“If I murdered someone, she’s the person I’d call to help drag the corpse across the living room floor.” Cristina regarding Meredith, Grey’s Anatomy.
“You’re my sister. You’re my family. You’re all I’ve got.” Meredith responds.
Who in your life is going to help you hide the body? Who really has your back? Supportive, nurturing friendships are a human necessity. We’re social beings and meaningful, social connections are life sustaining.
In 9th grade, my parents finally got their wish. They convinced me to leave the public school system that I had attended since kindergarten to attend a nearby college prep school. Junior high school had been a bit bumpy for me socially, so I was ready to make the switch.
As I entered the halls of my new school on the first day, nothing but unfamiliar faces. At lunchtime, my stomach twisted as I desperately searched for a friendly face from my morning classes.
Fortunately, I found someone from my English class to sit with and avoided the dreaded solo lunch. As the weeks went on, I came to know a few more people. However, I was disappointed that I hadn’t started to develop deep relationships with anyone. Who was I going to complain to about my teachers or confide in about my rapidly revolving series of crushes?
I hadn’t found "my person". Who was going to help me hide the corpse and throw the murder weapon into the river? What I really craved was someone who understood and cared about me. I wanted to feel valued by and connected to someone who I cared about and understood.
As an adult, I’ve experienced friendships that have supported me through hardships and shared my joy for whatever gifts have come my way. Supportive relationships are an integral part of being human.
As social beings, our physical and mental health are inextricably linked to healthy relationships. A 2010 metanalysis found that stronger social relationships are linked with longevity.
The key here is “healthy relationships”. Some of us have a bunch of people in our lives, but not all of these relationships lend to your physical and emotional wellness.
Here are few tips for nurturing healthy relationships.
It’s a about you (or them)
Your person knows when it’s time to just sit with you and listen. No commentary or advice. No interjecting bits of themselves and their story. Just sitting with and experiencing you. They are interested in you and what you have to share and trust that at another time, you will gift the same attentive presence and active listening.
Your true friends show you love and kindness because they want good things for you. The kindness that you share with one another nourishes the relationship and feels good. A recent study shows that acts of kindness boost the immune system. We were designed to show loving kindness to one another.
Life’s changing seasons
You person isn’t just for lunch meetups when life is going smoothly. Those friends who you can really count on can celebrate your promotion with you on Monday and grieve with you when you pet fish dies on Saturday.
Relationships that endure the highs and lows of life are those that will help sustain your emotional wellbeing. They create a sense of belonging and importance to another.
Just as Meredith has committed to helping Cristina dragging corpses across the floor, helping and supporting one another persists in easy as well as challenging times. If tough times send your "friends” running, then take a deeper look at how well you can lean on those relationships.
More than a text away
With the evolution of technology, increasingly busy schedules, and the pandemic, many of our relationships have lived in a series of messages sent into the ethernet. While technology has helped increase options for communication, relationships are deepened when we can see each other in person.
Some studies have shown that eye contact triggers the release of oxytocin. Oxytocin increases feelings of connection and affection. This pandemic has challenged even the strongest relationships. Some have gone months without physical contact or seeing friends and family in person. However, it’s important to find ways to interact with one another in real time, face-to-face.
If in person get togethers aren’t possible, try a phone call or video call. Plan an in-person meet-up when time and circumstances allow.
We will experience a variety of relationships in our lifetime, both good and bad. When you find your person or persons, show those relationships love and care. It’s probably as important to your emotional and physical health as sleep, a healthy diet, or exercise.