Every time two human beings interact with each other, a notion of relationship is created. This is a universal phenomenon. However, many such interactions do not necessarily have either a potential or many a time even a need / requirement to blossom into a long lasting and wholesome relationship. Let’s take an example, you go into one grocery store for the first time and you meet a very helpful and willing sales person behind the counter, who provides you prompt service with a smile. A notion, or shall we say an illusion of a relationship gets created there. And if you never go to that shop again ever, the relationship starts and ends at that one particular transaction. Now let’s extend this example further: consider that the above interaction arose out of your buying a house for your permanent stay in the area where the store is located. During your first ever visit to the store you got a pleasant experience as above and that led to many more such visits. As you started shopping there frequently, you tended to go to the same sales person again and again, this culminated into a slightly deeper and more long lasting relationship.
We, in this complex world of relationships, easily work our way through without consciously realizing how many relationships we manage every day! In a way, that is a good state to be in. Because if we were to consciously reflect on every relationship, we would not have any time left to do anything meaningfully! At the same time, continually living almost at such an involuntary level will take away the developmental opportunities that the periodic reflections will provide us from time to time. Hence, these thoughts!
For the scope of this article let us focus on non-casual relationships with a perspective of sizeable time span. Two words are critical here: ‘non-casual’ and ‘sizeable time span’. By this definition, long lasting relationship with the grocery vendor is not ‘in scope’ given that it is still a casual relationship. Similarly, a contractual relationship which is non casual but is created for a specific task and limited time is also not ‘in scope.’
Boss- subordinate, husband-wife, brother-sister, mother-son etc… are the kinds of relationships that are in reference. Without touching any behavioral theory or relying on any research material I give below what I have learnt as the fundamental tenets of relationships:
1: Relationship is a mutually explorative (mutual exploitation included!!) process that doesn’t have a ‘point of arrival’ state.
I would like to take one of the most long lasting relationships here for illustrating the point. Husband and wife! Starting from the ‘point of departure’ i.e. say, wedding the relationship begins. However, never ever does it become so stagnant that the mutual exploration stops. And if indeed, it does stop, then the deterioration begins—sometimes leading to a divorce and many a time to painful co-existence! The most important point here is that relationships are so dynamic that their constituents have to constantly work on them to keep them relevant for themselves.
2: Every transaction takes the relationship either forward or backward.
We often times don’t notice it, but it’s a fact that the fabric of relationships is woven by the multiple threads of transactions between the constituents of particular relationships. It is for this precise reason why individual transactions are so critical. Depending upon their severity they can significantly impact the relationship maturation process.
Here, the example is very easy to pick from our daily life. Quite often we observe that when heated words are exchanged between the two individuals, it leads to hurt feelings that last for a very long time clearly affecting the relationships or to take a positive example: when a child does something praiseworthy, an instant praise/pat goes a long way in strengthening the child-parent relationship. Every transaction has an influence over the relationship.
3: It is erroneous to assume eternal stability in any relationship.
Given that there are built-in destabilizing factors within the relationship coupled with many external factors, makes it incumbent on the constituents to make efforts to retain vibrancy in the association.
Timely admirations, giving required time/energy/attention to the partner, being there for each other when required are some of the ways to retain vitality. Taking anything for granted is a sure recipe for failure.
While I am a great proponent of the belief that the relationships last only to the extent of their strength, I equally believe that no relationship can merely and automatically last unless parties thereto continue to make investments.
4: Every transaction is necessarily preceded by earlier experiences and every transaction induces feelings and beliefs.
It is therefore necessary for the relationship to prosper that the individuals concerned should be aware of each others’ contexts. These contexts provide insights on ‘whys’ of certain behaviours and as such help the constituents to respond ‘with awareness’.
Let’s consider a newly wedded girl enters her new home and observes that her husband behaves in an unusually dry and distant manner with his father. The girl, without having any clue about the background, holds a grudge against her husband for such indifferent behaviour with the father and even comes to some conclusions about his ‘nature’ being insensitive. This persists for a long time till one day she decides to speak to her husband about it. And that day happens to be the day of revelation for her, when her husband explains to her about many childhood experiences where his father always discriminated him and favoured his elder brother and that he was so deeply hurt about it that it was impossible for him to get those feelings out of his system. That day saw husband-wife relationship moving many miles ahead!
5: The relationship superway is connected by the emotional bridges.
It might sound like a big and bold statement, but I do believe that if there is one factor that the relationship can survive without, then that is ‘intellectual connect.’ I don’t mean to subvert the role of intellectual affiliation here. All I want to emphasize is that such connect does not form the foundation of a relationship. Important point here is that the ‘emotional affiliation’ is at the core of any relationship.
One may have a very big gap in IQ with one’s mother but does that really hamper the relationship? Or consider this: two scientists at a very high and same/similar intellectual level may have a very bad relationship due to the emotional disconnect!
I feel this point is of great importance, when one looks at the official relationships. We often times ignore/underplay emotional aspects in official transactions and try and treat issues impersonally, with curtness and rationality alone. This never works. Because when two humans interact, emotions come into action and then trying to turn a blind eye to those becomes not only counterproductive but it actually leads us to unreal/untenable solutions that frustrate the entire effort.
When a subordinate says ‘he can’t work,’ each time it is not an insubordination situation! Sometimes it may be, but most of the times it is either a demonstration of the subordinate’s lack of confidence, or the boss’s unforgiving style, or a plain statement of subordinate’s incapability of handling that particular work! It is up to the boss in such situations to decipher actual emotional meaning out of such seeming ‘insubordination.’
There can’t be a pure play intellectual transaction in a relationship unless there are subtle or explorative emotions at play. But the converse is not true, i.e. there can be a series of emotional transactions to a complete exclusion of any intellectual give and take.
As I said right at the beginning, what I have tried to briefly capture here are some thoughts of mine on relationships that are exclusively based on my experience. I can’t claim their universality nor can I say that they are consistent/ inconsistent with what the experts have said. I felt the need to write and share my views, and invite my readers to share theirs!