An important relationship in my life just ended... and I'll admit it, I didn't really see it coming. That event has sparked a lot of thinking about relationships in general, and why I value them as much as I do (I am happy I do!). Having healthy, productive relationships with my family and friends is the most important thing to me in life. What I have come to more fully understand recently are the reasons why positive connections with others matter so much to me.
Positive, productive relationships demand the best of us. For a friendship or marriage to allow both people to flourish, each person is an active participant in helping create the other one's positive future. Whether we are a friend, lover, daughter, or grandparent, each relationship gives us a chance to invest our energy in making another person's reality better. Each of us needs to fully show up, be present, listen, express ourselves, and care for the other, and that requires time and attention. When it all works out well, and we can see the happiness on the other's face, that creates, at least for me, the best feeling of satisfaction in the world.
Relationships teach us about ourselves. Sometimes, for good or bad, the person standing in front of us can be a mirror showing us who we really are. If we don't like something in them, there are chances we don't like it in ourselves. Friendships also give us a chance to watch ourselves in action. We can, on a moment-to-moment basis, pay attention to what we are thinking, feeling, or doing in response to what is happening externally. We can plug into our life story anytime, and learn from it.
Best of all, we get a chance everyday to practice acting from love. This goes beyond doing something nice for someone. Acting from love requires us to recognize the times when fear arises within us, and work to overcome it so we don't choose a course of action from a fearful place. That takes awareness, hard work, and courage, but in those moments, when we choose love, we grow as human beings.
For me, keeping these things in mind has been incredibly powerful. It has propelled me to reconnect on an even deeper level with some of the people I am closest with in this world. I have been filled with gratitude
every step of the way, and my heart is open as I move forward.
What do you value most in your relationships with people in your life? What do you do to make these relationships the strongest they can be?
Michelle Gielan, a former CBS network news anchor, is pursuing a Master of Applied Positive Psychology from the University of Pennsylvania. You can follow her on Facebook and Twitter.