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A Woman's Guide to Understanding Her Core Relationships

From the Greek Tragedies, the Bible, and Shakespeare, to current literature, theater and movies, women have been inspired, mired, come to life and been destroyed by the relationships. From, Ruth and Naomi, and Romeo and Juliet, to the Little Women, and the women of Sex & the City, girls of all ages have loved, lost and learned from their relationships.

“Women are hard-wired to experience through relationships,” says Dr. Susan Davis, a New York-based psychologist. “Experiences are the most powerful vehicle through which people live, learn and develop, and this is particularly true of women. Understanding these first and most formative relationships, and their impact, helps women apply this learning to create present-day relationships that enhance rather than hinder, and lead to a lifetime of gratifying, loving experiences.”

She calls women’s critical relationships “The Essential Eleven.” These relationships are a woman and:

  1. her mother
  2. her father,
  3. her body,
  4. her siblings,
  5. her friends,
  6. her teachers,
  7. her mate,
  8. her children,
  9. her boss and co-workers,
  10. her elderly parents
  11. and her adult children.

“Each one of the Essential Eleven needs its own mini ‘business plan,’” says Dr. Davis, “Not a spreadsheet with facts and figures, but a plan in your mind. The goal is to understand the relationships that were our templates, and the relationships that will enhance our present and future selves.”

Dr. Davis proposes the following recommendations for women to manage their own Essential Eleven.

  • Choose relationships with empathetic people so that you can heal the wounds of childhood and grow to fulfill your best self.
  • No singular relationship can fulfill all of your needs. It is important not to expect a best friend or spouse to be everything. For example -- fun, intimacy, intellectual companionship -- can all be met in different relationships.
  • In raising children, reflect on your formative relationships: understanding where you’re coming from and how you were parented enables you to better understand what your child truly needs in order to flourish.
  • Your relationship to your own body is an overlooked, yet essential one. It is ultimately each woman’s responsibility to make peace with herself by being kind, generous and loving to her body. Commit to a movement routine (yoga, working out, a sport) eating healthfully and with some pleasure, and being mindful of body health and medical check-ups.
  • You and your work - a woman’s relationship to her work is key in allowing her to express her creativity and ambition. This relationship needs to be nurtured and developed like all other relationships in one’s life. By knowing what she wants to develop further in herself, a woman can direct her career accordingly.
  • The relationship you have with a spouse or lover is complex and challenging. To stay satisfying and vibrant, long-term love relationships require communication and empathy, skills which often need to be learned and re-learned over time. Keep a sexual relationship alive. When a woman allows her sexual self to wane, this is a warning that an important aspect of her self is cut off and a marriage may be at risk.
  • Daughter, mother, sister, wife, friend, artist, doctor, mentor, protégé, women are not cookie cutter versions of each other. Remember, different women have had different lives, and so their relationships will constitute a unique collage. Relationships that contain an individual’s unique recipe of intimacy, reciprocity, communication, growth, security and flexibility, are those that lead to a satisfying, productive and happy life.

In creating “The Essential Eleven,” Dr. Davis has created a guide for women to understand the trajectory of their life’s relationships and design their own best life strategy. Read more about Susan Davis and “The Essential Eleven.”

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