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support network

September 6, 2023

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welcome.

time to consider your support network. 

first, relationships are vital. without them, you become unwell. 

research is clear on the importance of relationships, so i’m not going to spend much time here, but i will highlight that for men the situation is getting worse:

  • 15% of men have no close friendships. a 5X increase since 1990. *nypost.com

not only are relationships vital for your well-being but they also influence who you become. goethe said, “tell me who you consort with and I’ll tell you who you are.”

it’s true.

so let’s be thoughtful and intentional about who you are spending your time with. 

common problems with support networks

two “dysfunctional” patterns i routinely see in people’s support networks are:

  1. insufficient: people with limited support are unable to get all of their needs met. for example, no romantic partner

or

  1. misapplication: we attempt to get our needs met with the wrong people OR we overburden our current supports. for example, you burden your friend with your mental health concerns; instead, you should be talking to a therapist

creating a thriving support network

it always starts with raising your awareness. 

i like to use a simple relationship inventory to take stock of this important component of health. 

a relationship inventory is an opportunity to stop and reflect on who currently makes up your support and what specific role they play.

relationship inventory

here is a simple 4 column relationship inventory:

  1. first, make a list of your current relationships 

this will include family, friends, neighbors, colleagues, and people you interact with on a fairly regular basis. 

  1. make an additional column and write down what need(s) this person serves. 

for example, humor, recreation, emotional support, perspective/advice, spiritual support

  1. make third column and write down how YOU contribute to the relationship.

for example, humor, recreation, emotional support, perspective/advice, spiritual support

NOTE: relationships are reciprocal. you typically, not always, get similar needs met with the same person. for example, you might share humor, spiritual connection, and romantic love with your partner.

IMPORTANT: if you’re not actively participating and contributing to your relationships, like a tomato plant, they will wither and die. you need to show up and tend to your relationships regularly. 

  1. last column: ask yourself is this person supporting me? are they helping me become a better version of myself?

your answer may be yes or no or maybe somewhere in between.

this can be a difficult question as it can get a little messy here but if its a clear “no”, you may want to consider distancing yourself.

in some cases, we may not be able to “remove” people from our networks (e.g. boss, mother) but, again, the aim here is to raise your awareness, so at minimum, you can reconsider your current boundary.

as is the nature of awareness this inventory will give you more perspective and choice around these relationships.

you may want to ask yourself,

“is this person good for me and my life?” 

“do i need to set a different boundary with this person? “

“do i need to do contribute more to the relationship?” 

what other questions arise for you?

best of luck.  

donald

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