Different Kinds of Relationships Enrich Our Lives
Posted on: 04 January 2011 by Diane Priestley
The way I see it, there are seven kinds of relationships that make up the rich tapestry of relational life. Each kind of relationship needs nurturing to grow.
I never used to understand what people meant by ‘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. I have now discovered it is possible to relate to God through prayer and song. I have discovered the art of worship and have received at times the exquisite touch of divine love. Agape love is God’s kind of generous, unconditional compassion and grace.
The relationship between husband and wife is a sacred bond. Holy Matrimony is a unique relationship, which can only exist between two people. Ideally, you have an intimate 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. This is the place where sexuality belongs. Eros love is physical love, the essence of romance and passion. Marriage offers the kind of deep connection 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.
Self LovePsychologists talk about having a relationship with yourself. What does this mean? The Self is comprised of three different parts: Body, Soul (or mind or psyche) 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, the mind can direct the body, the Spirit can guide the Soul.
The psyche is further divided into parts: the Inner Child, the Super Ego (or Inner Critic or Introjected Parent) and the mature Adult. In therapy, the Adult can console the Inner Child. Don’t let yourself be judged and condemned by your Inner Critic.
A relationship with the Self is a sibling one. Aim to be you own best friend! Loving your real, flawed self is distinct from narcissism where you fall in love with your false image! Your vulnerable self makes mistakes and deserves your forgiveness, compassion, understanding and kindness.
Honouring Parents, Loving Children
Another 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 you naturally play a mothering or fathering role for all kids the same age as your own. And with grandkids, you get the opportunity to love and care for little ones again, having input into raising a new generation drawing on the wisdom of a lifetime.
When you are middle-aged, you’re sandwiched between two generations and have a responsibility to both. You will be called on to care for and support elderly parents. Such is the pivotal middle role that you find yourself ministering upward and downward to the generations in these core ‘vertical’ relationships.
Loving Animals and Nature
Animal lovers experience another kind of relationship; the delightful connection between humans and other species. The affection many people have for their pets or wild animals is heartfelt and rewarding. Our family has loved a motley succession of dogs and other pets over the years. I love animals so much that I refuse to eat them. If all humans could feel empathy for animals we would stop killing 57 billion of them every year for food and eat tofu, pasta and veggies instead.
And what about our relationship with nature? Humans are interconnected with nature and we are entrusted to be custodians of the earth to protect and care for our environment. It’s a relationship humankind has failed at and one we need to rapidly repair.
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.