About a year ago, I put together a chart visualizing the elements that go into a relationship. It was originally designed to represent a healthy relationship between two committed adults (e.g. marriage). But consider that it’s also applicable in any committed relationship, and most certainly applicable in our personal friendships and professional and business relationships.
Take a look at the chart presented here and consider the true statement that we like and are drawn to the people with whom we feel related and compatible. Those feelings of relatedness and compatibility are made up of various elements. All of the individual elements are tied together by people’s ability to communicate.
I’ve presented the many elements of a healthy relationship through 3 key states of being with 5 main categories: core values; integrity; attraction; interests; and complimentary facets.
How many of the elements are present in your relationship with your significant other? How many of the elements are present with your friends? … co-workers?
My chart has at its center these three key words: Relatedness, Compatibility and Communication. They are at the center because they touch all five categories and are the common thread that runs through all of the other elements. They are the glue that holds a relationship together. For example, without good communication, a couple’s core values and integrity elements could easily fall apart.
Here are my five categories.
- Core Values. These elements are the foundation issues. It’s what an individual believes deep down in the heart. Some of them are historical (i.e. they come from family and childhood beliefs) while others are evolved from a lifetime of experiences, learning and thinking. The 4 specific core values are: spirituality (or faith); finances; family and friends; & fitness and health issues. While two people don’t have to have identical beliefs on core values, the core values should be much more similar in nature than different. For example, an active person who likes to exercise would not likely NOT be compatible with a person who doesn’t value keeping a healthy body through exercise and diet.
- Honesty. Honesty (or integrity) is the largest circle because it is the common link between the other 4 integrity elements: admiration; respect; inspiration; and trust. Without honesty, it’s impossible to admire, respect, trust and be inspired by another.
- Attraction. Attraction is frequently present at the start any new relationship. Yes, we all tend to judge books by their cover … and the same judging goes for people we meet. That is why attraction is frequently first thought more physical in nature and often deemed as superficial. But what happens in time? After you actually get to know someone? It’s been my experience that attraction grows as the inner qualities of the other person become known. Inner beauty is enduring while external attractiveness tends to fade. Without a healthy and continuous mutual attraction, intimacy would be shallow or non-existent. Of course intimacy can be on an emotional level as well as the physical intimacy reserved for lovers.
- Interests. Most healthy relationships have a combination of both mutual and independent interests. For example, my brother-in-law Bob loves motorcycles and uses that hobby as an independent activity. However, both my sister and Bob enjoy foreign travel as a common interest. Both types of interests are necessary and healthy in a relationship.
- Complements. Successful couples often have both complementary personality styles and complementary strengths and weaknesses. There is a balance.
Have you ever noticed where one person is often more outgoing while the other reserved? Or one is more organized and the other more spontaneous? The organized one brings structure while the spontaneous one brings fun. If both people are strong type A personalities, then where is the complement? I know where the stress is! And if both have the same strengths and weaknesses then the adage of 1 + 1 = 3 falls apart and becomes something more like 1 + 1 = 1.5 (or maybe 2).
Of course relationships that are missing an element or two often still work. We’ve all met the Odd Couple who manage quite nicely. And in our business dealings we have relationships that function adequately but are sometimes frustrating because a key element is missing. If only he would do more of … or if only she was more like …
Think about a long-term friendship that you’ve had for 10, 20 or 30 years. In those types of friendships, most of the relationship elements exist; you share common values; the elements of integrity, trust and respect are strong; you are attracted either physically, intellectually or both; you share common interests; and you somehow complement each other.
I’ll be writing more on each of these elements of a relationship in the coming weeks and months. I wanted to first present the big picture. I’d be very interested in your feedback on these elements.
What have I missed? What elements would you add?
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Next Blog Date: September 7, 2010