Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Growing Pains

I tend to treat relationships differently. With some people, I feel like I have to be more refined or polite, while with others I feel like I can be completely upfront and say exactly what I'm thinking. No real rhyme or reason, it depends on the personality, what our connection is, and sometimes, how long we've known each other.

While it's true that every relationship is different, they do all have a couple of things in common.

Relationships are organic. You can't force them; they are either meant to be or they're not. What's funny is most people seem ready to accept this when it comes to friends, family, coworkers - but if a new love interest comes into our life, we suddenly fall all over ourselves to "make it work." What makes us feel like we have to force one relationship but not another? Most of us would agree that our friendships "work" - they make us happy, enrich our lives, and in general make life better. If this all happens naturally - why not just let the same thing happen with other relationships?

Relationships also need to be nourished. You might be thinking that nourishing is the opposite of letting it happen naturally. I consider nourishing to be part of the natural process - like the way a garden needs the sun and rain. Open, honest and comfortable communication is good for a relationship. But things aren't generally honest or comfortable if they're forced. Think about how you feel if your boss schedules a meeting. When you get to his office you're probably nervous, maybe a little frustrated. Potentially bad for any relationship. But if you just meet him in the hall and have a casual exchange, you're more genuine - nourishing.

It seems like one of the biggest growing pains any relationship can go through is finding the balance between letting things happen and forcing them. A lot of people (I find women to be notorious for this) believe that good communication means that you talk about everything, and that talking about everything is a sign of a good relationship. I disagree. I think part of good communication is knowing when you need to talk, and when you can just let it go. And I think a sign of a good relationship is that you can talk about anything - but you don't need to.

I find this to be true in every type of relationship there is. I suppose it's most notable with romantic relationships - but if you really stop and think about it, the same applies with your friends, family, coworkers - anyone, really.

Ever loaned a family member money (or a DVD or an article of clothing)? What do you do when it's time (by your clock, anyway) that the item be returned or money paid back - and it hasn't been? Do you say something? Or what about your stylist - have you ever gotten a cut that you weren't 100% thrilled with, but were too afraid to say something and ruin a good thing?

Have you ever come across information that you knew might break a friend's heart, but that you felt she had the right to know? If you tell her, you risk being the bad guy, but if you don't, you risk losing her trust. 
Tough situations. You could lose a love or a friend. You could hurt a family member, or jeapordize your career.

It's tough to find the balance between when it's time to talk, and when it's time to keep it to yourself. It's even tougher because, as your relationship grows, the balance tends to shift. The person who you thought would be your best friend forever might turn out to have just been your best friend for right then.

The trick is, learning to recognize, and accept, these changes. Do that, and you'll grow as a person, either with or without that friend.

Either way, you're growing. And growing is often times painful. The most any of us can do is our best - look for the lesson and move on when it's time.

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