Are Holistic Relationships More Stable?

“Cherry Tree With Roots With Fruit” by Vlado, Courtesy of

What kind of relationships endure?

Today’s post continues our exploration of various theories about what makes a relationship “stick”. In the last post I talked about the theory of unforced time together. Today I want to talk about the breadth of the relationship–how holistic is the rapport itself. I look forward to hearing your comments below.

When learning a foreign language, it’s apparently helpful to see (and use) your new words and phrases in as many contexts as possible that are interesting to you. I still remember a Spanish phrase that, literally translated, is, “I have a fly behind my ear”. It means that something doesn’t quite smell right about a situation. When I was learning it, I wrote it in a sentence. I tried to use it with my husband whenever it made sense. I even used it in a spiritual direction session with a Spanish speaking directee. Though I learned it two years ago, I’m never going to forget that phrase because it’s connected to so many levels of my personal experience.

Some believe the same is true with relationships—the most stable may be those with whom we connect at multiple levels of life experience. The relationship is not exclusive to one sphere, or to one level of intimacy. Both our simple, daily life, and the deeper things like hopes and pains are a natural part of the relationship. At times we can connect as struggling souls, and other times we can just notice and enjoy one another’s strengths, quirks, and unique beauties.

When people are looking for community, the first thing they may think to do is join some sort of group—not a bad strategy. In my experience, community interest groups tend to offer opportunities to connect at a more light-hearted level. Church groups that encourage personal sharing tend to specialize in fostering conversation about the deeper things of life. Thank God for both of them. But the most stable relationships may be with the few with which we can share both sides of our lives. (You may even meet such a person in a group…)

Last year I noticed with some surprise that, even with a great deal of emotional support in the form of ministry peer groups and my own spiritual director, I still felt a sense of disconnect. It dawned on me that none of those people knew any of the more light-hearted parts of me. They don’t know I love languages (as you can tell from the above) or experimenting with international cuisine. They have no idea what kinds of movies, music, aspects of nature, or travel destinations I like. Not that they should, necessarily.

Many others I’ve spoken with know people they can have fun with, but find it hard to meet someone with whom they can share their struggles and not feel judged or dismissed. It was a revelation to me that when either kind of connection is missing, either deeper emotional sharing or light-hearted connecting, one can still can feel profoundly unknown.

People are gifts at every level of connecting. But if we only have relationships that limit themselves to a single sphere, we may not feel lonely per se, but we can feel a bit fragmented. Holistic relationships may be indispensable for truly feeling part of a fabric of community.

What Do You Think?

How important do you think are the more whole-person relationships?

Are there any spheres of your life where you don’t feel very well known?

Is there someone you already know with whom it feels like the right time to start showing interest in other spheres of their life?

Comment below.

About Jess Mason

Jess Mason, M.A., M.Div. is a licensed minister, spiritual director, and director of the DeeperHope Institute for Women's Spiritual Life. She currently pastors the Wednesday Women's Community at Free Christian Church in Andover, MA. She lives in Haverhill, MA with her husband, Elliott.


  1. I have a group of Friends I have known from grammar school. Each of us has come to know Christ in our lives. Throughout our lives we have come to know each other through struggles and sharing but we also share just plain old fun times. We all attend different churches and have different groups we belong to. We do however, purposely plan to spend time with each other several times each year. There is not a time when we don’t feel comfortable reaching out to each other in prayer or support. We did however bond mostly when we had a prayer meeting together in our younger years while raising our kids. I don’t think it would have continued if we had not purposely reached out to each other over the years. It took effort with our busy lives.

    On the flip side, it makes it more difficult to open up to new people as the risk of vulnerability is greater. Many times genuine relationships are difficult to have.

  2. “People are gifts at every level of connecting.” YES.

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