Relationships and connection are necessary for our well-being. We thrive off social and community engagement. Our wellness depends on healthy intimate connection, support, and giving. Relationships can evolve, change, grow, slowly dissipate, or abruptly stop over time. For me, it seems to be a continuing practice. Who we surround ourselves with, the boundaries we set, and our role in relationships is key to mental and physical health. It’s important to have relationships that truly serve you…and you serve them. Strong relationships are connected by our values and health and well-being goals. What relationships no longer align with you? What relationships can you open up to?
I watch my elementary-aged daughters start to form and navigate relationships. I hold myself back from projecting any of my wounds onto them when listening about their normal ups and downs at recess or in the lunchroom. I notice that relationship lifecycles occur at every age and through a variety of transitions.
Last year, I attended a yoga retreat in California. I had a life-changing conversation and connection with two women in their 70s who attended as friends. Between sessions, we would sit together and learn about one another. They spoke with intention, care, and strong wisdom. They both had been through so much in their lives. Mothers, divorced, widowed, grandmothers, health changes, financial ups and downs, and more taught them the school of life. When I asked about their friendship and how it has survived a span of 30 years, they looked at each other and laughed…it had been rocky. They told me it wasn’t always that way. They explained that over the course of 30 years, people grow and change and don’t always fit.
One of the women, Joan, blatantly told me that relationships with women over the course of her life have been interesting and not many were deep or have lasted. Either it was an abrupt ugly ending or a slow natural fading as life got in the way. Joan said that her friendship with Linda, her retreat friend, had a rough patch that spanned years. At that time, she finally told Linda that they needed to take a break because the friendship was too messy. Joan told me that later, it was the only one where she was able to sit down and talk to Linda about their friendship, who they were as people, shared values, dreams, and what they truly expected from each other. From then on the friendship came back together, but in a much different more mature, grounded way.
Hearing this really impacted me. As I have moved to new places many times, become a mother, divorced, changed jobs, held boundaries, re-evaluated my values and priorities, and changed my lifestyle, I have watched many relationships end abruptly or fade away. Stemming from much drama and the need to belong, I thought something was wrong with me for a long time. Lately, I found that deeply connecting with a few women who see me for who I am with respect is much better, for me, than having a tribe of women who I don’t jive or whom I collect “likes” from on social media. I have learned to set boundaries based deeply on my values and lifestyle while continuing to be kind and social. It has been really hard and I also am the happiest I have been with the healthy close relationships I have now.
I recently wrapped up teaching an Aging Mastery Class for older adults. One of the units was specifically on this topic. Even toward the end of our lives, relationships change. People move to be close to their grandkids or to their dream retirement residence, lifestyles continue to change, and older adults have to put themselves out there after loss. This is a lifelong lesson.
I also work with many clients who are making healthy habit changes in various areas of their well-being. As they do so, living with healthy intentions, they quickly realize that their support system or friend circle no longer serves them. Either they must get out of toxic relationships or they simply just don’t align with people anymore. And that’s ok. So, what is one to do when seeking out new relationships as an adult?
Seek support. Growing and changing out of your relationships is healthy and difficult. It can bring up many wounds or negative thoughts of loneliness, the desire to be liked, or needing to belong. Don’t do it alone. Seek out a therapist to navigate these feelings into the backseat.
Identify what matters. Just like dating, we have to first understand who we are, and what we truly want in a relationship in terms of qualities, characteristics, values, and expectations. Take time to think about this and jot it down. If a new person you meet doesn’t meet all these things, it’s ok to not move forward. And know that you may not be a fit for a new friend either.
It’s ok. When changing friendships, know that it’s a normal part of life right up until the end. There is nothing wrong with you. There are periods in our lives when we have fewer friends and then deeper beautiful connections bloom that align with who we are becoming. It actually takes a lot of courage to let go and move on. You’ve got this!
Intentionally seek out like-minded homies. When we really know who we are and where we are going, it’s important to seek out similar people. Are you drinking less alcohol? Moving your body more? Gossiping less with a positive mindset? Life change? All these things are courageous and there are people out there that are like you and who can continue to support these healthy habits. Join clubs, meet-ups, classes, volunteer opportunities, or groups where your new tribe may hang out.
Put yourself out there. People may come knocking on your door, but you also have to put yourself out there. Ask someone from a group to have tea. Ask your neighbor if you like to go on a walk. Ask for a number…then call them. Say yes to a new invite. Give it a try and experiment with meeting new people, or seeing people you somewhat know in a new way. Work with me or another health coach to help determine what this looks like for you and set goals toward taking action and aligning with your values. This will have an impact on your overall health.
Be patient. Finding people that align with you intentionally takes time. Often, I see people lonely or afraid of not having a circle. They cling to people too fast and get right back into the spot of being surrounded by a group or few that don’t really align. Be patient, have trust, enjoy continuing to get to know yourself, and have fun with it.
Be open to new places. We may be feeling “zoomed-out,” but there are so many virtual settings. In addition to local options, try joining like-minded online groups. You may find someone you connect with there that you can take the friendship for what it is as an online deep supportive connection, or even take it offline and chat on the phone and eventually meet up in person or travel to a like-minded event together.
As spring brings the energy of renewal and change, I invite you to take a step back and take a look at your support system and friendships. Where can you kindly cleanout, shift, grow, and bloom? If you were to do some spring cleaning of your relationships, what would that look like? How can you approach new relationships differently to deepen them? You’ve got this! And you don’t have to do it alone! As a health and wellness coach, I can support you.