Issue #07 |July 2006

Live consciously. Create a life that you love. Attract the loving relationship that is "right" for you.

Today’s Topic: Build Your Community Of Support

Dear friends,

How wonderful that summer is here! Isn’t it great that nature affords us this wonderful season for the rest and recreation we all need and desire?

Summer is the perfect time to turn our focus from work and “doing-ness”, to play and “being-ness”. Everything slows down, as many take holidays. With all the summer picnics, water sports and walks on the beach, it’s a great time to nurture your social relationships and perhaps cultivate some new ones.

Even if you’re working all summer, I hope you steal some moments for “retreating and relating” in the long sunny evenings and weekends of summer.

Shirley Vollett, BSW
Life & Relationship Coach

Something to think about…

A loving, supportive community is an integral part of a high-quality life.

- Cheryl Richardson

Building a network of close, mutually beneficial relationships requires time, effort and intention.

- David Steele

We all need and want the support and caring of a loving community of friends and family.

When we have triumphs to celebrate or difficulties to surmount, nothing is more satisfying than sharing these profound moments with those we love. These special individuals help ground us, care for us and cheer us on. They let us know that we are accepted and we belong – no matter what.

We are social beings and we weren’t meant to live in isolation. In our increasingly mobile society, many of us have lived in a variety of locations, away from the communities we grew up in. We’ve had to build our communities of support with each move we’ve made. As growing numbers of us become self-employed, we can also suffer from the isolation of working from home.

Many of us long for what Cheryl Richardson calls “soulful connections”.

This is the kind of connection “that touches your heart and makes you feel grateful for someone’s presence in your life”. In her book Take Charge of Your Life, Richardson emphasizes the importance of building a soulful community, to support and encourage you as you make changes in your life for the better.

As I’ve worked with singles to clarify their values and priorities in life, almost all identify a desire for emotional intimacy. However some fail to realize that emotional intimacy comes from a supportive network of friendships, and not just from a relationship with a “significant other”. Whether or not you’re in a primary relationship, you can enjoy emotional intimacy with chosen friends and confidants. And life is immeasurably enriched by cultivating these important connections.

Developing a strong support community will not only improve the quality of your life as a single. It will improve your chances of building a successful relationship.

Some years ago I attended a dinner party with 6 married couples. The talk turned to “how I met my spouse” and the stories began. As I listened to each couple’s story, I realized the importance of their support communities in meeting their spouse. Each couple had been “set-up” or introduced by a mutual friend, who knew they were looking for a relationship. The only couple that hadn’t met by a direct introduction, had met at an event that the husband had attended at the encouragement of a friend, who knew he was looking to meet someone new.

Not only had a friend been instrumental in arranging an introduction or “blind date”. That same friend was often a sounding-board for the person as they navigated the initial stages of the relationship. What a wonderful expression of community support!

Once we’re in a relationship, we will still need the loving support of significant others. So build it now!

As David Steele writes in his book Conscious Dating, “A single relationship, no matter how compatible, cannot meet all of our needs.” Any committed couple who ignores their need for a community of support, does so at the peril of their relationship. Relationships need supportive others to thrive, just as individuals do.

When my sister’s husband was battling cancer, they were helped and buoyed by all manner of support from friends and family. Couples can face challenges that overwhelm their personal resources, just as individuals do.

So how do YOU feel about YOUR community of support and encouragement?

Do you have some “cheerleaders” in your corner?
Do you have confidants with whom you can be completely honest about your thoughts and feelings?
Do you have people in your life to share activities that you love?
Do you have people with whom to celebrate holidays or birthdays?
Do you have professional colleagues with whom to collaborate and brainstorm?

Perhaps it is time to “grow” your community of support.

If so, here are 3 steps to having the network of relationships you desire:

1) Take an inventory of your relationships.

Who are the individuals who populate your life and what kind of relationships do you have with them? (Note: Family members may fall into any of these categories, depending on the depth of your relationship.)

David Steele distinguishes between three types of relationships. The first type is INTIMATES. These are the people with whom you can share your inner-most thoughts and feelings. They are the ones with whom you can really be yourself and for whom you would do almost anything if they needed help. These relationships often last for a long time, despite moves and changes in circumstance. And when
you see each other after a separation, it seems like you easily pick
up right where you left off. I like to think of these people as “kindred spirits”.

The second type of relationship is FRIENDS. These are the people with whom you have fun and socialize, or share particular activities and interests. These people may make up your professional community, your spiritual community, your neighbourhood community, and so on. This could be a tennis partner, someone who likes to go to the movies with you, or a fellow volunteer at your children’s school. These relationships often end when you stop the activity you share together, or if one of you moves away.

The third type of relationship is ACQUAINTANCES. These are people that you know and perhaps see at work, at the gym or in your community. However you’ve never gotten together with them individually and they probably have never been to your home.

Notice which categories the people in your life fall into. What types of relationships would you like to have more of? What’s missing?

2) Assess the quality of your relationships.

Some relationships actually detract from the quality of our lives. If we are trying to make positive changes in our lives, we may sometimes face the need to let go of relationships that don’t support our growth and success. We may also want to cultivate more positive connections.