The Slippery Road To Isolation Well Before We Are Old

Infinity and questions.

One of my longtime California friends recently sent me an email commenting on how many long-term friendships are affected by the recent presidential election. His observation is that a significant number of people – from both of the major voting spectrum positions – are unable to comprehend how their friends could possibly have voted the way they did. Even worse, they are currently unable to forgive. On the surface they can still socialize but it’s awkward because conversation topics are now limited and everyone knows things just aren’t the same between them. Trust has been broken and, once broken, repair is not in sight. “How could you?” is the question hanging, unspoken in the air between them.

Provoked by his email, I checked with other friends around the nation. Sure enough, it’s not just a California phenomenon. I had previously thought of divisive as an adjective. Somehow, while I wasn’t looking it turned into a transitive verb with long term friends as the objects. And this is a potential, durable problem for all of us After 50.

In social network theory Strong Relationships/Strong Networks of Relationships is used to describe interpersonal connections characterized by high levels of trust, significant shared history, similarity of values, intentions in common, mutual support, and well established assumptions about one another. How many of these relationships are enough depends upon the individual. Strong Relationships/Networks are very important because they are efficient, reliable, and trustworthy. You don’t have to explain. You can make direct requests without preamble. Working on something at home or on the job can feel choreographed because you know how to move together.    And sometimes you can even finish each other’s sentences. We all need Strong Relationships/Networks.

Again in social network theory Weak Relationships/Weak Networks of Relationships is used to describe interpersonal connections characterized by little knowledge of each other, few if any shared friendships, potentially different background or approaches to life, and values which are not identical to our own. How many of these relationships are enough depends upon the individual. Weak Relationships/Networks are very important because they are the source of new possibilities, contacts, and approaches. They are also the source of a significant number of AHAs! and fresh ideas. If you are looking for an insightful answer or piece of information, weak relationships are more often than not a superior source because the individual is not burdened with assumptions about you and is likely to come from a totally different place than your own. We all need Weak Relationships/Networks.

The severing of a longtime friendship at this time is more than the termination of one strong relationship. It’s also the eradication of a significant number of weak connections your former strong connection could have arranged for you. How many strong relationships do you currently have and how does this total compare to what you really need in your life right now?

How many weak relationships – including connections through your strong relationships – do you currently have and how does this total compare to what you really need in your life right now?

Impoverishment in relationships later in life often comes because:

  1. The individual has not maintained his/her strong relationships AND has failed to replenish the network as people dropped out through moving, illness, no longer working together, or any of a number of other causes.
  2. The individual has failed to maintain and adequate weak network of relationships and, therefore, has few candidates in line to occupy strong connection positions.
  3. 1 and 2 lead directly to isolation.

I am asking you to consider how much energy, time, and effort it takes to build and maintain enough strong relationships. No one knows where our country is really going. It’s like hanging on to a surf board bouncing across the waves at the moment.

Do you have such an excess that you can easily afford to jettison previously important and strong relationships?

How are you resolving the relationship divide and the loss of trust with your strong friends who didn’t vote the way you did?

How strong is your Weak Network?

I propose a checklist of isolatioin conditions:

  • Enemies
  • Impoverishment of Strong Networks
  • Failure to nurture Weak Networks
  • Diminishment of curiosity
  • Failure to remain and interesting person
  • Capitulation and victimization

How many of these conditions exist in your networks?    What can you do about them?

Please let me know.

6 responses to “The Slippery Road To Isolation Well Before We Are Old”

  1. Cheryl Rogers says:

    Yes, the divide is growing deeper. There is a lack of understanding on both sides. I read a post by Mike Huckabee about the women’s marches that showed a lack of empathy for the women’s marches. Friends who participated said it was unifying and uplifting. Trump supporters seem to think it was an ugly and scary thing-they worried about bad language.
    How do we find common ground or even just common facts to begin a meaningful discussion? I would like to understand the other person’s point-of-view but this has eluded me so far. I maintain a couple of Facebook friends who post stuff that seems to explain the Trump supporters point-of-view and await an opportunity to have a real conversation. It is up to all of us to re-build trust and not isolate ourselves.

    • George Schofield says:

      Hi Cheryl

      So far resistance is a major focus of alternative efforts. I think that in the end resistance alone won’t work. We’re going to have to build alternatives that are so attractive and effective in practice that people will be naturally drawn to them.


  2. Jari Searns says:

    Oh my friend George…how cleverly you uncover the depth of our problems as we grow older and relationships start to alter, often changing our perspective on people and couples we previously deemed lifelong friends…and how carefully we approach new relationships fearful that those new people we meet “might not like us” or might be somehow psychologically damaged because we have different political perspectives…these issues are a BIG problem, my friend as honesty in a relationship takes time to grow and develop and today we are so impatient wanting to build friendships that will last too quickly and without investigating the foundations of those we want to call our new friends. Just how do we approach these folks with the honesty that could be the foundation of a truly long lasting relationship…in a way it’s a lot like a child learning to walk…we talk one step forward, but hesitate before that second step “cause perhaps we’ll misstep and fall.

    I thought I was now an adult and able to overcome these fears, but I was mistaken…now I must try harder and be willing to fail, stumble and get up to try once more…but it’s very hard!

    • George Schofield says:

      I love this. In opinion the idea of adulthood we grew up with was based on physical height and years of age. They were big. We were little. Because my father was also George he was known as Big George in our family and I was known as Little George. I don’t think I was self aware enough at the time to be wounded by this BUT I was aware enough to see how immature my parents and their friends could be at times regardless of height an age. It led me to the premise that Adulthood – as a state at which one arrives – is a myth perpetrated by tall people and imposed on small people. The dichotomy is even more exaggerated in these days where no single generation can know it all and we need to mentor across generations in all directions. You, I know, learn from your grandchildren as I do from mine. Not always lessons we ask for, right? In my own case I’ve had to surrender all notions of totally grown up/adult and replace it with allowing for being really human most days.

  3. Rick Searns says:

    I don’t a problem having a relationship with people that have different political opinions. I think that friendships and relationships are based on having an interest in each other and enjoy spending time and doing things together even though we may have different opinions about many things including politics but the difference in opinions doesn’t need to get in the way of our relationships because there are so many things that we like about each other and enjoy doing things together.

    • George Schofield says:

      This qualifies you, Rick, as a very wise man. How about writing a guest blog about this and we’ll publish it on my site?

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