A life built on connection

Coupling is easy. Relationships are hard.

I’m not the only one ruminating on this subject this week, so perhaps it’s one of those standard end of the year topics. As our thoughts turn to the new year, we examine what we have done in 2008 and could do better.

Our family had a solstice ritual last week where all of us, even the children, considered the year past and what priorities consumed each of us, and then what things negative we found, we scribbled on papers to burn in a winter fire.

I included several items and habits I had noted from my own relationships, both as  parent and partner. After a number of years, we do take certain aspects for granted, and fail to put out the effort we once did, leaving our loved ones feeling perhaps less cherished. So I hope to do better.

In light of how many people I meet through my office who are tearing each other apart, I’m also encouraged by the examples of several young people I know who are putting serious work and thought into their partnerships, even as they struggle with issues of commitment and difficulties of separation.

What’s the solution to a perfect relationship? There are as many answers to that question as there are relationships. Not everything works for everyone, but I’ve got to vote for the tortoise in this race. Slow and steady, a building of trust, caring, respect over a period of days or weeks or months–perhaps years– is much more likely to have a payoff than some jackrabbit start.

Must you have a relationship to be happy?

Just because it’s the cultural norm doesn’t dictate that result. I received a Christmas letter from my former step-mother, who’s been in a close relationship with her gentleman friend for some 20 years, but they don’t live together. They’ve defined a comfortable distance that keeps them happy. Other relatives of mine live alone, just as ecstatic in their solitude. Yet others have those cutesy, cuddly-every- minute bonds, and that works for them.

Sometimes, where you are in life sets your ability to have relationships. As someone wisely pointed out to me, if you’re working a 70-hour a week job, you don’t necessarily also have the time to devote to a full-time relationship. My daughter tells me that “soon” she might make decisions about relationships–and then adds that “soon” to her means “within four or five years.” (Since “soon” to me means within the next five minutes, during which time many things might change, I’m awed by her patience.)

Barbara de Angelis, who has written for 25 years about relationships, says, “The more connections you and your lover make, not just between your bodies, but between your minds, your hearts, and your souls, the more you will strengthen the fabric of your relationship, and the more real moments you will experience together.”

Let’s all take a few minutes today to build a connection with our loved ones; and resolve to keep making those connections in the year ahead.

9 thoughts on “A life built on connection

  1. i’m not an expert on relationships, but this is perhaps some of the best advice i’ve ever read… for now? i’m really groovin’ on being single, living alone and dating “aggressively”. who knows how long that’ll be what i want…

  2. Thanks for this post Barbara – beautifully written. When I was a teenager, a dear friend of mine (who was entering her 70’s at the time), explained to me that she firmly believes love is always different in each relationship – that labels, stereotypes, “traditional models”, cultural norms, and rigid expectations only serve to get in the way of the unique connections each relationship affords. Thank you for encouraging others to open themselves to *possibility*!

    Cheers and Happy Solstice Greetings,


  3. So funny that you wrote about the tortoise on this one. I was just reading about someone who was rushing about in life striving to achieve like so many of us and he received the same advice. Slow and steady.

  4. Amen to building connections. After years of being an island, this year I’ve felt like more of a peninsula, and I’m enjoying it more than I thought I would. Great post!

  5. Yeah, K. You and your cutsie smootsie relationship…. You make me want to pretend to vomit all over the place.


    Excellent advice Momma. Thanks for your thoughts!

  6. Thanks for this awesome blog – I have been, as you know, in a good ten year marriage with Luis. He’s become my soulmate, but when we spend less time together we also grow apart. So we work every day to spend some time together, even if its just sitting and cuddling in front of the tv late night. Togetherness is important – so many live in isolation.

    Have a Happy New Year!

    Take care,


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