Relationship ‘conditions’…what are they?
1.1 The ‘friendship’ condition
Question: What are we saying when we call someone a friend?
The first and most important relationship condition is friendship. It establishes and maintains the foundation of all of our other healthy and productive involvements and requires the exchanging of interests, experiences, trust, and concern. Friendships don’t just happen; they are neither a matter of convenience nor of popularity. Real friendships take time and typically have three stages of growth.
Our acquaintanceships, or those ‘pre-friendships’ in the initial stimulus stage, can blossom when we experience physical and verbal rapport, a sense of mutual respect, and some shared interests.
In the second (or value) stage, we have come to appreciate and respect intangible things like: ethics, character, and morals.
The third, and the most intimate expression of an evolving friendship, is the role stage where we share: family, specific activities, dreams, fears, support, and some measure of responsibility to and for each other.
You should take a proactive attitude when initiating or building upon friendships. Do not hesitate to use affirmative language to assure new friends or to reassure established friends of their importance. Be mindful that not all friendships are equal and should conflicts arise in the two relationship conditions that follow (companionship & partnership), you should do your best to work through those challenges from your foundation as ‘friends’.
1.2 The ‘companionship’ condition
The second – and maybe the most cherished – relationship condition is companionship. As trust grows, friends and acquaintances begin to explore their ‘natural’ rapport (section 3.2) beyond limited verbal interactions and, subsequently, make definitive plans to share events, activities, and other friends. Usually, one acquaintance or friend will extend an invitation to the other to attend or to be a part of something the inviter enjoys and has reason to believe the invitee will as well.
Barring social conflict or a break in trust, ‘natural’ rapport and common interests will offer repeated opportunities for you to share meaningful experiences.
The ‘joy’ of the companionship condition is in the sharing of space, events, other friends, occasions, and, in the feeling of camaraderie for short (companionship of opportunity) or long (companionship of understanding) periods of time. Best of all, companionship does not require a romantic or an intimate involvement.
1.3 The ‘partnership’ condition
The third and most involved relationship condition 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, doubles partners in tennis, business associates, band members, domestic partners, or spouses. Entering a partnership of any kind should be done with mature fore-thought, honesty, and open communication. It should be devoid of any form of ultimatum or coercion. If the foundation of your friendship has been shaky before a partnership has been mutually agreed upon, make the concerted effort to build that base of trust before you make or accept commitments or promises that may potentially be broken.
Partnerships – bilateral by design – come with conditions and expectations that friendships and companionships 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 friending 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 desire or that you cannot keep. Which statement best describes your partnership?
“I feel that I am or that I can become who I am truly meant to be; I feel trusted and respected, and I do not fear rejection or abandonment.”
“In order to be with you, I feel that I must compromise who I am or who I may become; I am not sure of just what I may expect and I do not feel safe or valued.”