I feel like every relationship in life is a gift because relationships teach us characterization...if we're paying attention. As I've planned for my wedding, I've interacted with loved ones and acquaintances in stressful and awkward situations. You begin to learn that weddings aren't all about being in the spotlight; all of these bridal festivities begin to be opportunities for people to show their love and support. And if you are gracious, you begin to allow them to celebrate you and spend time with you.
Its these sort of observations of your friends and family that help you with the characters in your stories. To really understand your characters, you have to be patient and observant. You have to try and understand why they do things, not just what they would do. Its important to ask what does a character's decision says about him or her. Why did Jill choose to run back down the hill? What does that say about her character? What does that say about her priorities?
It is even more important that we ask these questions about real people: our friends and family. If we can take that step back and try to understand those around us, it just might lead to more compassion and grace.