Dianne Parsons has worked alongside her husband Rob for over 30 years with Care for the Family. In her new book and journal, 'You, Me and Coffee', she explores topics like self esteem, loneliness and her experience with postnatal depression and ME.
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Dianne: For me friendship is like a circle. Unless the circle is complete, where you can do things for somebody and they can do things for you, I don't think the friendship is a full friendship. There's something there, but it's not a full friendship.
It's allowing both sides to help each other out when it's necessary, or to listen to each other when it's necessary. I need people to listen to me sometimes. Friendship is reaching out and helping somebody but allowing them to help you as well.
Jonathan: It's interesting, too, you talk about loneliness in your book and that seems to be something that is at quite a level in our country now. We even have a loneliness minister. You share a couple of stories relating to older people and loneliness. Could you share something of them now to help us get a sense of the wider problem?
Dianne: I remember two stories very clearly. One was being at home one evening and Rob and I were watching television (probably something like Strictly, or something so intelligent that we wanted to watch) and the phone rang. I could tell by her voice that it was an elderly lady and I said I think you've got the wrong number, my dear. And she said please don't put the phone down; you're the first person I've spoken to today.
It breaks my heart to think there are people who live next door to her or family that live close that don't visit her. We do live in a society where we seem to shut ourselves away so very often from the people around us. I think it's a sad indictment on our society, really.
The other story was a lady that I met, she was out shopping and I said what are you going to do today and she said I'm going to go ballroom dancing tonight. I said do you enjoy that and she said no but it's the only time in the week that someone touches me.
I think of the cuddles I get from my grandchildren or the hugs I get from my children and the affection I get from Rob even and to have none of that must be so hard to live with. There are so many people who live under those conditions these days.
Jonathan: What do you think we can do to help prevent loneliness in the lives of those round us or in our own lives?
Dianne: I think to be aware of people around us, our neighbours, perhaps people in church, perhaps even bumping into people in a supermarket which I've done before and got chatting just over the freezer. Women especially really open up and almost give you their life story over a box of fish fingers. They just want somebody to talk with.
I was in a café the other day and they have a lonely table. Somebody was sitting there so if anybody wanted to go and sit and chat with them that's what the table was for. I think that's an amazing idea, being innovative about how we can help people who are lonely around us.
Jonathan: I want to ask you about marriage now. In all your years of marriage and working with Care for the Family, what would you say are some of the most important lessons you've learnt about how to make a marriage work and last?
Dianne: There are one or two things. Again, listening to each other; being aware that we're not always the same, we don't always think alike but that doesn't mean to say that one of you is right and one of you is wrong. Being aware of listening to each other.
Rob and I laugh a lot and we usually end the day with a bit of laughter, not always, but often we do. Just be there for each other when the chips are down.
We've learnt to pray together, which I think is a huge bonus for Christian couples because if you can't pray about the small things you're going to find it very difficult to pray about the large things when they come around and very often big things do come around and we're not prepared, we're not set up to pray together for that situation.