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Four Circles of Support: A Guide

By December 8, 2022 No Comments

Most of us naturally develop support circles that we are in the center of as we go through life. There are at least four circles of support each of us has in life. These circles are dynamic. They change and morph over the course of our lifetime. People come and go out of them. Sometimes, it feels like we have only one person inside our circle, and other times, it seems like we have a whole TRIBE. 

I’d like to explore each of these support circles so we can better understand the dynamics of relationships. 

Circle of Intimacy

Our parents, siblings, cousins, and other relatives are included in our first circle of support. As the center of the circle, we are supported by the rest of our relatives as they surround us and take care of our needs. This inner core, the intimacy circle, is vital for our survival and development. As we get older, close friends and other people we love join this circle. Some family members never enter this circle, but the ones we feel closest to are its core. 

Circle of Friendship

Our good friends make up this circle. They are people who we have a connection with, enjoy spending time with, and are there for us when we need to vent or celebrate. We go out for coffee or drinks with them, call them when we have good news, go to movies or concerts with them or play games with them. They often respond when we hit hard times, but they are not as close as our Intimacy Circle. However, some of our friends in this circle will be there to support the people in our Intimacy Circle when they need it.

Circle of Participation

Acquaintances make up this circle. These people are the members of the groups in which we participate. They are cordial and like-minded enough to be involved in the same activities. We might go to church with them, play on the same sports team, volunteer for the same charity, or work or go to school together. They are not necessarily close enough to be considered friends. Over time and in particular circumstances, some members can move into our Friendship Circle. Some can even move into our Intimacy Circle.

Circle of Exchange

People who are paid in some way to be in our lives are in our Circle of Exchange. These are our doctors, teachers, counselors, barbers, dog walkers, and so on. We need them to support us, but the relationship is purely transactional.

Moving Through the Circles

People from one circle can move into one of the other circles, but when they do, the relationship changes and new boundaries are set. For example, I was the Nanny for a family for six years. I started out in their Circle of Exchange. However, over the course of the time that I worked for them, the family, and my husband and I became very close friends. We consider each other family. I used to be paid to be in their lives. Now, when I care for the children for a week or more at a time while the parents travel, I offer the care as a gift. We vacation together and we stay with each other for weeks at a time. We’re dear, dear friends. We transversed across all three outer circles and are now in each other’s circles of intimacy.

As you think about your Four Circles of Support, remember, Anything is possible with Lipedema!


Check out our Facebook Group, Lipedema Simplified Support

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