04 junho 2010

What does the term "relationship" mean to you?

As most of my friends know, the subject of relationships is one that always fascinates me, and most recently, while reflecting on the subject I came to the conclusion that a lot of times we take the wrong approach on this in our daily lives, because we tend to focus on the wrong thing.

When there is a conflicting situation in a relationship (and I'm safe to assume we all agree there is no such thing as a shortage of conflicting situations in a relationship) most people try to do something about it (considering that you care about this relationship in the first place), either by analyzing it, talking to your partner, discussing it with friends (too see if you are exaggerating the issue), or sometimes doing all of these options.

Unfortunately, sometimes even when we try hard to see through the eyes of the other person we simply can't see why the person is behaving in such a way, or why he/she can't understand our point-of-view, etc, etc.

In such cases, what could be happening is that maybe both parties are not aligned in terms of expectations about this relationship. So let me ask you something:

Would you start a business project without a Statement of Work (SOW)?
Would you start building a house without a floor plan?

The answer would probably be a resounding no in both cases. Still, when it comes to relationships, we tend to ignore all this preparation. In fact, in many cases we get into a relationship "much the same way that a Labrador jump into a swimming pool - with exactly that much preparation and foresight" (as Elizabeth Gilbert brilliantly describes in her book "Commited").

Just as you wouldn't start building a house without defining some things first, you shouldn't start a relationship without at least defining what exactly the term "relationship" means for both of you.

Does it mean spending some quality time together during the week, talking about yourselves and your lifes both inside and outside the relationship?
Does it mean having the opportunity to talk about things that bother you with the objective of improving the relationship?
Does it mean splitting the chores around the house equally?
Does it mean discussing your finances and planning your expenses together?
Does it mean having some time every week to be on your own?
Does it mean having some time every week to enoy something together, just the two of you?
Does it mean supporting each other emotionally when needed?
Does it mean ......?

It can mean a lot of things, and a lot of different things for different people, which makes it essential that both of you understand where you are at and compromise towards a common objective (the success of the relationship).

Of course a LOT of things can change along the way, just as they would with a business project or with the construction of a house, but if you have a "master plan" then you can always go back to it and make the necessary adjustments to realign your route, without losing focus on what matters.

Now I open the question: What does the term "relationship" mean to you?