“One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. “Proverbs 18:24
I believe the older we get, the wiser we should become because with age comes experiences both good and bad. What I have discovered is exactly what Gary Smalley articulates, “Life is Relationships, the rest is just details.” If we accept that to be a true statement, then as we get older we need to become experts at relationships. Esther Perel describes it this way, “the quality of our relationships determines the quality of our lives. “
Therefore, one of our highest priorities should be how to recognize and nurture healthy relationships. Conversely, we need to recognize toxic relationships so we can cull them from our lives if needed. In a very real way, relationships make up the core of our existence; privately and publicly. And yet we spend so little time learning how to cultivate and manage healthy relationships. Especially in our Western world, we put achievements, performance, entertainment, and consumerism ahead of relationships. Many people need to learn to give and receive a healing apology or learn to care for the most important relationships they have. The fabric of society is made up of our relationships, and as we neglect them, our society suffers at large.
Some people are naturally good at leaning in and learning about relationships. These are individuals who are born with the natural gift of “EQ”, or emotional quotient. They possess a high level of emotional intelligence and can understand, use, and manage their own emotions in positive ways. They have learned to use their emotional intelligence to relieve stress, communicate effectively, empathize with others, overcome challenges, and diffuse conflict. It’s this “EQ” rather than “IQ” that helps individuals to naturally build and maintain healthy relationships. Those high in “EQ” can exercise empathy for others, communicate their needs clearly, work well in a team and manage conflict in a healthy way.
Many people mistakenly believe that “EQ” or emotional intelligence operates the same way that “IQ” or “intelligence quotient,” operates, that is; once a person is fully matured the measurement is stagnant and can never be improved upon. While some scholars believe we are all born with a certain “IQ” that can’t be improved significantly, the same is not necessarily true of “EQ.” Indeed, some people are more naturally gifted in the area of emotional intelligence, but the exciting reality is anybody can work on improving their “EQ.” In the same way we learn to drive a car and navigate our complicated traffic system, we can learn to navigate the ins and outs of relationships. It is simply learning the necessary skills and becoming proficient in those skills.
It is important to understand that not all relationships are created equal; there are many levels of relationships.
As we grow, we find and make close relationships with people who are not necessarily related to us by family ties. This is a necessary and mature way to grow because while we may be born into some relationships, that does not insure they are the healthiest of relationships. Estrangement among family members is common, especially in families that do not value healthy conflict, or have dysfunctional systems. Abuse is often experienced in our family of origin and as we become healthier emotionally, we recognize and distance ourselves from relationships that bring us harm. We put into practice, “the quality of our relationships determines the quality of our lives.”
I have found some of my closest friends in my emotional support groups. Usually, people who have experienced the same trauma can relate better to the relationship wounds that an individual has experienced. These are some of my closest friends. Other people, whether by blood on not, are the ones who have lived life in the trenches with me. They have stood by through thick and thin, the good times and the bad.
Danny Silk in his book “Keep Your Love On,” pictures relationships as many circles around a central core, with the furthest circles representing the most superficial relationships. The closer a circle is to the center, the more important the relationship is to us and the more responsible we are to that relationship. According to Danny Silk, hot lava core relationships, representing our inmost center, are the closest relationships that we have. Sometimes these relationships are found in our family or origin and sometimes not.
Hot lava core relationships are represented by these qualities:
-These individuals have a deep commitment to you; it is lifelong and they love you like themselves.
-They accept your flaws, knowing that you are in process.
-They are loyal, and don’t leave at the first sign of conflict or hard times.
-They represent a high level of emotional safety. You can trust them with your deepest secrets and insecurities.
-They don’t dominate the relationship; it is healthy give and take.
-They don’t try to manipulate you with fear, pain, and punishment.
-These friends will engage in healthy conflict on your behalf because they know it is in the best interests of the relationship.
-They are not jealous of other relationships and don’t compete for your attention.
Hot lava core relationships are the long-term, fulfilling relationships that we seek to nurture in our lives. These relationships have a history of acceptance, love, and safety so that when necessary conflict or confrontation happens, we can accept the discomfort without damaging the relationship permanently. They are the relationships that make life worth living and increase the quality of our lives. Ideally, we need to learn to recognize and adopt these qualities and apply them to the most important people in our lives.