In our ever increasingly busy society, I fear that we are losing time to educate and learn about relationships. And because of this, our relationships are suffering.
Things like personal, emotional and feeling regulation are minimized. As humans, we crave relationships. And for some reason, we seem to be getting worse at doing something healthy with them. I believe, part of the problem is that we don't seem to know what should comprise a relationship.
To exasperate that issue, many of the things that are required for a relationship to be a relationship distress us and we tend to avoid distressful things. So, Let's talk about some key ingredients necessary for any relationship. This list is not exhaustive but it's a good start.
We were made for relationships and there are benefits. People who have deep meaningful relationships tend to have an increased sense of belonging and purpose. Their health tends to be better. They have a boost in their happiness and reduced stress. There is even research that suggests a link between healthy relationships and a boost in your immune system.
Good friends can help us cope with traumas such as divorce, serious illness, job loss or the death of a loved one. They can also help us to change or avoid unhealthy lifestyles.
Relationships are good for us.
And yet, for so many they are the cause, or at least the breeding ground, for much trauma. Maybe we need an overhaul in what we seek to put into relationships.
Five things every relationship needs.
- Relationships require vulnerability. A friend of mine once said, "To love anything is invite pain." I love that quote. I see so many people try to have relationships without any vulnerability. They give themselves a pass for bad behavior because the other person does something that they find painful. This creates a cycle of destructiveness. If you want anything other than extremely surface relationships, you'll have to risk. Risk is just a shorter spelling of vulnerability.
- Relationships require boundaries. Not all relationships are friendships. Not all friendships are intimate. Boundaries are for us, not the other person. In other words, a boundary is not designed to control another person's behavior. It is designed to determine what behaviors from other people we will allow into our own life. Boundaries bring safety. They help us to avoid toxicity.
- Relationships require conflict. I find that a lot of people disagree with me on this one, which is fine. They're just wrong. (See what I did there?). Conflict gets a really bad rap in our society because we tend to be so bad at it and hurt people with it. But you can have conflict and not hurt each other. We have to embrace this truth. I find there are four types of conflict...and friendship. First of all, there is the "Not really" friend. This is the person that if you saw them at a grocery store, you would try to avoid them. When conflict comes, you're gone. Secondly, there is the "Sort of" friend. You won't avoid this girl, but you won't go out of your way to converse with her either. When conflict comes, you're gone as fast and as politely as possible. Third, there is the "Not quite intimate" friend. This is where most people go. You'll hang out with this guy, chat with him, go to dinner etc. You'll even tolerate minimal conflict but when real stress comes, you're out. Finally, there is the "Intimate" friend. This person you've been through real conflict with. They've been angry with you and you've been angry with them. And you've made it through. You've resolved the conflict. If you're going to have real relationships, you have to have conflict.
- Relationships require pursuit. So many times, I see relationships where there was pursuit but it has ended. If you want healthy relationships, you'll have to engage in pursuit. The problem is that we often have unequal pursuit at any given time in a relationship. There is a ratio of intimacy and time that we can expend in any given time period in our life. Sometimes, you will be the pursuer and sometimes you will be the pursued. Problems arise when we stop pursuing because we don't feel pursued. When we don't feel pursued, and just stop pursuing without having a conversation with the other person about how we feel, we skip vulnerability, and conflict.
- Relationships require time to grow. You cannot have a relationship where you meet and just jump straight into intimacy. That isn't how intimacy works. All relationships need time to grow. Recently, I met a woman who was telling me about her fiance that she had met just four weeks before. "Too soon," I told her. She responded about her cousin's second uncle's neighbor's brother's first grade teacher who met her husband on a Monday and got married on a Thursday fifty years ago. We all know someone like that, but they are the exception, not the rule. Understanding this concept should help when you are examining a relationship and are not sure where it is on the intimacy meter. If it's new, it should still be shy of deep intimacy.
As an extra tidbit, most relationships will have a shorter life span that our own life. This can cause us a lot of pain. We may succeed in avoiding this pain, but in so doing, we will invite a different pain into our life.
What about you? What's something that you think relationships need that isn't on this list?
If you'd like to listen to my podcast on this topic. Click here.