essay: Relation Ship

Relation Ship – will it float or sink?                                                                         16.5.2014


It’s a wonder marital and defacto relationships survive at all – being the union of two souls of different backgrounds, values, strengths, vulnerabilities and even cultures.  Vive la difference?  Diversity adds spice, but cultural differences can be tricky, and superficial differences become less important over time than deeper personality traits.

We begin with love / lust, then at some point there’s conflict – perhaps severe – prompting more sober evaluation.  Is this the person I want to be with into the future?  Are they good or bad? safe or risky? honest or deceitful? generous or mean?  Can I keep loving them? Is love /respect mutual or retrievable?

The ship has many decks or levels, a complex structure:  physicality, companionship, humour, shared experiences and activities, shared values, intellectual exchange; shared relationships in family, friends, children; shared resources.  Can it survive and mature into one of support, respect and accommodation of differences – sharing life’s joys and challenges?  And then there’s looking after one’s own needs – not always parallel, while supporting the other.  Compromise is unavoidable, balancing when to give ground against when to stand firm; is it worth the argument?

Some skills and attributes are hard to do without – being generous with each other, having pleasant little surprises. Win/win conflict resolution skills are very valuable, part of learning and growing together: being able to step back from a looming fight, agreeing to revisit the debate when cooled off, pledging to argue respectfully, fairly and without rancour; trying to see the argument through the other’s eyes.  I like the (non-seafaring) analogy of the bank account, with deposits and withdrawals – positives building on positive, negatives on negative.

I guess if things are just getting worse there are two broad options: end it and move on, or adapt and improve.  Both come at a price.  There are always options; one is never really trapped.   Flexibility is a pretty useful personal attribute, but stability has advantages too.  Adapting and improving the relationship gets my vote, unless the other is beyond change or redemption.  The ship may never be perfect, but refitting to seaworthy standard can bring lasting happiness.


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