom does a relationship stand still or stay static. If it is not growing, it is generally in decline.
It is a problem when we take for granted those who are closest to us. Perhaps we assume that the connection is strong enough and does not need work. But I believe that we need to intentionally invest in maintaining close connections, especially with those very important people in our lives.
At the time of this writing, I have just spent a weekend of football with my son. He just turned twenty-nine and treated me for his birthday; his mom clearly raised him well! We went to a BC Lions game on Saturday, and Seattle Seahawks on Sunday. We had a great time together. While the experience of seeing the games live was amazing, the conversations we shared were my favorite part of the weekend.
As we opened our hearts to each other I was overjoyed. He is married to a fantastic woman and they are building a wonderful life together. I am very happy for them and although he is an adult and our relationship has changed, it is deeper than ever. It continues to grow, as do my relationships with all my adult children. I have great kids – in spite of their dad! Haha.
My point is that the great relationships I have with my son and his wife, with my married daughter and her husband, and with my single gal are not accidental. We all continue to invest in each other.
There are some key things we all can do to foster deeper connections with those we care about, whether family, friends or in business relationships.
Create Memories – It is within quantity time that the quality moments happen. When we intentionally create memories, it is often not the actual event but the moments within it that stick in our minds. By creating memories, we create signposts in our brain of the significant moments in that time together. For example, I am sure that every time I watch a football game I will recall the great conversations I had with my son. In turn that will foster the desire to deepen my connection with him.
Create Openness – Deeper connections require an open-hearted environment. We can’t expect others to open their hearts to us until we open ours to them. There’s the expression: ‘wearing your heart on your sleeve’. That’s what I’m talking about. When we keep others out in a guarded attempt to protect our own heart, we keep ourselves trapped inside.
Create Healthy Boundaries – Communicating how you want to relate to each other can help deepen the relationship. I often use an illustration from the book Boundaries (Cloud and Townsend) to communicate how you can protect your heart without walls. Think of the difference between a wall and a fence with a gate. If you put walls around your heart it limits deeper connection. However if you put a fence with a gate around your heart, you can choose to open or close the gate when appropriate. You can see the other person, and are seen by him. But it gives you an opportunity to decide if this is a relationship you want to develop. There was a time for me when trust had been broken in a relationship, so I needed to close the gate for a season. It allowed me to protect my heart while being open to rebuilding trust. I could chat over the fence while seeing what the other person was doing to earn the right to be back in my yard. Because I felt safe, I was more open to the relationship.
Of course there are many other things that foster deeper connection, some of which I’ve addressed in other articles in this forum. My hope is that these three may add to your relationship toolbox. I am very grateful for the relationships in my life and truly love the deepness of connection I enjoy with the ones closest to me.
Remember until next time, ‘Relationship Matters’.
You can follow Mark on twitter @rmarkgordon