PART THREE: What’s In A Relationship?
Let’s leave the house for a while, and talk about feelings.
Feelings can be as varied as the rooms in your house, and they’re likely to change more often than you’d like to decorate… especially if they involve another person.
We talk about feelings, in general, in other parts of the book; now let’s look at some feelings that we tend to have when we’re in a relationship with someone else.
Let’s broadly and loosely place relationships into some categories, for a frame of reference. Please hold these definitions lightly; they’ll spark your thoughts about the nature of your relationships, and may surprise you a bit. Here we go.
Main Relationship Types:
- Platonic: These practical relationships hold mild affection (as compared to romantic intention). When mutual respect abides, it increases the enjoyment of platonic relationships. Maintenance of these relationships usually continues as long as both parties benefit in some way.
- Acquaintance: These casual relationships feature politeness and require minimal effort. They often express a rhythm of varying levels of interest and importance.
- Antagonistic: In these relationships, two people dislike one another and resist working together to sort out their differences.
- Civil: In civil relationships, two people dislike one another yet manage to work together without expressing anger towards one another.
- Friendship: Friends mutually admire and respect each other’s qualities.
- Affectionate Friendship: People in this type of friendship make effort to do activities together, and they enjoy each other’s company. This kind of relationship sometimes transitions into a romantic relationship.
- Romantic: A romantic relationship involves more intense emotions than an sffectionate relationship and at least one (but not always both) of the people harbors hopes for a long-term committed relationship. People in romantic relationships sometimes hide the nature and depth of their affection, to the other person as well as to themselves.
Subsidiary Relationship Types:
- Sexual: In a sexual relationship, people engage in sexual activity. A sexual relationship always takes place within one of the main relationship types.
- Committed: A committed relationship brings two people into an explicit agreement about the terms their relationship. They share the intention to appear as a couple. A committed relationship always takes place within one of the main relationship types. It sometimes includes a sexual component.
- Love: A person in a love relationship accepts the other person’s actions unconditionally, cherishing and wishing only happiness for them. Sometimes only one person in a relationship feels love. People ‘in love’ do not necessarily love one another, and can become mortal enemies if their own wishes aren’t fulfilled through the other person. Love relationships take place within one of the main relationship types and may combine with ‘sexual’ and/or ‘committed’ components.
Antagonistic relationships are easy to maintain only if you resist your partner vigorously and consistently.
They constantly drain your energy and your merit. They also act as landmines for generating negative karma, so please take care. It’s easy to harm someone you don’t like if you have to interact with them. Improving the status of the relationship serves as the best remedy, either by making effort to resolve your differences, or by finding ways to view the person in a more positive light.
Sometimes people just have difficult karma between themselves, and if that seems to be the case (because nothing you try seems to work) then simply avoiding that person offers the best approach.
At least avoid doing anything negative in your interactions around them.
‘Friendships’ and ‘Affectionate Friendships’ move along a bit easier, and for the most part you can just enjoy these relationships. The more you cherish your friends, the longer the friendships will last. These relationships flourish and grow in the same way that karma and merit do, so if you tending to those well, your friendships will grow.
We’ll address ‘Romantic’ relationships in the next part of this chapter. Their importance merits separate attention.
‘Sexual’ and ‘Committed’ relationships express special conditions that sometimes complicate ‘Romantic’ relationships and ‘Friendships’. This often surprises people, and when problems arise in these ‘dual’ relationships, they indicate that one (or more) of the people involved thinks that the condition goes with the relationship automatically.
‘Love’ needs no further explanation. It’s simple.
Now that we have some definitions, we can go back to your house and talk about what actually transpires in each of your rooms.
Each room represents a relationship, so each room can be classified according to our definitions.
The feelings that inhabit each room are like people who use the room. They come and go, and may linger for long periods of time. They can please or displease, and they impact tremendously the feel of the room. If you struggle with the feelings you have about the relationship that room represents, it feels like having an annoying neighbor stay for too long. Politeness eventually yields to irritability, and before you know it, you’ve done something regrettable.
When this happens, the time has arrived for you to have a heart-to-heart conversation with yourself about what you really want out of that relationship.
If you don’t like your feelings about a relationship, then you need to ask yourself why you continue that relationship, and why you allow those feelings to linger.
Sometimes people stay in unpleasant relationships because they don’t know how to get out of them. It feels as if the annoying neighbor stays and blocks the door. The neighbor probably got inside in the first place because they brought cookies or some other enticing gift. But once the cookies disappear you realize you’re ready for the company to leave.