No one person can meet all of your needs and wants an wants. We need relationships with many different people, on different levels. We need a richly woven fabric of relationships, proper placed with clear boundaries and expectations.
In this blog, I am inviting you to experiment with thinking about relationships in what may be a very new and different way. I want you to imagine that relationships can exist on different levels.
You can choose the level of relationship you want and invite others to join you there. They of course have the right to accept, refuse, or renegotiate the invitation. You will be invited into relationships with others, and you have the same rights. It is important to recognize what level of relationship you are be invited into and make a choice. Then you need to set and maintain clear boundaries.
Many people find it helpful to think of relationships as unfolding on five levels.
1. ACQUAINTANCES have superficial relationships with you that are respectful such as a waiter or waitress, someone you casually work with, etc.
2. COMPANIONS share activities with you, but the activity is more important than the person. If I work out with someone and they want me to go to a movie instead I will probably say no. If I need a tennis partner and you don’t want to play, I will call another person I know who plays tennis. Many people have acquaintances with people they work out with at the gym. They may not see each other or share any other interests other than that. AND that’s OK. This means I can have some people I work out with, other people I play chess with, and a whole different group of people who share my interest in martial arts. I don’t expect these people to cross-over into other activities — and that’s OK.
3. FRIENDS are companions who share a wide variety if interests and activity. The purpose of the activity is to spend time with the person. So if we both don’t want to see a movie we will figure out something else to do. Being with the friend is primary, the activity is secondary.
4. PARTNERS are people who we make serious commitments to regarding work, earning money, building a business, buying a house, etc. a partnership is conditional whereas friendships are unconditional. If you are responsible for investing my money, that it what I expect you to do. If you don’t make me money on investments I find someone else. If I hire you to do a job and you don’t do it I let you go. Nothing personal. I need to get that job done and you agreed to do it in exchange for reimbursement.
5. LOVERS/INTIMATE partners are people that we share physical affection, sensuality, and sexuality with. Now here where it gets complicated.
Some people have casual sex with attractive acquaintances. Other people start out as workout partners and it explodes into passionate sex. Some people are great lovers and terrible friends and life partners.
The problem is we are conditioned by a cultural fantasy, not a reality, that one friend or intimate partner should meet all if our needs in all areas across the entire life span.
People who get married often mistakenly believe the most important thing in a marriage is love. That fantasy crashes when you get divorced and stand before a judge reestablishing legal contracts regarding money, property, custody of and visitation with kids.
Most people are serial monogamous. They have a period of dating, then make some commitments by sharing rent, buying a house together, having children which legally obligates both parents to share economic responsibilities for supporting the children.
About 60% of the people getting married today will be divorced within seven to nine years. Of those who get divorced half will remarry within seven years with more than half if those second marriages ending in divorce once again.
Thinking in terms of levels if relationship can help to be realistic in their expectations. No one can be all things to their partner. A great lover may be a terrible patent. A good friend may be an irresponsible business partner.
There us one thing that I believe is true. If you only have sex with friends there are less likely to have problems. Jump into bed with an attractive acquaintance and you’re playing Russian Roulette with your love life.
I explain this way of thinking about relationships in the book Getting Love Right – Learning The Choices of Healthy Intimacy by Terence T. Gorski (A 5 star rated by readers at Amazon)