Perhaps the most involved, personal, and emotionally charged area of our lives. Without relationships we have no life. Just stop and think about it for a minute; from the moment we are born we are thrown into a world of diverse relationships.
We instantly form a relationship with our immediate caretakers. Without them we wouldn’t survive. We then go on to form hundreds of relationships at school, relationships with teachers. We can all remember the teachers we liked and the ones we lived in awe of.
By the age of 6, most of us have already developed a complex and sophisticated network of relationships across our immediate society; each of them requiring from us something slightly different and giving to us something different in return. We may be older or younger than our siblings (if we have them), they may be of the same sex or different. We will have identified people we like, people we don’t and learnt that taking the same approach to all people will not work in many instances. Quite simply we learn that relationships have to be worked at and that we are not at the centre of the universe very quickly.
By the time we leave home and start taking care of ourselves the diversity of our inter-relatedness is astonishing. We must learn how to relate to our friends, family, colleagues, bosses, lovers, enemies, customers, and the people that supply us with goods and services. We are likely to behave very differently with our boss than we do with our family. Parents will often comment of their offspring that they wish they would “behave like that at home”. We might even wonder who we actually are if we can present so many different faces. In some fields of psychological enquiry a view is held that each one of us possesses very little individuality at all, we are simply by-products of the societies and groups we live in, and that the whole is therefore very much greater than its individual parts or indeed their sum. What do you think of that? If absolute, it would reduce our real freedom to be individual!
The debate is complex and fascinating and will certainly not be concluded in these paragraphs although we don’t hold entirely with the notion that we are nothing more than socially created identities. If this were the whole story, history wouldn’t be able to present us with the countless examples of people who have taken on societies norms against the odds. However we ignore societies power at our peril.
So, what of the issues with relationships? Many people feel that relationships are difficult and almost impossible to navigate through at times. Have they actually become more difficult? What do you think? Perhaps the choices we have (or at least the illusions of choice) make them seem more difficult? Marriage break-ups for example were far less frequent 30 years ago. Does it therefore follow that marriages were more idyllic then? We are not so sure that they were. Perhaps societies rules were far less flexible on what was permissible and so with far fewer options open to people in un-happy relationships the status quo remained more consistent. The following sections will look at improving personal relationships, relationships at work, and managing relationships within the family. We hope you find these sections interesting and thought provoking
In the meantime, you may find it useful to visit our relationship resources section - Relationships resources
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