I’ve been thinking about relationships this week. I have a lot of friends and relatives, acquaintances and colleagues. However, because of some recent correspondence from someone related to me, I’ve been examining what it is that constitutes a relationship. Of course the first thing I did was look it up in the dictionary. The basic definition is “the state of being related or interrelated”. Duh. However, there are several other definitions, and the one that struck me as most appropriate to my philosophical dilemma is this one: “the relation connecting or binding participants in a relationship”. If that sounds like a circle within a circle, it is. But what exactly is IT, that elusive connection binds us to another person?
We know from experience that it can be passion or need, but sometimes it is simply circumstance. That describes a lot of our relationships with relatives, co-workers, neighbors. We’re thrown together by random combinations of genes or the accidental sharing of our environment and we’re forced to relate to each other. We can do it with joy or with dread, and either can have a profound affect on our sanity.
I suppose what I was really searching for in the wee hours of my morning commute, when I think about such things, is what makes a good relationship- the kind we yearn for, treasure, and do our best to maintain through good times and bad. I came up with these requirements:
· A good relationship requires time: time spent talking, listening, visiting, enjoying, and understanding.
· A good relationship requires shared values and interests. Yeah, I know “opposites attract”, but “birds of a feather flock together” for a reason.
· A good relationship requires trust and respect. I’m not going to trust you with very much of my heart and soul if I don’t think you’ll treat it well.
· A good relationship requires commitment.
Not the most profound thoughts in the world, but thinking through this has lead me to the conclusion that not all of our relationships are worth maintaining. I’m not talking about the ones that cause us grief. We usually manage to shed those if we possibly can. But sometimes we hang on to “borderline” relationships out of habit or routine. These are the ones that need to be examined. Are they enriching your life or harming it? Bringing you joy or causing you daily stress? Helping you reach your potential or holding you back? It may be time to move on. And I think you can do it gently, without hurting or blaming anyone. I have.