The three conditions of relationships
Relationship ‘conditions’… what are they?
1.1 The ‘friendship’ condition
Question: What do we say when we call someone a friend?
The first and most important condition of relationship is friendship. It establishes and maintains the foundation for all our other healthy and productive engagements and requires the sharing of interests, experiences, trust, and concern. Friendships do not arise by chance; they are neither a matter of convenience nor of popularity. True friendships take time and typically have three stages of growth.
Our friendships, or those ‘prefriendships’ in the initial stimulation stage, can flourish when we experience a physical and verbal relationship, a sense of mutual respect and some shared interests.
In the second stage (or value), we have come to appreciate and respect intangible things such as: ethics, character and morals.
The third, and most intimate expression of an evolving friendship, is the role stage in which we share: family, specific activities, dreams, fears, support, and some measure of responsibility to and for each other.
You must take a proactive attitude when starting or developing friendships. Feel free to use affirmative language to secure new friends or reassure established friends of your importance. Keep in mind that not all friendships are created equal and if conflicts arise in the two relationship conditions that follow (partnership and association), you should do your best to overcome those challenges from your base as ‘friends’.
1.2 The ‘fellowship’ condition
The second, and perhaps the most appreciated, condition of the relationship is companionship. As trust grows, friends and acquaintances begin to explore their ‘natural’ relationship (section 3.2) beyond limited verbal interactions, and subsequently make definite plans to share events, activities, and other friends. Typically, one acquaintance or friend will extend an invitation to the other to attend or be a part of something the guest enjoys and has reason to believe the guest will as well.
Barring social conflict or a breakdown in trust, the ‘natural’ relationship and common interests will offer repeated opportunities to share meaningful experiences.
The ‘joy’ of companionship is in sharing space, events, other friends, occasions, and in the feeling of camaraderie for short periods (company of opportunity) or long (company of understanding). Best of all, the company does not require a romantic or intimate relationship.
1.3 The condition of ‘association’
The third and most complicated condition of the relationship is partnership. It requires the highest level of trust as it is based on expectations, understandings or agreements between two people. It matters little whether the partners are roommates, double partners in tennis, business partners, gang members, common-law partners, or spouses. Entering into a partnership of any kind should be done with mature anticipation, honesty, and open communication. It must be free from any form of ultimatum or coercion. If the foundations of your friendship have been shaken before a mutual agreement on a partnership has been reached, make a concerted effort to build that foundation of trust before making or accepting commitments or promises that may be broken.
Partnerships, bilateral by design, come with conditions and expectations that friendships and companionship do not. Your partner may expect one or more of the following types of support: physical, financial, spiritual, or emotional. This is where honest communication in the early stages of the friendship process can minimize the chances of feeling: misunderstood, neglected, trapped, or unimportant. Remember this. The perfect partner is NOT a perfect person! Do not make, imply, solicit, coerce or infer promises that you do not want or cannot keep. Which statement best describes your association?
“I feel that I am or can become who I am truly meant to be; I feel trusted and respected, and I am not afraid of rejection or abandonment.”
“To be with you, I feel like I have to compromise who I am or who I can become; I’m not sure what to expect and I don’t feel safe or valued.”