What we talk about when we talk about relationship ….

In Realtionship on July 25, 2009 at 5:19 am

We all know that “Are you in a relationship?” means “Are you—dating? Living with someone?” For most of us the word brings to mind our nearest and dearest—spouses, friends, and family. For some, the word refers exclusively to the person with whom they share a bed and a mortgage. Relationship suggests intimacy. It can be a tender subject.

Relationship simply is. It infuses every conversation, is, in fact, the ground of the conversation itself if not the subject. It’s the context, the air we breathe, the water we swim in. We are never not in relationship. Which is why it’s so easy to overlook. We often take it for granted, and only become aware of relationship in its extreme states: its highs or lows. In fact, to suggest reflecting upon relationship seems to suggest that something is wrong. Our motto tends to be “if it aint broke, don’t fix it.” And so we tread softly, avoid conflict, settle for less, all the while building resentments—until the relationship itself demands attention.

Not a bad thing, just what tends to happen. At least in my life.

My purpose here is twofold. I want to open a wide-ranging conversation about relationship, using the word in its primary and broadest definition: “the state of being related or interrelated.” Couples, families, friends, business partners, corporate teams, organizations, communities. Relationship to work, play, the body, Spirit …. Relationship in all its various forms.

I also want to stay curious about relationship itself—that thing that is bigger than the sum of its parts. That “state of affairs,” as Webster puts it, “existing between those having relations or dealings [italics mine].” I have come to think of relationship as a living being, conscious in and of itself, and capable of learning. To many of you this is not a new concept, but to me it was baffling at first. And yet I had a sense in my own bones that this was true.

As my colleagues at the Center for Right Relationship are fond of saying: relationships are naturally generative. Get two or more people together in a room and something happens—small talk, laughter, shared interests, fights, babies, book deals … you name it.

Here are a couple of questions to consider. Think of a relationship you’re in and notice what is getting generated. What would you like that relationship to generate more of and how you might help it to do that?

  1. Never thought about the word or the context or life as a relationship in a whole until I read this. The best relationship I’ve ever been in is with Jesus and it gets sweeter the longer I am in it.

    • Holding relationship in this context opens up many more possibilities. Spiritual life is certainly an important one to me. Thanks for your comment.

  2. The beginning of this post troubled me . . . . it sounded over-bearing–like you knew the answers.

    The second part, the tone shifts dramatically, and you’re asking the reader to come with you on a journey to “open a conversation” and “stay curious about relationship itself”.

    I like the tone you adopt in the second part.

    Right now I have a relationship to my father, my sisters, and relatives. I also have a different kind of relationship with my friends. You also can’t forget that subtle relationship to the ego, or self.

    A healthy relationship to oneself begets a healthy relationship to others.

    Cheers, good topic


    • Thanks, Lethe. As a writer, of course one relationship I have is to my voice as a writer, which, as you know, has so much to do with one’s audience–another relationship! One of the places I want to keep looking is that relationship to self and ego–and where they might differ. In other words, a Self–a “higher self”–a self that is not just ego identity. What’s my relationship to that, today? Hmmmmm….

  3. Hi Alfred, congrats with this blog. I like it, both the design, the way you write, and the fact that your creating a blog with an ORSC perspective. There certainly aren’t too many blogs focusing on this, and I look very much forward to following your blog.

    I have an English language ORSC-related blog in the making myself, and will tell you more about it when it’s ready.

  4. I’m struck by the rich meaning of “relationship,” especially in the context of the verb of relating, to tell a story. It continues to humble and amaze me how our storytelling creates the relationships in which we participate. How instantly a change in the story can alter how we see ourselves, or others, in relationship. How often would the course of life be different were I to choose, intentionally, the story I assign to the relationship in which I’m engaging? I can say that I’m fully alive and living fulfilled right now because of one such intentional change.

  5. I’m struck by the personalities of two kinds of relationships I tend to have–“smooth” or “rocky”. I love them both. The smooth seem to be very safe. The rocky seem to always be on the edge. The smooth seem like a safe harbor, the rocky test and challenge me. I will take some steps to make the smooth even smoother and the rocky even rockier. See what happens…

  6. It makes me think of my relationship with the world. It’s not something that I take into account very often, but you remind me that we are all connected and that I have a responsibility towards this relationship.

    • When I first considered this relationship–to the World–it felt daunting and perplexing, but as I live into I get the sense that I am picking up the thread of an old, old friendship. When I hold the relationship this way, the World is far less frightening ….

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