Often, getting to know new people, or other people more deeply, are dangerous processes because we are unaware of what we may discover in the new or deeper relationships. As we get to know and get to be known, we become more vulnerable (CTIVULA).  The opportunities present excitement but fear can overcome even a healthy excitement. We need to see new relationships and deeper growth in relationships as a natural part of human growth. We also need to see the possibility of pain as a normal part of experiencing people. We are created by God to relate one to another.

Getting to know other people will occur in many ways. Most relationships are casual, a few are very important, and others are in between. While very important relationships are the most critical, all relationships operate on solid principles that have passed the test of time. What is most important? All relationships require that we put work into them to get them to grow in a healthy manner. Getting to know others will be exciting, scary, joyful, worrisome, challenging, disappointing, or any other feeling. The idea is, each of us has work to do and the work will bring results if we commit to the work despite the feelings.  Consider these principles:

  • Relationships are the interaction of two people. 

  • Relationships come in a variety of levels of interactions which facilitate relationships. No relationship level is inherently bad or good, just different. The purpose(s) we pursue in a relationship will be good or evil. Not all relationships can be of the same nature. We need a variety of kinds of relationships to be healthy.

  • Look at a relationship as a "Ship of Relatings."  When you first begin, the ship is only a dingy, a very small boat with a very little purpose. As you continue relating to one another, the ship expands and becomes a bigger ship capable of carrying more and more as you build. Each of the two people in a relationship have a responsibility to build a half of the ship and to build it so that it will match the side built by the other. Planning helps each person stay on track.  Testing and use of the ship helps find the flaws. If both people do not build sides that match, the ship will not function well in the water of everyday life. If you can imagine one person building a dingy sized side and the other building a luxury yacht side. The vessel will not float. It will capsize in water onto the larger side. The one with the larger side is over-built.  Materials must also be similar even though you may bring in several things that are unique. One person may make the galley while the other may make the mess hall. One person may complete the work of the other but always with the other on hand to direct the work on their part of the ship.  Care must always be exercised and nothing ever left to presumption. COMMUNICATION is the key.  A ship that is well built will sail the seas upon which it was designed and built to go. Do not go far from shore in a dingy.

Oil tanker as a work relationshipCruise ship as a romantic relationshipSmall dingy as a drifting relationship

  • Relationships are important because God creates us to be in relationships. The interactions can be physical, psychological, and spiritual. Relationships are a part of His deliberate design. As shown on the "RELATIONSHIP Details" page, we need relationships to be psychologically healthy. Communication and trust are two elements that indicate that build the relationship in a healthy direction. If communication and trust are not developing in the relationship, the relationship needs correction. The bar on RELATIONSHIP Details shows that relationships can vary from level one to level 10. Each level is 10 times more complicated than the preceding. A level two relationship is 10 times more complex than a level one. A level five relationship is 10,000 times more complex than a level one. At level one you might only exchange names or a glance. At level two you begin to see some character. At level five you would begin to exchange intimate information and maybe hold hands. At level six the intimacy gets more complex and the physical may extend to a warm and exciting hug or kiss. A level seven relationship has enough complexity to make a marriage. To get past level nine would require that you know, through communication, what is going on in the other person’s life in the smallest detail and will take a lifetime of hard work. Level 10 is impossible to achieve in this lifetime.  

  • When the two people are near the same level, within one level point, the relationship has comfortable balance and is generally workable. If one person gets way ahead of the other, the demands and the giving in their relationship get to be a problem. The difference creates internal pressure that will slow the growth of the relationship. To keep the balance, the person with the higher level of investment needs to put fewer demands on the lower level person. This is not enough, however. The lower level person needs to invest more in the relationship so the separation between the two will close. In the best growing relationship, the two people will leapfrog each other going up the scale.

  • We need to include all the elements of healthy relationships to different degrees with each relationship. Communication, trust, intimacy, vulnerability, unconditional love and acceptance, and common purposes are the essential ingredients. We need to offer these things as offerings as in an Offering Plate. What a person puts in the offering plate indicates what they want to share.  What the other person wants to take from the plate is what is important to them. Sometimes we get back what we wanted most for them to take from the plate. This is not the end of the relationship, only a rejection of that offer.  All responses to what is in the offering plate help us learn more about the other person. We can learn where the other person has an interest, does not have an interest, and what they have to offer to you in the relationship. To offer too much too soon can be overwhelming to the recipient. To offer too little may cause them to lose interest. Be prudent in offering. Also, be prudent when you receive what they offer. To demand something not offered is inappropriate. Putting a request in the offering plate is a good idea for finding what is available in the other person.  To withhold something offered is not appropriate. The giving and receiving process must be done with no strings attached. When the exchange process occurs in total freedom of outside pressure, the relationship is in a healthy growing mode.  Each relationship is like a human body and so needs care just like the body needs care.  See the  Body/Relationship Metaphor page for more information.

Powerlessness is principle that works in all relationships.  Powerlessness is not being sick or weak. Powerlessness is being without power, like a car that has no motor. To make the car go without a motor you have to push the car everywhere you may want to go. With a good power source in a car,  you can drive or just ride and enjoy the process of getting where you are going. You do not get drive a car without a license for the privilege.  God wants to empower us in the work of relationships.  We should not try to push relationships.  Learning how to work and what does or does not work, makes the pieces work smoother and less tiring.

Powerlessness occurs in relationships because we are powerless to have others accept us unconditionally. If we begin to manipulate the way they feel, act, or understand us, then the basis of the relationship is that of a puppeteer over a puppet or conditional. If that is the basis for the relationship, then no unconditional love or acceptance is available.  Much stress can form in the relationship and this can make the life of one, or both, in the relationship terrible.  Emotional Distress

The next lesson is COMMUNICATION >