Diversifying our relationship portfolios

I recently reviewed my retirement savings portfolio and was pleased to see its outstanding performance over the past year. There were a lot of struggles in 2017, but market performance certainly wasn’t among them. I stopped at the diversification charts, and remembered the advice of the financial planner I met with a month after my divorce was final.

Make sure your investments are positioned in a way that reflects your tolerance for risk. 


In other words, don’t put all your eggs in one basket — and gradually decrease your risk exposure as you get closer to living off your retirement savings. What he was telling me was to always hedge my bets.

Can we apply this same logic of risk management to our personal relationships? Do we put ourselves at undue risk by deeply investing in only a select few? On the flip side, do we really get return on our relationship investment if we don’t narrow our focus? The short answer, for me, is that our relationships aren’t stocks and bonds and viewing them in this way feels far to mercenary — but it’s still important to diversify our relationship portfolio.

We can’t make our lives all about one person. It’s not fair to them. The pressure of being that all-everything to someone else is overwhelming for most.  There’s nothing wrong with having a few foundational relationships in our lives — our partners, our kids, our best friends — but it’s not healthy to put it all on them. Spreading our relationship needs out allows our core relationships to be what they are, rather than forcing them to be the all-everything.

More people means more diversity. Our lives are made more beautiful when we intersect a wide variety of folks whose perspectives and experiences are different than ours. We learn from them and dissolve the myopia that can close our view of the world.

We need specialists in our lives. You know that person you can go to when you need that one thing? Yes, that person. They may not be our closest or most frequent interaction, but they provide invaluable insight in the moment.

Much like my financial portfolio, it’s taken me quite a while to find the healthy balance in my relationships. It’s not a matter of hedging my bets or aligning with my risk tolerance. It’s knowing myself, what I can give and what I need, and having the right expectations across my relationships — to create a foundation for a sustainable and fulfilling future.

That is what investment is all about.