Is it a relationship or a RELATIONSHIP?

You know what I mean, don’t you? People want to be in A RELATIONSHIP so much that they neglect having successful relationships. Just an observation. Doesn’t happen to everyone. The terms “romance” and “liaison” have fallen out of fashion, along with “love affair” or my favorite blast from the past, “going steady.” There was a time when “significant other” was pretty strong, but that faded away, at least in the circles I travel. The one that ends up carrying all the freight is the “R” word, even though it’s far too generic. Hey, if I go to the grocery store, I have a relationship with the checker– it’s very brief, and it’s very task-oriented, but it’s a relationship. It can be better, or it can be worse. This harks back to the previous posts about loneliness. People get so hung up on the special relationship that they want that they don’t work on developing the relationships they have. And the basic fact is, all relationships take work. If you don’t think so, try being mean to the checkers at your local grocery store and over time (or immediately) the service will go down hill. They will stay professional, but they sure won’t go the extra mile for you. After all, they get paid to be there. All you get is groceries.

On the other hand, suppose you meet an attractive person with a flashing smile, a winning way– a potential mate, in fact. Now you are think that you want an emotional, possibly even a spiritual connection (and yes, physical). there’s a lot more riding on your interaction.

You probably haven’t thought about the different things  you want from relationships, but Marsha Linehan has.

Part of dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) is interpersonal effectiveness, and the core of this is recognizing that in all your relationships you have three competing objectives: 1) to get something you want; 2) to respect yourself in the relationship; 3) to maintain the relationship. So your relationship with the checker is based on objective #1. You want to get your groceries. Your relationship with the attractive person with the flashing smile– well, how much are you willing to give to get what you want? That’s more a mix of goals #2 and #3. It’s also a more complex subject. I’m just saying for now, that we shouldn’t neglect to maintain good relationships just because they’re not RELATIONSHIPS.


About jamesmatter

Marriage and Family Therapist (MFT) in private practice in San Francisco. I work with adults, adolescents, and couples, with focus on substance use and abuse and co-occurring disorders (having both a mental illness and an addiction).
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