The Different Relationships that Enrich Our Lives
LET’S, just for the sake of clarity, pull apart and explore the different kinds of relationships that weave together to form the colourful tapestry of our lives.
I never used to understand what people meant by their claim of “having a relationship with God.” How do you have a relationship with someone invisible, I wondered? And yet this relationship was missing from my life. In becoming a Christian I have now discovered it is possible to relate to God through prayer and song and reading His Word. I have discovered the art of worship and have received divine love. Agape love is spiritual love; unconditional compassion and grace. Relating to God, as Father, is a vertical connection.
And then, there is the relationship between husband and wife. Marriage is a sacred bond. Holy Matrimony is a unique relationship, which can only exist between two people. It is possible to have a deep connection with your partner that you share with no one else. Within marriage you can meet each other’s essential needs and enjoy a state of intimacy and trust. In my view, marriage is the only place where sexuality belongs. Eros love is physical love; the essence of romance and passion. It offers the kind of profound bond most people yearn for.
Another kind of relationship exists between siblings and I mean not only blood brothers and sisters but also peers who fall into an age range of about 10 years younger or older. In the Australian Aboriginal culture there’s no such relationship as ‘friend’; you are a ‘brother’ or ‘sister’.
We blur boundaries when we sexualise the plutonic, sibling relationship with flirtation between friends and colleagues. Phileo love is affectionate soul love. Genuine, close friendships enrich life. Our peers are our equals and provide ‘horizontal’ support in the framework of relationships.
I Love Me!
It is possible to have a relationship with yourself. The Self is comprised of three different parts: Body, Soul (or Mind) and Spirit. The Soul is made up of three parts: the mental, emotional and the will. Different parts of the Self relate to each other; rational thinking can discipline unruly emotions, your Adult can console the Child Within, the mind can direct the body, the Spirit can guide the Soul. I categorise a relationship with the Self as a sibling one. Aim to be you own best friend! Loving your real self is distinct from narcissism where you fall in love with your false image!
Honouring Parents, Loving Children
The fourth kind of relationship is the parent-child dynamic. All adults are entrusted with the protection and care of children. The relationship between children and their natural parents, grandparents and all parent-figures is a sacred trust.
Anyone younger by 15 years or more, we tend to consider a ‘child’ and adopt a parental, caring attitude towards. Likewise anyone older by 15 years or more, we tend to see as mother or father figures and look up to for guidance. In Aboriginal culture, all parent-figures are called Auntie or Uncle by the young folk who are taught to honour their elders. In all societies we intuitively know it’s our job is to mentor young people. We see such dedication in sports coaches, teachers and community leaders.
As a parent of a teenager, I naturally play a mothering role for all teenagers who visit our home and a caring role for my mum and her elderly friends. When you are middle-aged, you’re sandwiched between two generations and have a responsibility to both. These are ‘vertical’ relationships based on Phileo love.
In the tragic distortion of paedophilia, the protective parent-child relationship is violated, which causes lasting psychological damage.
Loving Animals and Nature
Animal lovers experience another kind of relationship; the one between humans and other species. Yes, the affection many people have for their pets or wild animals is heartfelt and rewarding. Our family has loved a motley succession of dogs over the years. Some people adore cats and others bond deeply with horses.
And what about our relationship with nature? Humans are capable of communing with nature and we are entrusted to be custodians of the earth and to protect and care for our environment.
Things Don’t Count
Can we have a relationship with material things? Some people really love their house, car, boat, clothes, jewellery or food! The definition of a relationship usually means a two-way communication. Perhaps a ‘relationship’ with material things becomes a substitute for the other kinds of connections we crave.
Relationships are the essence of our lives. It is illuminating to clarify different kinds of relationships and nurture them all. Connect with God, turn to your husband or wife (not anyone else’s) for intimacy, be a good ‘sister’ or ‘brother’ to your siblings and friends, a caring parent-figure to all children, honour your parents, love animals and revere nature and you will be richly fulfilled and joyfully blessed.
This article was published in April 2008 in XL Extra! an international magazine for entrepreneurs and business people.