Week 19: Chair’s blog – Friendships and Connection

We all need love in our lives. From the day we are born until the day we die. In childhood that’s provided by parents, or sometimes other carers – but over our lifetime that changes. The relationship with parents evolves as we get older as new ‘significant others’ sometimes emerge and for some of us that then results in us becoming parents ourselves, and the cycle continues.

The need to give and receive love never changes, however; just the nature of it. Families represent an important part of that love connection. In some cultures, the bond of family is stronger than others. Here in London, people are often drawn to the city lights to try and make a better living and end up further away from their families. And notwithstanding the wonders of modern technology that physical distance can be challenging when illness or other difficulties emerge.

I came back to live in Wimbledon in my early 30s and still live close by to my mother. Both of my brothers have younger families themselves but are still only an hour or so away. We are fortunate to have that close family network still. However, for others where families are further afield or have maybe passed on, that need for love and connection takes a different form. Sometimes that mainly takes the form of a more intimate relationship and ultimately marriage with a partner, but for others it takes the form of close friendships.

Friendships vary over our lives. Some people are able to maintain friendships throughout their lives, for others, friendships come and go. The advent of social media and Facebook, in particular, brought a completely new meaning to being ‘friends’ with someone and the definition of friends and acquaintances can vary hugely depending on your own personal interpretation of each relationship.

I read a fascinating article recently that suggested that some men, in particular, put far too much store in their relationship with their partner to the detriment of other friendships, as seen here. I’ll be honest, I immediately identified with that and now that I’m separated, I realise, that I have not been good at following the golden rule suggested in the article, that meeting regularly is key to maintaining good friendships. As I said above, I am fortunate in having family relatively close by, but they all have their own lives, so close friendships outside that circle are important to fill that gap.

One of the targets I set myself at the beginning of the year was to try and connect better through social media alongside this regular column and I’ll be honest other than joining Linked In, to help recruit our new Communications Executive, I have failed on that score so far. The irony of it has not been lost on me that we have been seeking to promote better connection via this website when in fact I have not managed that well in my own life.

But the reality is I am not alone in this. I have been fortunate to be able to afford counselling over the last few years to help with my challenges, but for many people the cost of regular therapy is prohibitive. I recently met with Sally Anderson who helps run a whole range of Talking Therapy workshops at the Wimbledon Guild for a wide variety of demographic groups. It is an incredibly valuable service, and I would encourage people to check it out if you need support.

It’s been said, particularly since the Covid 19 outbreak, that we have a ‘loneliness epidemic’ not only here in the UK but across the world which, given we are supposedly better connected via social media and the internet, I find richly ironic. The key to all this, I think, is the quality of the connection between us. As I say, I’ve not been great at focussing on the quality side myself but developing those links can help with our own mental health and supporting others when we see they are struggling.  And good mental health is also closely allied to good physical health, as I’ll seek to explore next time.

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