To many people, a good relationship is one that makes you happy or that lasts a long time. We are quick to judge a relationship as failed when it is not as long-lived as we’d like, or if we weren’t happy in it.
Instead of judging and labelling our relationships, perhaps we should just accept them as they come. Yet being human, we want to understand our relationships, analyse them, and satisfy ourselves that they meant something.
If we insist on evaluating our relationships, then we could at least adopt a broader perspective. Even a brief, unhappy relationship could have a purpose in your life. Here are some alternative ways to judge the ‘goodness’ of a relationship.
Did you learn something?
Every relationship holds a lesson. Sometimes we learn about human nature – an abusive or cheating partner helps us to wise up and become better judges of character. Other times we learn about other people – we realise that people love us in the best way they know how, not necessarily in the way we want them to. And sometimes we learn about ourselves – do we become insecure and jealous as intimacy grows, or do we relax and trust more.
Did you make a new friend?
Life is a state of flux. People change and so do relationships. Mere acquaintances can fall in love and marry. Close friends can fall out and become mere acquaintances. We can choose to be hurt when a relationship tapers off in intensity, or we can be grateful that the intense period brought us close enough to stay in touch afterwards. If a relationship ended with deep hurt, it may take time before friendship is possible but it’s certainly possible.
Did you breathe easier?
Some relationships come into our lives at a time when we are desperately in need of companionship and friendship. Think of these people as angels, sent to help you stand on your own two feet when you didn’t have the energy or will yourself. Once you were better, their job was done and they quietly leave your life. Don’t resent them for disappearing, but thank them for coming.
Did you give your best?
Many people at the end of their lives wish they’d loved more, not less. Every relationship is a chance to love as much as we can, without counting the cost or holding back from fear of hurt. When we understand that relationships are not about what we can get out of them, but what we can give, we would have started to understand love. Relationships define us, make us who we are. Did you define yourself through this relationship as someone who gives his best?
Did you grow?
Ultimately all life is about growing. A baby, a seedling, a puppy… they don’t ask endless questions about the meaning of life. They just grow, as they were born to do. We can do the same. Relationships offer unparalleled opportunities for growth. Often we grow most when we hurt most, just like diamonds sparkle best when they’re cut a myriad times. We’re all diamonds in the rough, and relationships help to make us into polished gems – both tough and beautiful.
Did you make the world a better place?
Every relationship changes the world. Perhaps a child is born out of love; or a couple produces inspiring music or uplifting poetry; even the mere act of holding hands could have been seen by somebody and brought hope and encouragement to that person. If your relationship sent out good vibes, then you made the world a better place.
All relationships leave their footprints on the cosmos. Someday when we have better vision, we may see the intricate pattern of our footprints and realise that all those relationships that came and went were actually part of an elaborate dance of life. What makes a dance beautiful are precisely the twists and turns, the doubling back, the moving in circles, the changing of partners. Was yours a dance of joy? Of hope? Of love?
34 replies on “What Makes A Good Relationship”
Thanks Daphne, again. This writing is very reassuring. Relationships mutate and it’s a natural process because we do mutate and transform ourselves everyday.
I like the way you phrase it – that relationships mutate. Sometimes it’s our expectation that people stay the same that gets us into a whole lot of trouble – taking things for granted etc. Thanks for your wise comment.
My relationships with others tell me things about myself. Any bad or irritated feelings I have with someone tells me of an aversion that I have with myself. Also, no one can truly make me angry unless I have allowed myself to be so.
Relationships are a mirror to my inner state. What exists on the outside reflects what is on the inside. Hence, if I want to improve on my existing relationships or have better relationships, I need to have clear awareness of myself.
It is great that you are viewing things positively. By learning the lessons and letting go gracefully, you create the space for the right person to come along. All the best!
Thanks for your comment, and sorry for my late reply. Yes it does take time for wisdom to kick in on hindsight, yet when it does, all relationships do turn out to be ‘good’ in some way, don’t they?
Your comment made my day, and I am so happy that the post helped you a little. Accepting ‘what is’ can sometimes be very difficult, because we are so focused on ‘what i want’ instead. I’m glad that you’ve accepted this important relationship for what it is – that is liberating and perhaps will free you to see the real value this relationship has for you, and that person for who she is rather than who you wish she was. Thanks so much for sharing. You make writing this post worthwhile.
So good to see you back! And you’ve reminded me of an important truth – relationships tell me far more about myself than they do about the other person, whether it’s what I love or what I hate about the other person… all this is just a mirror to myself. Actually I’m not even sure I want the ‘right person’ to come along anymore. I’m happy and at peace and am coming to think that I prefer life this way… but at the same time I know I should remain open. Thanks for dropping by!
Daphne — I loved everything about this post. I liked the way you laid it out with the bold questions, which by themselves made me think about my relationships! Also, the content was very timely for me.
Recently, I’ve had to learn a difficult life lesson that involved a relationship with someone in my family. I had to accept that this person will probably never be as close to me as I would like.
This hurt and angered me for a time, but I realized I want this relationship to continue. The hurt and anger only made it grow more distant. I had to let go of these emotions and accept this relationship as it is and not as I want it to be…and to do this with love.
Thank you very much for this post:~)
What a lovely way to assess relationships. I know I’ve had relationships that I look back on with bad memories, but they all either taught me something or brought some good into the world.
This is a great post. I must stumble. 🙂
I love everything about it. Every relationship in our life has a gift in it for us. Even the relationship that we might think we can do without. The key to it all is, we must keep our heart open for the gift.
Thanks for sharing.
Imperfect Action is better than No Action
What a good, and deep, article. Relationships is quite a topic to tackle and you’ve done such a good job with it.
You know, you’re right that each relationship we experience leaves it’s mark. Both on us and the universe. It seems to come down to how we perceive the relationship to be or have been. We can view ones that have ended as failure or we can look at what we learned from it. I have had relationships that ended painfully, and while I may not have known at the time, something good was gained from the experience.
Great article, as usual, Daphne!
Hi, Daphne –
I really like this sentence: “When we understand that relationships are not about what we can get out of them, but what we can give, we would have started to understand love.”
If I kept my focus on that idea, I could have a more relaxed attitude towards my relationships. Thanks for sharing this!
– Marie (Coming Out of the Trees)
You’re a stronger woman than me, as I don’t really enjoy that challenge while it is happening, even though I realise that it’s a good thing. Growing up is always more fun in hindsight! 🙂
Accepting relationships, accepting people, accepting life… this is surely enlightenment! Thanks for your comment and your Stumble. I’m grateful for your support.
Relaxing into relationships is something I wasn’t very good at before, because I had all these ideas and standards and was so upset when a relationship didn’t fit into the mental or emotional mould I’d prepared for it. I had to work hard at letting go, and you’re so right that when we stop making demands, we can relax and enjoy relationships more. Thanks for reminding me to relax… sometimes I forget! 🙂
Thanks so much for your generous and encouraging comment. You’re right that perception is key to how we experience and value our relationships. Even pain is a perception, and a relationship (or its ending) is ‘painful’ only because we allow ourselves to resist it when it doesn’t conform to certain ideas or desires we have.
You’re a great buddy. Thanks for the Stumble, and for sharing your wisdom here. You made me sit up when you wrote that even relationships we think we can do without have a gift to offer us. Oops! I’m quite happy to do without many relationships because I feel emotionally self-sufficient, yet your comment is a timely reminder that I may be rejecting many gifts. Food for thought. Thanks!
Great post as usual. Your article has a deep meaning about relationship.
I am absolutely agree when you said in the first : we should just accept them as they come.
The thing I love about relationships is how much they can challenge us and demand our best selves!
Don’t we all learn the hard way? It’s kind of like preaching to the converted 🙂 Thanks for commenting!
I’m so glad that this helped you to find peace and acceptance of the status of your friendship with your friend. When we’re fixated on a certain outcome like marriage, we feel sad that we’re not married instead of enjoying the relationship that we do enjoy – a very good friend who is very much on our side in life.
Yes we tend to label our relationships and so put them in a box. Loving without expectation can be so difficult when we aren’t able to let go, yet so natural and easy when we can.
Mastering the virtue of a sound relationship is hard to master. People are oftentimes selfish and wants things to be in accordance with them.
It takes selflessness and understanding to grow beyond our self; only then do we understand others. 🙂
Hi Daphne – I think we expend too much energy on relationships that aren’t really relationships; It’s difficult to move on and change, or get out of that relationship.
I’ve had a few .. and now know that some people I just simply cannot worry about as it is too negative making. Do we over analyse? We jumped into the situation in the first place – then we back pedal to get out.
I think one of the things I’ve learnt recently is that everyone else is responsible for their actions, just do what is right for you. I know this is difficult – as we’re all prone to make instant decisions.
I sometimes talk to people who are in very negative situations – but that’s the way they face life too, others in equally challenging situations ensure their glass is half full.
All the best – Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories
I try to look at all my relationships in the ways you describe here; even (or especially) the painful ones. It makes me sad when I have a friend I thought was a “lifer” who instead turns out to be “seasonal” but the way you describe those people as perhaps being angels, here to fulfill a need of ours and then leave when their job is done–WOW–that is so profound. I like what you wrote here: “Don’t resent them for disappearing, but thank them for coming.” Thank you sharing your perspective on this!
Sorry everyone for the late replies to your comments. Been having server problems and think it’s sorted out now.
I replied to your comment earlier but lost it due to technical problems. I’m so glad you connected with family on Facebook even when you didn’t realise the reason then. Life works in wonderful ways, doesn’t it?
Yep, I completely agree about the ‘clicking’ with some people comment. Thanks for your comment.
You are such a dear, taking the trouble to reply four times. I’m not sure if it was my host server that was causing the problem. I certainly couldn’t do anything with my own blog for a couple of weeks so I wouldn’t be surprised if you were having difficulty too. So sorry about that. And I am SO glad that our relationship and friendship born out of blogging is still here!
And here’s my reply to your later comment as well: yes it takes time to learn that we can’t be responsible for everyone else on the planet, and once I realised this I felt so liberated. You’re probably feeling the same way too. ‘Negative’ is a word that exists in the mind, not in the world out there. There are only facts and events and we make of them what we will. Thanks for your determined friendship, Hilary, in commenting here so many times until you got through. I am deeply grateful and humbled.
The painful relationships are the ones which helped me grow most – and of course it’s much easier to be grateful in retrospect than when then growing was actually happening! At the time it was all curses and tears 🙂 I’m glad you found the bit about thanking people for coming into our lives helpful. Thanks for letting me know!
This is my copy … 4th tme now ..
Hi Daphne .. and again .. timed out for the 2nd time .. do not know why – so this time I’ll copy this completely unconnected comment .. and if necessary go out of Google and come in again.
Whether I have caught Tess’ relationship challenge or not .. we’ll never know!
My relationship with Joyful Days is still here ..
3rd time lucky – and I’ll be back to do a proper one ..
all the best – Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories
I like your question-driven approach.
I especially like your, “did you breathe easier?” test. Some people just make us click right.
I truly believe people come in and out of our lives for some reason. There is always something to learn about ourselves, other people, the world in general. In fact, recently I was reconnected with family I haven’t seen in a couple of decades. We don’t live nearby and now connect through Facebook primarily. We may never meet in person again, but I know the reason why we met again a few months ago. To me it’s precious and priceless.
Even the tough exchanges are there for a lesson even though we may not want them to be.
Hi Daphne. We tend to try to put relationships in a box don’t we? I enjoyed reading about all the different perspectives — especially the part about how people come into our lives for a certain reason and when that has been fulfilled, they move on. Being open to that gives a relationship more room to grow and when I look at it that way it helps me to not have too many expectations.
Thanks Daphne for this post, It brought a great relief to me from an issue that had bordered me for quite a while. Because I couldn’t fathom it when a lady I befriend for over half a decade, we were both relatively decent with each other, we tried to work on helping each other grow and focused. But she said No! When I proposed to her. Yet, we still remain GOOD friends. So Daphne, thanks for this enlightment. God bless you.
Excellent post indeed. I learnt it the hard way but the truth is that this approach about relationships is far more empowering than any other.
Daphne. I love this article! It’s so true.
I found out the hard way .. my previous long term relationship was constant work. We were always analysing everything and constantly looking for ways to improve. We lost sight of all these things you write about and lost sight of enjoying the relationship. We decided to part because we were both so tired of the hard work. Now we’re friends and both have relationships that are pretty much as you describe.
Thanks so much for writing this!
Glad you liked the line. After I wrote it I looked at it and thought “Wow, such gradiose language” but decided to keep it in because I really believed it. So I’m happy that it came across the right way. You’re a pal for providing such affirmation. Thank you!
I really love what you say about manifesting your relationships – very few people realise this, that we attract every single person into our life for a specific reason – something in us chose to experience them, and ourselves in relation to them. It’s truly a gift we give ourselves, and a gift that we give to others, and a gift they give to us. What a lovely world view you have!
Yes sometimes friendships can cause as much angst and joy as romantic relationships. Long-term friendships, especially, offer much potential for growth. I’m glad you appreciate all your friendships. Gratitude is both choice and gift.
That makes two of us. I learnt the hard way too – the very painful way. Isn’t it funny how we tend to over-analyse and over-work a relationship instead of just accepting and enjoying it while it lasts? We’re so hung up on longevity and perfection… Good to know that you’re in a good relationship now and still friends with your ex. It’s wonderful when past lovers remain friends – that’s a true testimony to the human spirit. Thanks for the Stumble too!
I agree, and I think this is true not just for romantic relationships but also for friendships. Not all of my friendships last, but I find that I gain something valuable from each and every one of them.
I try to view every relationship I’m in – with friends or lovers – in the ways you described. I can always point to how each person has helped me grow (I manifested them for that purpose, after all!). I can also see times in my life when people have come in for one reason (companionship, for instance) and it morphed into so much more.
Every chance to connect with another human being is a gift, and I love how poignantly you’ve been pointing that out in your last few posts.
I love this line: “All relationships leave their footprints on the cosmos.”. Everything we do leaves our mark on the world in some way. And relationships are no different. And no matter if that’s a long life together, or a short period of time – it’s all changing the world in some form. And that’s so good to remember – I find that it makes me more cognizant to the fact that my actions have an effect…
I just wrote a book here and lost it when I submitted comment. I’ll be back again to rewrite. I’m out to exercise. AUUGGHHH! I don’t it when that happens. Back soon.
Oooh, I LOVE these questions, especially the one about learning something. I think that is the most important thing I’ve taken away from the relationships I’ve been in. I’ve learned more about myself and more about the world and how to interact with people. Also, love the idea of a relationship footprint. Such good imagery!
I’ve never considered the concept of a relationship footprint.
37 years in an incredibly long time. Hats off to you and your husband. You’ve certainly figured out a way not only to stay together, but to appreciate each other more and more over the years. That’s amazing self-growth, acceptance and love. I fully understand that we need to hear someone say “I love you” even though we already know they do. The outward manifestation is still important. I also hear you loud and clear about parents showing children by example the importance of respecting each other. Yes, that seems to be missing, yet beautiful to see when it is there. Thanks so much for sharing. I’ve learnt a lot from you here.
Sorry to hear about the relationship that’s not working out right now. There seem to be seasons in relationships – as you mentioned, maybe this one will get good again, and maybe it won’t. Either way it’s really okay, as long as you don’t beat yourself up about it. Thanks for the well wishes too. I’ve already been enormously rewarded in my relationships – some have morphed into friendships and some have spurred me onto incredible personal growth. Hope the reply to your email was a ‘good’ one.
@ Middle Way,
Thanks! It’s always great to see you here.
It’s funny how we can’t really learn about ourselves unless we’re in a relationship of some sort. Someone told me once that it’s so easy to be a perfect Christian as long as she was alone in her room – but ask her to go out and love real people and suddenly being a Christian is incredibly difficult! Same for us trying to grow – we say we want to, but the actual growing through relationships can be very painful! For me, the most pain has usually led to the most growth.
Aargh too! I always love your comments because of the wisdom and love in them. Please do find the time to re-write what you have to say because I just know it’s something I need to hear…
Daphne, your post is timely – but I wish I’d reloaded my reader an hour ago BEFORE I sent the email… It was to a long standing friend where the relationship is no longer working for me (yeah, email is not the best way to have this conversation but that is how he wants it). I have no doubt that the relationship was good. The question is – is it going to continue and will it get good again?
I agree with Patricia that you need to work on a relationship and hope you’ll be rewarded in time.
My husband and I have been married for 37 years. We are still together because we have been each other’s best friend. Our love has grown through the hard times as well as the good times. Daniel is easier to live with than I am. He has his faults. So do I. Love isn’t blind after all this time. We adjust and compromise, get angry and make up, apologize and do it again, make dates with each other and sometimes make love in the middle of the day. Because I am more difficult to live with than Daniel, I occasionally tell him how grateful I am that he is in my life and still loves me. We both say, “I love you.” frequently. Even though we know that we love each other, hearing it said is very important, even after 37 years together.
I believe that one of the most important things that a mother can teach her children is to have respect for their father. I also believe that one of the most important things that a father can teach his children is to have respect for their mother. Many homes today seem to be missing respect for each other.