The real secret to becoming a close-knit relationship is shared experiences that turn into shared trials.

~ Gary Smalley

Several years ago, we interviewed healthy families across the country and asked them each the same question: "What do you believe is the main reason you are all so close and happy as a family?" What we found amazed us. Each family gave basically the same answer: "We do a lot of activities together." Upon further study, we discovered these families also had one particular activity in common - camping.

For those of you who do not like camping, don't panic. We are not necessarily advocating camping. Instead, we believe the secret to being a close-knit family almost always can be found in camping because two very important things happen. These principles are also true for husbands and wives without children, and dating relationships.

1. Close-knit relationships result from people sharing numerous experiences. The reason why shared experiences are so important is because they provide great memories, which draw people together. Professional athletes say the hardest part of retirement is that they miss the camaraderie of their team. That unique bond is built through hard training and competing together over months and years. That closeness should be a part of every family. By doing several things it can be!

2. Close relationships form after dealing with difficulties in a positive manner. An important part of how a shared experience can bond family members together is the opportunity to deal with difficulties in a positive manner.

Let's return to camping as an example. When we camp, we can usually anticipate rain, mosquitoes, running out of gas, a flat tire, losing the traveler's checks, or forgetting the main ingredient to a meal. When families share in solving such conflicts, they can be drawn closer together.

However, confronting a crisis may not immediately draw a family together. When families experience a lot of stress, they can easily become irritable and upset with each other. Just remember, a certain amount of anger or stress is natural in a conflict or mishap. Family members need to recognize this and not close each other's spirits.

Also, keep in mind that if conflict arises from within the family, that conflict may separate them. If, on the other hand, the conflict comes from outside the family as it often does in a shared experience -- and we have not offended each other -- we must remember that in a few days or weeks we can reflect on the experience. Usually, in laughter, we'll see how it has drawn us closer together.

Being together, as families, at various times throughout the year is very important. So let's discuss some practical and meaningful ways to actually be together.

Three Practical Ways to Share Life Together

1. Schedule Regular Times Together. Because we cannot develop a deep relationship with our loved ones unless we spend meaningful time together, we need to set aside a few minutes each month to schedule "family time." Spending time together is a decision that must be made and kept. We may have days when we prefer not to be with the family or feel we don't have time. In that case, we must evaluate how we spend our time and how we can rearrange or eliminate activities in our schedule in order to be with the family.

A word of caution: Broken promises play a major part in closing the spirits of our loved ones. We must be careful to follow through when we plan times together.

2. Discover Each Person's Most Meaningful Activity. Once we agree on the importance of spending time together as a family, then we need to find out each family member's most enjoyable activities. You might rate activities using a zero-to-ten scale, with ten being the most fun and fulfilling.

3. Design Togetherness Times With Each Family Member In Mind. After learning everyone's wishes for family activities and experiences, families can design a trip, a vacation, or a special outing that meets the needs of all family members.

When we share experiences together as a family it forms the very fiber that weaves a family into a close-knit unit. But it doesn't happen unless we recognize the value of being together and schedule times with each member's interests in mind.


Copyright © 2004 Smalley Relationship Center.