2 Key Things About Relationships: Context is Critical

One of the worst things about growing up on planet earth is, there’s no great training uniformly available for how to make relationships work. Here are two things you may not know about relationships.

Note: this information is just as useful in professional relationships as in romantic relationships.

It seems a bit random that some of us are born into families where relationships seem to work, while others are born into families where “dysfunction” is the declared norm. Many businesses and other organizations are described similarly.

Furthermore, it seems clear that most families, even those where relationships seem to work, are not without their special brand of crazy.

Relationships are complicated, and the dynamics can sometimes be invisible, or, at least, difficult to see.

In case you (like me) weren’t blessed with amazing relationship training, I’ll share two things that may save you learning “the hard way”, like I did.

Here are:

2 key things to know about relationships and families:

1. Relationships are More Complex Than We Realize

An important area many people miss when considering relationships: there is more to any relationship than just 2 people. In fact, there are at least 3 forces at play.

Perhaps the most important thing missed when considering relationships, is the relationship itself. The relationship is like a dance between 2 people: it has a life of its own, and it must be considered independent of the people in it.

Without consideration for the relationship, it’s easy for relationships to become power struggles between two participants. This is especially so in relationships between and among first-born children and only children, each of whom may expect to get their own way.

With the relationship as a barometer, and, more importantly, a higher power to reference, there’s an external force partners can appeal to in the midst of conflict or uncertainty.

(Read more about the value of appealing to a higher power — like “our relationship” — in the book linked below.)

2. Social Context is Critical

In addition to the “3 forces” of relationships, named above, it’s critical to recognize that relationships, and the people in them, are subject to outside social and family forces. Often, it’s these forces that lead to conflict in the couple.

Consider the social context early and often, and respect it as another participant in the relationship.

Many relationships have fallen apart (or been destroyed) under constant attack from friends and family who were not fans of:

  • the spouse,
  • the union,
  • circumstances in which the relationship formed,
  • the in-laws,
  • the social status of the spouse or in-laws,
  • 101 other things about the union or the people associated with it.

What To Take Away

When you have an undesirable experience in relationship, consider what are the forces at play in that relationship.

  1. Clearly identifying all the forces can give you more options for action.
  2. Likely, doing so will also reveal more resources for support.

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