Preliminary

When the word ‘relationships’ is mentioned we generally think in terms of the bond between a man and woman or children and parents and that is because permanency of association makes the resultant stresses and strains so much greater.  However, there are other forms of relationship between human beings, where compatibility or incompatibility may be manifested, but these, because of their tenuousness do not cause any great social problems.  What some people regard as anti-social relationships are not of themselves anti-social, the anti-social aspect gaining prominence only through the reaction, or relationship, between the parties concerned and others.

We all have our human weaknesses and individual quirks of character, but although we can easily discern these in others, few of us are able to see them clearly in ourselves.  We all know the saying about “seeing ourselves as others see us” and it would indeed be a great gift if we could do so.  We are inclined to overlook and make excuses for our own shortcomings and eccentricities, but less inclined to accept those of others.  This acceptance of deficiencies in ourselves (or non-acknowledgement of them) and the non-acceptance of the deficiencies of others is one of the factors contributing to defective relationships.

The great majority of us have habits or mannerisms which irritate others and all of us, at one time or another, suffer from these irritations, but up to a point we are all ready to accept them.  For example, there are men who consider a particular mannerism in a girlfriend, cute, but with the passage of time and unfortunately often with marriage, this may become a source of irritation.  It is said, with considerable historical justification, that the greatness of a man is never discerned by his wife.  This, however, is not strictly true, for she may be perceptive of his greatness, but she also knows his idiosyncrasies and foibles and weighs these in the balance.

Although by no means the sole factor, as you will learn later, an important aspect of relationships is considerate acceptance.  We must be prepared to accept the habits of others as being part of their personality and exercise care so that our own habits do not cause friction.  Non-acceptance too often results in a manifested desire to change the other person.  Indeed the change may be considered quite unnecessary by all but the one desiring it and a truly difficult situation may arise, with one party desiring to change the other who is either unwilling or unable to make the change.

Providing it is a desirable thing to do, can people really change themselves?  Most will affirm that they cannot, but with sufficient desire and incentive, this can be achieved.  Of course, no matter how much we may change we can never satisfy everyone.  Therefore it is important to ask ourselves for whom we want to change.  Naturally we can all improve generally for the better, but that is not quite what is meant here.

Something that must not be overlooked is the question of individuality.  It may be thought that if we were all alike inter-personal friction would be eliminated and maybe a lot of it would be, but this is not a valid hypothesis.  Trying to force everyone into a uniform mould goes directly against the purpose of earthly existence where the whole evolutionary trend is towards variety and differentiation.  So here we are faced with a basic problem.  Earthly conditions, life itself, are conducive to the development of individuality and it is individuality or personality if you wish, that causes practically all interpersonal friction.  Therefore, how is it possible to eliminate the friction and might it not even be a necessary part of earthly conditions?

This friction or disharmony, is a by-product rather than a necessity of earthly conditions.  We cannot possibly harmonise with everyone and individuality is to be encouraged rather than suppressed.  Those with whom we could be in complete harmony do exist, the problem is how to find them.  What must not be overlooked, however, is that the proper development of personality requires a certain amount of interpersonal friction and life itself would become rather insipid if we lived in a state of complete accord.

Therefore, we can say that a satisfactory relationship does not mean a state of perpetual bliss and a certain amount of friction is acceptable.  The question is, where are the lines drawn?  The vagaries of human nature must be taken into account.  We may all have heard the following statement, when a relationship has broken down:  “He (or she) was too nice, too easy going, life with him (or her) was dull”.  Life is never dull in a healthy, satisfactory relationship.

What kind of people enter into the best relationships?  As far as the relationship itself is concerned, there is no special kind; even a relationship where two people are quarreling all the time can be deemed satisfactory, if that is what the couple want.  The secret lies not in particular types of personality, but in compatibles.  It does not matter what the nature of the couple may be or how impossible they may each be with others, providing they are compatible that is all that matters.  Compatibility is the all important factor in relationships of any kind, particularly in marital ones, but how can one define compatibility and how can it be recognized?  Herein lies the great pitfall, for the seemingly compatible are often incompatible.  Let us leave the clarification of this statement until consideration has been given to the nature of human beings, or at least to one aspect of it which is generally overlooked.

Relationships do, of course, depend upon personalities as well as upon affinities and compatibility and the subject of personality is a very complex one.  Character is moulded in the earliest stages of life and so it would be correct to say that basically good or bad relationships are the outcome of good or bad parenting.  There are not many exceptions to this rule which has been established beyond any doubt.

The difficulty, of course is to define what is good parenting and what is not and this, too, is something we will deal with later.  Suffice to say here that good parenting cannot be learned from a book, it is not superficial and involves both personality and character to a considerable extent.  It has been said that good or bad parenting is an inherited attribute, but this is not correct.  Certainly a prime requisite for good parenting is having good parents, but heredity does not enter into it.  However, it would be true to say that two good prospective parents will be attracted to each other when it comes to marriage.

The form of relationship which is embraced by the expression ‘extended family’ is steadily declining and this is unfortunate from society’s point of view, for the extended family concept has a great deal to offer individuals and society as a whole.  Another declining form of relationship is that of ‘mateship’ and probably the majority of men these days would not even know what this implies.  It used to be said that “A man can always get a wife, but a good mate is very hard to find”.  This has ever been and is increasingly true, for the qualities which make for mateship are not esteemed in a large sector of our society.

We live in a plastic, throwaway society where things lack permanence and are quickly discarded and some measure of this attitude has been apportioned to relationships.  People make acquaintances rather than friends and lifelong friendships are now comparatively rare.  It is true that the depth of friendship is not necessarily measured by its duration, but nevertheless time is one of friendship’s tests, together with tribulation and trouble.  Probably the basic reason for the lack of depth in most modern friendships is that today’s society is not conducive to the production of certain qualities which are a requisite for good friendships.

A great deal has been written about relationships, personality and how to influence others, but when this vast volume of literature is examined it will be seen that it deals only with psychological aspects.  In other words it deals with effects and not causes.  Psychologists of course will tell you that they do attack causes, for causes lie in psychological states, but we are going to probe deeper still and discover that there are causes behind the manifested psychological states.  What psychologists and others refer to may be called manifest causes, but we understand that behind such manifested causes there lie prime causes and it is there, at a much greater depth, that the problems have to be tackled.  So before dealing with psychological states, personalities and relationships, let us get a better insight into what constitutes a human individual.

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