What is a relationship?
What is a relationship? That sounds like a stupid question. Everyone should know what a relationship is, right? Not so fast. Most people may immediately think in terms of a romantic relationship. But relationships are far more than that.
There are several types of relationship. All of them have the capacity to either be good for your soul, or bad for your soul. They can enrich your life, or they can lead to the worst pain in your life. We are wired to be in relationships. It is true that “no man is an island”.
Definition of relationship
A relationship, by simple definition, is the way that 2 or more people connect with one another, or the way that they interact with each other.
Types of relationship
Primary caregivers or parents
Some relationships are present from your birth. Your parents (or adoptive parents) are your first, primary caregivers. Whatever your current relationship with them (if they are still alive), these are the people whose imprints became your very first relationship. In an ideal world, the parent-child relationship should be nurturing, loving and supportive, but we do not live in an ideal world. Many adults carry scars from childhood hurts long into adulthood, and this may impact their future relationships badly.
If you have a good relationship with your parents, and they are still alive, you are indeed blessed. These people have loved you the longest, and the deepest. They will love you regardless if you are married or single, regardless if you have your own children or not. They will give you support and sage advice from their place of wisdom as long as they live.
If you have a strained relationship and no longer see them (either your choice or theirs), it can be a hurtful situation. Ensure that you have done all you can to repair the relationship, for your own sake. If it does not work out, be at peace knowing that you’ve done your best to bring peace to the relationship.
If you have siblings, you may consider that a good or a bad thing, depending on the quality of your relationship with them. A good relationship with a sibling can provide you with a lifetime of support and love from someone who was involved in the history of your life from childhood. They know you very well. Wise parents will foster a great relationship among their children, rather than play favorites and cause resentment, as long after they are gone, their offspring can support each other as family. That was my mother’s philosophy. My brother and I are still close now in our midlife years, even though we live 1000 km apart.
If you don’t get on with your siblings, or your parents played favorites (or still do), you may have a strained relationship with them. Or perhaps you had a falling out with them about something else. Either way, it can be painful situation as that person should be your support and have your back, and vice versa. If it hurts you, you owe it to yourself to try (from your side), to repair the relationship.
If you are an only child, you may perhaps have formed sibling-like relationships with cousins or close friends.
Grandparents and other family members
Further significant blood relationships are (or were, if they’ve passed on) with your grandparents. Many grandparents are deeply involved with raising their grandchildren, or they actually do raise their grandchildren depending on the family circumstances. They add a great deal of enrichment to your life, with wisdom, support and love which helps form your soul.
You may have uncles, aunts and cousins who also impact your life, either positively or negatively. All these people “speak into your life” through blood ties.
We can’t choose our family but we can certainly choose our friends. Friends should be some of the greatest blessings of our lives. You are blessed indeed if you still have friends from your childhood…my mother-in-law has a few friendships spanning almost 70 years! These people know you well and have the right to speak into your life without reservation.
Making new friends always enriches your life immeasurably. We are not meant to go through life alone. Be friendly and open to new people, and it will bless your life.
Colleagues and peers
As you go through life, you will work in various places, do various activities, join certain clubs and interact with different groups of people. Some of these people may become friends, for a season or a lifetime. Some may just pass through your life whilst you are in that situation. You are in a relationship with these people whilst you are working or interacting with them. If you no longer have contact with them and you move on, that relationship ends.
With modern technology the way it is now, a whole new type of relationship has developed. People are able to form friendships and romantic connections across the world with the aid of technology. This can be both a good or a bad thing. Good in the sense that the whole world practically is your oyster. You can be enriched by forming relationships with vastly different people across the globe. You can learn new cultures and languages. Unfortunately, you can also be scammed and cat fished (lured into an online relationship with someone who is not who they say they are). In some cases, you can get your heart broken, but in the worst-case scenario, you could be in deadly danger. You may unwittingly get into a relationship with someone who is a stalker or worse. It is best to check out any online relationships you have very carefully. If the person refuses to Skype, or meet personally (in a safe place obviously), even after a long time, run away! Very fast!
Transient, incidental or community relationships (casual)
Broadly speaking, you have relationships with people in your circle or community which are more casual in nature, and generally don’t have a lasting impact on your life. Some examples are the store assistants at the mall, the staff who wait on you in your favorite restaurant, the parents of your children’s friends, the other soccer moms (or football, band, cheer-leading etc. moms or dads). Some of these people you may see fairly regularly, but you never form a relationship with them beyond the superficial.
Romantic relationships and marriage
I have deliberately left this relationship for last, although the long-term romantic relationship or marriage has the capacity to have the biggest impact on your life, for good or bad. Most people from a young age dream of finding a partner who will love them for life and live happily-ever-after with that one special person. Unfortunately, this often does not work out as planned. When things turn bad, this relationship has the potential to cause much damage and pain in your life. When a romantic relationship ends, often people rush too soon into another, with disastrous results. Divorce statistics are staggering, with over 50% of first marriages ending in divorce, and subsequent marriages having even less chance of surviving.
It seems that many of us are ill prepared to undertake this most coveted but least understood relationship. These days, some people seem to be married about “5 minutes” before rushing off to get divorced:( In marriages of 10 years you are doing well, 20 year-old marriages are becoming fairly uncommon, and 30 years and more are truly rare!
It seems that the relationship which is supposed to nurture us into our old age is often the cause of our greatest pain. Or not. There are marriages out there that are truly good, and stand the test of time. We need to realize that marriage takes effort, commitment and putting another human being’s needs ahead of ours. Most people these days don’t want to do that. Hence our collective heartbreak in this area. If you have a happy, long-term marriage, you are well ahead of the crowd. Continue to be an inspiration!
Relationship with God
This is the relationship which will have the most profound effect on your life. It is an eternal relationship which began before you were born – “I knew you before I formed you in your mother’s womb” (Jeremiah 1:5). Jeremiah 31:3 says “I have loved you with an everlasting love”. Nothing will ever separate us from God’s love – For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39). Whether we believe it or not, whether we accept it or not, God’s desire is to have a relationship with every human being on the planet.
This is profoundly beautiful. Even if we have trouble with human relationships, God’s love is always available to us.
To succeed in having great relationships, you have to develop a mindset and a skill set to facilitate that. It does not just happen. Relationships actually take hard work, but it is worth the effort to get it right!