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Relationship Structure Part 1 of 4

Updated: Dec 8, 2019

Relationships have many facets. This particular article is the first in a series that deals specifically with the structure of relationships.


Relationships, just like all other things, have a very specific and unique structure.

If we don’t know the structure and therefore don’t know the rules by which the structure operates, then how can we be expected to work within this structure?


The word “relationship” is defined as the way in which two or more concepts, objects, or people are connected. It also refers to the state of being connected.


So, the first thing to know about the structure of relationships is that they require two or more elements. There is no such thing as a one-sided relationship.


People tend to forget that there are at least two sides to any relationship. They tend either to focus on the other party, thus negating their own part in it, or they focus on themselves and completely discount the other party, sometimes going back and forth between the two. It is the combination of both parties simultaneously that makes a

relationship a relationship – it’s not just one or the other.


The four types of relationships

There are four basic types of relationships:

  1. Family

  2. Friend

  3. Intimate

  4. and business relationships


All of your relationships have things in common, the most obvious being you, yourself.

Aside from that, the basic structure – the foundation of all relationships – is the same. Therefore, once we understand and recognize the building blocks of relationships in general, we can apply that understanding to all types of relationships, not just the intimate kind.


What this means is that we can take elements that we know and understand from one type of relationship and apply them to other types of relationships. So, if you know something about say, friendships, that knowledge may very well be transferable to your business, family, and intimate relationships.


Many people don’t see the similarities in their relationships

People can and will only act or react in certain ways, regardless of the type of relationship they are in. What I mean by that is that people can only act in ways that they know, are familiar with, and think to be the norm. So, when people are faced with situations that they are not familiar with, they oftentimes don’t know what to do or how to act. Awkward.


Most people never consider the structure of their relationships. They expect that they will all somehow magically just sort itself out on its own. They may believe that they will be able to solve any problem or weather any storm. They may also believe that “love conquers all”.


This belief supports the notion that relationships are either a) destiny, so no effort required, or b) since you can solve any problem, it really doesn’t matter who you are in the relationship with. Or, worse yet, c) you will try to force the relationship to work and in so doing virtually beat it to death, because if it doesn’t work, then you are a failure.

These are all false expectations.


(I’ll talk more about expectations later, in the next installment.)


Don’t leave your relationships up to chance

You shouldn’t leave something so important as relationships up to “magic”, or in other words, up to chance. Always remember, no matter what kind of relationship we are talking about, “it’s choice not chance”.


If you can understand the basic structure of your relationships, and help them along from the very start, then you will certainly improve your chances of success, and you should be able to avoid some of the more common problems that come up.


All things considered, why wouldn’t you want to have influence over your relationships? Why wouldn’t you want to be an active participant, rather than a passive partaker just along for the ride, never knowing where the whole thing is going?


We need to understand the structure of relationships – the way in which people fit together in relationships – in order to be able to determine if, or how it all fits together, and how we’re going to get along with one other.


Relationships have two or more sides, each with their own perspective

The individual perspective is a combination of many of the experiences that we have had in previous relationships. Some of these experiences are real and some are imagined, or more precisely, incorrectly perceived.


Each side of every relationship comes with its own expectations, some positive, some negative, some reasonable, and some unreasonable. In addition to these expectations, each side of every relationship has acceptances: again, some positive, some negative, some reasonable and some unreasonable. Finally, it is this structure that coalesces and culminates into a relationship. Meaning it is the structure that creates the relationship, and not the relationship that determines the structure.


I will go into greater detail about these concepts in the next installments.


“Where’s the Structure” challenge

This week’s challenge for you is to think about this structure: recognizing two or more sides/perspectives, each with their own expectations, each with their own acceptances, all coming together to form a relationship.


Pick a relationship from any of your relationships and map out its structure in these terms. Once you’ve done that, let me know: now that you have considered this relationship in this particular way, does it make a difference in how you feel about the relationship?


Good Together: your guide to healthy, happy relationships

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