If you're a close follower of GEQ, you've heard me say before that love is an art. And for systematic people like me, that can be a scary reality to face! So I'm here to say that there's good news: even art forms have underlying 'rules' that we can learn and apply. For example, in music, there's a rhythm and a key, which provide the structure for creative expression to flourish within. Just like art, relationships will never be broken down to pure science - but there are some foundational principles that serve as a framework for every healthy relationship. Knowing and applying them won't guarantee you harmonic relationships, but it will most definitely set the tone.
Off the bat, there are a couple timeless relationship truths that come to mind. First, as I've talked about before, friendships and love are a two-way street. When we approach friendship looking for relational needs we can fill, we work wonders in cultivating love in our hearts. As a need-filler, we will continually find ourselves being trusted and depended upon, and we will come alive as a result.
On a similar note, love and friendship is a commitment to a person. I'm not saying we need to be lifelong friends with every friend we make; I'm just saying that we need to be a friend to the friends we currently hold. Remember: each person we are friends with also only has so many friends! Friendship comes with an unspoken commitment to be there not only in times of joy, but also in times of need.
To approach this topic from a different angle, let me describe the core principles of relationship like growing a plant:
Respect for each other is oxygen to our relationships. It must always be present or we'll suffocate quickly. There is no room for love in a relationship unless both parties are valued, appreciated, and honored. Judgment and unforgiveness will suck respect out of the air like a vacuum. We maintain respect not by biting our tongues, but by legitimately understanding where someone is coming from, why they did or said what they did, and extending forgiveness for missed expectations quickly, completely, and often.
Laughter is water for love and relationship. Nothing is as refreshing and replenishing as laughter. It disarms us - seemingly washing away every black spot in an instant - and reinstates a culture of joy and health. Without it, yes, love and relationship will die.
Vulnerability is the sun for love and relationship, shedding light on our true selves. Unlike water, the sun isn't always quite as refreshing in the moment. Sometimes it's brighter than we'd like, or hotter, or even leaves us a little burned. But make no mistake, we desperately need vulnerability in our friendships. While vulnerability and laughter are both needed, a disproportionate amount of one over the other will also lead to dying relationships.
Trust is the soil for our relationships. Healthy trust allows us to continually grow our love deeper and stronger. Broken trust, on the other hand, will limit and strain our capacity for love, like a plant that's rooted in hard ground. Thankfully, there's really no such thing as having zero trust whatsoever - unless the relationship doesn't exist either. If we're hoping to nourish our soil by increasing trust, there's one thing that serves as miracle-gro, but you're not going to like it.
The miracle-gro for our trust is enduring pain and sacrificing together for a common purpose. Sounds fun, right? :) Maybe not, but make no mistake, this is the fast track for growing trust in love and relationship. We learn to trust someone more quickly when we share common struggles and when we provide opportunities to be let down. Intellectually, I might 'know' that I can count on someone, but that head knowledge holds no weight in comparison to living it and seeing it first hand. And it's only in the most trying times when we find out.
To be clear, we don't need this miracle-gro for our relationships to thrive. Normal soil can work just fine, provided we still do the necessary tilling every now and then. Pain and sacrifice are simply bonus nutrients, the extra juice to facilitate that miracle-like growth.
With our oxygen, water, sun, and soil in place, we're destined for success. The only variable that's left to account for is time. The longer you allow a plant to grow, the stronger it will become - and the same goes for our relationships. This refers not merely to the days and years that have gone by since our friendship began, but especially to the amount of time we've spent together. This is particularly relevant in the relationship's early, developmental stages. Once we're over that initial hump, our friendships can become established evergreens, abounding both in seasons of close proximity and seasons of distance.
Within theses boundary lines, we can make a masterpiece of relationship and love. I'm sure we could come up with more rules of thumb to live by, but the goal is not to create a fool-proof formula here. We aren't looking for rigid friendships, just a solid foundation. What we build on top of it is a work of art :).
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