It’s been said that relationships can last for a reason, a season or a lifetime. But does anyone know why? Here are some of my thoughts on the matter.
Acquaintanceship (Based on Interest)
These are scenarios that may be related to a “reason.” At best, acquaintanceships are based upon shared interest. Relationship types at this level are often business related, social or recreational. Intimacy formed at this level will be on the lower tiers of the intimacy pyramid (i.e. social conversation). Acquaintanceship signifies the introduction of a person, and its scope is limited by the function that person performs as perceivable by the outside world. While most relationships begin with acquaintanceship, they can and often do evolve into greater forms of intimacy.
Proximityship (Based on Local Benefit)
These are scenarios that may be related to a “reason” or a “season.” Proximityship is based on local (or virtual) circumstance (i.e. neighbors, co-workers, online communities) or mutual benefit (i.e. tribal, safety, economy) and cannot stand independently without a connection in values. In some cases, it is common to deny proximity if there is no connection in values. While the interface proximityship provides fosters an even deeper opportunity for intimacy in unique situations, once the benefit changes the proximityship will also change. Many proximityships have been mistaken as friendships and partnerships, although they can grow into deeper relationships.
Friendship (Based on Values)
These are relationships that may be based on a “reason,” “season” or a “lifetime.” Relationship types at this level may stem from any acquaintanceship or proximityship. Intimacy at this level will be on the higher tiers of the intimacy pyramid (i.e. idea sharing, risk-taking, trust). Friendships are based on shared values and a deliberate choice to maintain the engagement. Friendships may include interest, locality and benefits, but are not dependent upon them. While acquaintanceship and proximityship are scenarios based on external circumstances and changing priorities (passive), friendship is based on internal choices and unchanging priorities (active). Friendship holds shared values at its core, which creates an emotional pull to prioritize the relationship. Mature friendships will stand the test of not only external changes, but also internal changes within the friendship.
Partnership (Based on Commitment)
These are relationships that are based on commitment and love (“lifetime”), which include not only shared values and friendship, but the prioritization of the partnership over all other relationships. Partnership endows the deepest vulnerability and total transparency which fosters the ability to feel loved. Partnerships occur because of a conscious choice by both partners to prioritize the partnership over any obstacle that may occur externally or internally. The extent to which a partnership experiences success comes from each partner’s ability to face deeper levels of self-honesty and trust while extending the resulting intimacy to their partner while prioritizing the relationship.
Balanced Vulnerability: Head vs Heart
When we approach relationships with “all head,” we risk having too many boundaries and not enough vulnerability. When we approach relationships with “all heart,” we risk having no boundaries and too much vulnerability. So practice vulnerability if you’re rigid, and practice boundaries if you’re flaccid. Rather than seeking to find your counterpart, focus on balancing your own head and heart. Instead of reacting when things go bad, commit to understanding both your own and others’ behavior while practicing self-honesty to create a balanced vulnerability. A balanced approach will encourage satisfying relationships and self-esteem.
It’s a challenge to define how we relate. My speculation of (at least some of) the inherent dynamics we experience within our relationships may help to clarify boundaries, enhance growth and balance emotions. While there are no wrong ways to have any type of relationship, there are various resulting levels of health and satisfaction depending on the intimacy achieved within it. The question is: Are you building intimacy by accident, or on purpose?
About the Author: Todd Schaefer
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