What is a Relationship? The answer can very well be quizzical – ‘if you don’t ask me I know, if you ask me I do not’. Here I wish to share a short poem I had written a few years back. It reads like this:
“I spent hours with her
In a crowd
She was not there.
She stole a glance and threw a smile
The crowd vanished
She only was there.”
It is interesting. The poet and the girl spent hours together in a crowd. The crowd is a group of stand-alone people. Hence practically for the poet, the girl was non existent. The moment she stole a glance and threw a smile, as far as the poet is concerned, she only existed there, none else. This explains what a relationship is. It is the ‘connect’ between two entities without which each is a stand-alone, non-existent entity for the other.
The colour and strength of relationship: Thus any ‘connect’ is a relationship. Like a vector in physics it has a magnitude and a direction. In other words, it has intensity and a valence (positive or negative). Let us discuss the valence first. Like love, hatred is also a relationship if that is what connects two individuals. Even if someone chooses to ignore the other person it speaks of a relationship because he is doing something to the other. So any ‘connect’ love or hatred, concern or jealousy, praise or condemnation speaks of a relationship. Then comes the intensity. One loves another but how much; one hates another but how strongly. The intensity of a relationship determines the behaviour. Intensity, in itself, is determined by two things- one, the personality of the person as to how strongly he feels about whatever he feels ; two, his experience with the other person with whom he strikes his relationship. It is the intensity of love that drove Heer-Ranjha, Romeo-Juliet or Laila-Majnu to die. People love, fail and learn to live with it. But the above characters chose otherwise. The intensity of relationship drives intense responses both constructive and destructive.
Relationship and expectation: These are closely intertwined. In fact each influences the other. One’s behaviour is perceived in the background of expectation the other has from him. How is this expectation formed? It is formed on the basis of one’s past experience and his perceived definition of the relationship. Often an apparently good behaviour is not good enough when much more is expected and similarly a bad behaviour is not bad enough if a far worse one was apprehended. It may therefore be interesting to note that some Management teachers include Customer Expectation Management to be a part of their strategy for Customer satisfaction.
Relationship and Communication: Communication is an important tool for shaping relationship. Again a few lines of a poem written by me.
“In the beginning
The words you speak
Shape your relationship.
The relationship you have built
Puts words into your mouth.”
It is communication which fosters a relationship, shapes a relationship, keeps a relationship alive by clearing blockades when they arise; it is again miscommunication which breaks relationship. Often it is the lack of communication which lets the relationship wither away. Relationship may sometimes suffer inadequate communication, faulty communication, and strangely sometimes, from excessive communication. It is pertinent to quote Chanakya’s famous lines in sanskrit;
Lakshmi basati jihwagre
Jihwagre mitra bandhavah
Jihwagre bandhanam praptam
Jihwagre maranam dhrubam.
(Your speech- communication earns you wealth, earns you friendship, your speech can put you behind bars, it can also bring you sure death.)
Relationship and attachment: Is attachment a relationship? Attachment develops with animate or inanimate objects when they are together with us for a period of time. It is ‘used to being together’. It thins down when the person or the thing is taken away physically. One feels uneasy temporarily as he was used to it but the bonding at emotional level is not strong enough to continue the feeling of loss over a period of time.
Relationship and exclusivity: A young boy approached a girl in his class and asked her, “Do you love me?” The girl answered, “Yes, sure, I love all my classmates”. Does the boy feel satisfied? The girl, in this case, is not expressing her love for the boy (although he is a classmate and comes in the purview of her love); rather she is making a personality statement –‘ I am a loving person’. A relationship is often enriched only when bestowed with some exclusivity. Every relationship is unique and the concerned persons must feel it as such. What the English poet GM Hopkins calls ‘thisness’ is applicable here too. Every relationship has a ‘thisness’ to it.
Relationship in a time horizon: It is said that relationship grows with the passage of time. True. But in which direction? Relationship is like a young plant which needs to be regularly watered to grow and shine. It has risk of losing the spark and withering away unless it is regularly fed and taken care of consciously. Please mark the following lines where the poet describes a man-woman relationship on which time has taken a toll.
“Now when we are tired of togetherness
She for me
Is an unflowing pond
And me for her
A grounded ship
Indifferent to the tidal waves of the same waters”
- Raju Samal ( Lost fragrance of love- Ripples in the Void pp-39)
The greatest threat to a relationship is ‘being taken for granted’. Relationship grows depending on how well you feed it and at what frequency.
As the relationship grows strong, it can withstand the minor onslaughts on its journey. It is rightly said that the strength of a friendship is determined by its ability to absorb the unfriendly behaviour.
It is good to start a relationship but it is great to make it stay long and strong.