In my previous post I explored the necessity for equality in relationship. This doesn’t mean treating folk as identical. It’s actually (as Sparrowhawk pointed out – my thanks for that) a very passive state. Recognising equality, that we share humanity and the same basic rights to respect and dignity, doesn’t call for much active engagement.
True relationship is not passive, it is an active engagement. We shape it in word and action, define it through the ways in which we give it expression. It’s very easy to go into relationship carrying all our habits of thought and behaviour, all our assumptions. In previous essays I’ve explored some of the more dysfunctional things we might unwittingly bear with us.
Every relationship is different, so there can be no one right way of doing it. But that’s perhaps the first point to make – the importance of allowing each unique connection to find its own way, rather than trying to shoe-horn it into a predetermined shape.
To my mind, what defines relationship, is what we share. I’ve had connections wholly defined by the sharing of music, or druid ritual – folks I seldom saw in any other context. We have people we share work with, or share living space. I am not convinced that the sharing of blood makes relationship because that doesn’t call for any active kind of doing. Relationship is more than an accident of birth. We can choose to craft relationship with blood family, or not, but we certainly shouldn’t assume it exists just because we share some genetic material.
The more we invest in the act of sharing, the more scope there is for deep and involved relationship. If we just skim along the surface, happening to share the same living space, the same office, or go to the same leisure club, than that’s a degree of acquaintance, but not much of a relationship. The more we do, the more we give of ourselves, the more relationship we are likely to find. That giving should be born of love, underpinned by care and respect. If we are seeking relationship just for the joy of being with a person, then we have a good foundation. As I’ve said before, if we’re looking for power, control, influence or an ego boost, it’s not relationship, it’s using.
To be able to offer care, love and respect in ways that are meaningful, we have to listen. Really it’s as simple as that, listen, pay attention, actually hear. Don’t impose assumptions about what the other will like, want, or need, just listen, find out. Part of the joy of relationship is in finding out who the other is, and in doing that, learning more about ourselves. If we go in swaddled in assumptions, we don’t get the chance to do that, and we miss out on all the best things that relationship, in all its many shapes, can offer.