How to Create Meaningful Relationships

How to Create Meaningful Relationships

Porter Macey Ph.D., LMFT. Clinic Director

June 2, 2020

When I think of the relationship I have been a part of I feel very lucky. I remember my dad helping me drive my first remote control car as a seven year old. I remember my first pair of skis and my mom teaching me how to ski on the tiny hill in the backyard of our house. Despite her expertise as an instructor, I ran straight into the fence. I also remember my mom comforting me and assuring me that it would be easier to learn on a proper ski hill. I have fond memories of playing one on one football with my brother, in the front yard, on our knees, in the snow (it sounds so painful now!) and memories of my sister who loved “doing” my hair…when I had hair. Fast forward and I can still feel the butterflies of anticipating a kiss from my high school crush when the clock struck midnight on New Years Eve. I must have been some kisser because she ended up marrying me years later. I also remember feeling so hurt as a child that I ran away, breaking my brother’s door because what he did made me so mad and the pain that comes from fighting with the person you want to be loved by the most. I think we can all relate to how painful those moments can be. 

Relationships can bring immense joy but they can also bring the most hurt. Interestingly enough these two seemingly opposed experiences can happen at the same time. One of my most tender memories with my father is when he found me sitting in the snow after I “ran away”. When I think back on that I see how the pain and pleasure melded together. That experience is a piece that makes my relationship with my dad meaningful. Meaningful relationships are, in my opinion, the best part of life but what does it take to build meaningful relationships and why are they often so painful, scary, or downright harmful? 

All meaningful relationships include intimacy in some form. Intimacy can be experienced differently depending on the person or the relationship, but you cannot achieve intimacy without vulnerability. Think back to grade school when you were trying to make friends on the playground. At some point you had to ask another kid, “do you want to play with me?” That is a vulnerable question! It says, “ I find you interesting. I want to spend time with you and share an experience. I am putting myself out there and risking rejection in hopes that we can enjoy something together.” If the kid says “no” it hurts. We may wonder if there is something wrong with us. We question whether we will be able to make friends and if anyone will ever like us. Heavy stuff! If they say “yes” we get to show them who we are and learn more about them as the friendship builds. For a moment we forget all the unfair, self conscious thoughts of not being lovable and just experience life. This is intimacy. If a child comes to an adult hurt from being rejected on the playground you can often hear the adult respond by telling the kid there are lots of people to play with and to try again. When we are adults we hear the same message. Think of the rom com movies where adults are giving the same message to other adults, “There are plenty of fish in the sea, get back on the horse, or we just need to find you the right person.” All these things are true, so why can they feel bad when we hear them? It’s because we want meaningful relationships, not simply relationships. Meaningful relationships offer us love, purpose, growth, and safety. They let us know we are OK whenever we doubt ourselves. Meaningful relationships make life meaningful. So be vulnerable with those you trust, create shared experiences, and strengthen the relationships that bring your life meaning! When you find someone on the playground who you want to keep playing with, share yourself with them and build a meaningful relationship!

One thought on “How to Create Meaningful Relationships”

  1. Holly Barrick says:

    I really relate to the section where you talk about relationships can bring joy and hurt, sometimes at the same time. My most intimate relationships have blossomed after growing through a vulnerable time. Thanks for this beautiful passage.

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