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“A friend is a gift you give yourself.”
—Robert Louis Stevenson
When we talk about investments, it usually relates to what stocks we have, or investing in our children’s education, or in our future.
But perhaps the greatest investment we can make is our investment in our relationships.
Learning to invest
When you want your money to grow, you check out investment options. What amount needs to be invested to bring a good return over time?
Growing up, I was taught to save 10 percent of everything I earned. From the berry fields to my first job after high school, there was little left to put into savings after expenses. But it was a principle I took seriously, abided by, and was always amazed at how those little deposits added up over time.
When my husband and I got married, we started out barely able to make ends meet and pay the bills. But over the years, we continued putting away whatever we could and investing it for later years. It required discipline, self-regulation, sacrifice and commitment. But it was a diligence that more than paid off in dividends.
Investing wisely took a while to learn. Some stocks were too risky; others gave hardly any return. But we learned how to invest wisely and prudently, maximizing our return while minimizing the risks.
Relationships are like investments
“Many people will walk in and out of your life, but only true friends will leave footprints in your heart.”
But it wasn’t just money that we invested in. It was our relationship – how we treated each other, how we spoke to one another, how we showed that we cared for each other.
Just like we use a dollar amount to invest for financial growth, investing in our relationship required a commitment. To gain a positive return, we invested time, energy, loyalty, reliability and dedication. Over time, that investment returned dividends we couldn’t have imagined.
Relationships from childhood on
Early childhood relationships meant playing with kids who were nearby. As time went on, friendships became more complicated.
As we grew up, the kids we hung around with gave us social identity and status and we shared a commonality in our doubts and fears. Our camaraderie made us loyal. When that loyalty was betrayed, we experienced the sting of rejection and betrayal.
Entering adulthood, we began to choose more wisely. Our circle of friends gradually extended from party times to those who shared the same or similar values and goals.
We began to make a different investment in our friendships. We realized that important and valued relationships required on-going effort and commitment, loyalty, and sacrifice; being willing to endure those tough times as well as enjoying the good times.
“I would rather walk with a friend in the dark, than walk alone in the light.”
Some friendships last a lifetime – others go by the wayside – others we drop because those early moments of compatibility were shallow and had no roots to grow.
The friendships where we invest the most time, energy, love, commitment, and loyalty will be those that give us the greatest return – a return that can’t be measured in monetary ways.
Relationships – who needs them?
We are social animals and require social interaction to survive. As we learn more about the human brain, research reveals that we are hardwired to connect with each other. Creating secure bonds is important for our health.
Socially isolated people are two to three times more likely to die prematurely than those with strong social ties.
The type of relationship doesn’t matter. Marriage, friendship, religious and community ties all seem to increase longevity.
Divorced men before the age of 70 are more likely to die from heart disease, cancer, and strokes as married men. The rate of all types of cancer is about five times higher for divorced men and women.
Poor communication and the inability to resolve conflicts within our relationships can contribute to coronary disease.
One Swedish study examined 32 pairs of identical twins. One sibling in each pair had heart disease, whereas the other was healthy. Researchers found that obesity, smoking habits, and cholesterol levels of the healthy and sick twins did not differ significantly. Among the significant differences, however, were poor childhood and adult interpersonal relationships, the ability to resolve conflicts, and the degree of emotional support given by others.
Perhaps you have experienced misplaced loyalty, broken commitments, and trampled expectations from those you considered friends, colleagues, and spouses.
If you have been hurt in relationships, you may ask: Relationships – who needs them? Wouldn’t it just be easier to stay out of any serious relationship altogether?
And yet, as social beings, we require social interaction to survive. Consider this post from Jenny Cadell, PsyD, who writes in her blog post, 3 Key Factors of Healthy Relationships:
“We are much more interconnected than we realize. As technology advances and we are able to actually see into the human brain, we now have proof of this.”
Research is revealing that evidence that we are hardwired to connect with each other and “that healthy relationships actually soothe our brains.”
Technology is allowing us to see what is happening within our brains. We were not meant to face “the trauma and difficulties of life” by ourselves. Creating secure bonds is important for our health.
Do we need each other?
Oh, I think we do.
And does communication play a large part in that?
It plays a huge part. Examining our relationships and how we communicate can be a lifesaver.
What relationships have you invested in?
- How do you choose your friends? What are the most important criteria for you?
- What kind of friend are you? What qualities do you believe make for a dependable and long-term relationship?
- Are there friendships you continue to invest in for the wrong reasons such as status, popularity, inclusion, someone to party with, use as a bargaining chip, etc.?
- Are you able to be yourself in your relationships, feeling the safety to disclose?
We need each other.
Can you find those ways to invest in your relationships, making them the best ever with the greatest return?