It's weird for me to use a math related illustration. I am always working on becoming better with numbers! But here goes.
In arithmetic, the denominator is the number below the line in a fraction. Remember grade school? Numerator | Denominator. It indicated, as you probably know, the number of equal parts in which something was divided. So 1/4 of a pie meant that the pie was divided into 4 and one of those segments = 1/4.
I was thinking about the word denominator recently. I’m not sure why. I was remembering a line from my past about relationships and seeing yourself as the common denominator. The only constant in all your relationships is you.
So, I went on a bit of an etymological search of the word denominator. And I’m happy to report I didn’t have to learn more math! The word origin is the word denominate. It means the act of giving a name to something. I love that! I’ve been really thinking about my friendships and close relationships lately. I’m rich in friendships. I’ve got good people in my life. And yet sometimes I feel like I’m not really connected to anyone.
I’ve been reflecting on friendships a lot this year. I used to think that I must attract people who are like me. People who are independent, self-sufficient, 'I can take care of myself' types. And maybe I do.
Or am I the common denominator?
I think the truth is that I have defined independent and self-sufficient as being able to take care of myself and not needing people. I think it is part of the story I tell myself about what it means to be a strong woman. I’m working on a new story now. One where I am interdependent. I’ve been having some good conversations this summer with a few close friends about how we can be better friends. How we can have emotionally, supportive relationships and what that looks like for each of us.
I’ve been surprised to get feedback from one friend that she has experienced the same issue in our friendship. She hasn’t wanted to look needy or codependent so she keeps a lot to herself. Like me she wants to be a strong and independent woman. We are exploring how that has impacted our twenty + year friendship and we have had some of our best conversations to-date.
I share all this because I know that I am not alone. I think that we are all busy in our lives and we have placed a high value on being self-sufficient and not needing anyone else. Until something happens and we need help. And eventually it happens. I’m learning how to be a better friend so when that time comes in my life or my friend’s lives, reaching out for support feels like the best thing to do.
So, I’ve created a friendship evaluation for you to do with a close friend. I can’t believe I waited so long to do it in my life. Grab a glass of wine or a cup of tea and sit down with each your close friends and work through these questions. And do it again in 6 months. In all of your relationships, you are the common denominator. Name your challenges, expectations and fears in your relationships (denominate). You won’t need a calculator!