Rings of Relationships | By Jessica Waclawski

Last Updated: November 24, 2020By

Originally published in the Winter + Spring 2020 issue

The well-being of our relationships determines our own personal well-being. When our relationships become disconnected, we struggle to thrive. This isn’t because we’re too needy or codependent; this is purely because we are hard wired to be deeply connected to one another. We are, after all, social mammals designed to be in interconnected communities. The adage, “it takes a village” sums up our evolution. 

But sadly, we are more disconnected and lonely than we’ve ever been before. Loneliness is even considered an epidemic and a public health concern. Our cultural prioritization of independence and going at life with a solo approach has left us dying to be touched, held and understood. Quite literally … 

With the over valuing of independence, we’ve lost sight of the importance of interdependence, where we build connections of reliability and consistency. With interdependence, I trust that you are there and that I can vulnerably call out for help, knowing I can’t do it all. I also respond when reached to by a loved one. This is healthy. Thinking we can carry the heavy load of life alone is not healthy, or frankly realistic, for anyone. 

Our relationships have layers and these layers impact one another. I have a concept of three core layers or what I call, “The Rings of Relationships.” 

They are relationships: 

1. With our own self 

2. With each other 

3. With our world + nature 


This is the inner most ring. Our connection to our own self holds immense power and it sets the tone for how we show up in the other two rings. If we aren’t clear on our worth, our lovability and if we aren’t connecting to our emotional self, we aren’t available to connect to anyone else. Because the key to all connections are our emotions. So, getting to know yourself emotionally is central to developing a solid relationship with … YOU! 

TIP: Connecting inward is a practice. Ask yourself, “What am I feeling? Where do I feel it? What is it like for me?” And just start exploring the sensations of feelings without judgment. Just notice! 


The next ring and the middle ring that builds a beautiful bridge to ourselves and our world, is how deeply we connect with one another. The essence here is the great risk of getting vulnerable. Opening up, revealing what’s in your heart and really showing up in relationships. Cultivating meaningful connection requires us to use the emotions we explore with our own selves to give to others through compassion and empathy. If you aren’t willing to try out some vulnerability, your relationships can’t and won’t grow. 

TIP: Get curious! Come from a place of being interested in your relationships. Drop the judgment and try to understand more about this person. Questions like “What was that like for you? What did you learn? Could you tell me more so I can understand?” are great ways to show curiosity and to slow down a conversation. 


When we are connected with our own emotions and we show up interested with empathic concern in our relationships, we end up caring a whole lot more about our earth. Compassion breeds compassion! And boy do we need it right now. Our earth is needing some TLC and as human beings, we have a long history of the earth caring for us. Good ol’ mother nature has been providing for our needs in an abundance of ways since we showed up on this planet. 

TIP: As you practice connecting emotionally with yourself and others, expand this to include the world and nature. Practice seeing how you are connected to the natural world. From what you eat, to what you do, to the air you breathe. The next time you eat a meal, pause and reflect on all that went into getting that food on your plate. And specially the role mother nature played. Give gratitude and begin to think more mindfully about where your food comes from. 

Jessica Waclawski is the owner of the Vail Relationship Institute, where she practices as a therapist. She specializes in strengthening and repairing relationships, working with couples and individuals. She creates unique workshops, retreats and intensive experiences. All because she believes relationships matter most. Learn more about Jessica at vailrelationshipinstitute.com. 

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