Managing relationships. I don’t know about you, but it’s the most difficult job I’ve ever had. I want to say that it’s also the most rewarding but I don’t know if I can honestly say that right now. Relationship management is one of those jobs where a single failure seems to outweigh one thousand successes.
As it comes on to the end of the year, I find myself reflecting on my relationships and how I’ve managed them this year. It’s been a mixed bag. For the most part, it’s been steady maintenance. Being a distant sort of person – literally – the traditional ways of managing a relationship don’t apply to me. I can’t meet a loved one at a café for lunch or for a quick catch up. I can’t spend an afternoon museum hopping or shopping with a loved one. I can’t help out a loved one by running an errand for them. I can’t even offer up a good hug when it’s needed. So what does my relationship maintenance look like? Mainly, it’s trying to keep in touch and up-to-date with what’s happening with my loved ones and helping where I can, mainly with words of advice or prayers. Because I’m a distant sort of person – literally – my relationship maintenance is all about communication.
What with miscommunication, misunderstandings and poor timing decisions, this can sometimes be tricky. One of my relationships sustained mortal wounds this year because of communication issues.
Besides communication issues, another difficult part of relationship management is that you have to do it with…well, with people. People are uncontrollable and there are so many opportunities for things to go sideways, especially where there are misunderstood intentions. For example, there are those times when a person may be stubbornly blind to things that are obvious to those who love them. This can affect relationships too because the longer the person stays stubbornly blind, the more it can cause loved ones to question who their relationship partner really is at the core of their being. A lot of times, this can bring about integrity issues.
This can also be tricky because once you go down the road of questioning a person’s integrity, it’s difficult go back to a good place on that road unless there’s a real and discernible change in the person. Another of my relationships entered rocky terrain this year because of integrity issues. It remains to be seen if it will survive.
Then there are those relationships that become tiresome, burdensome and stressful because it seems as if no new ground is covered and the topic of conversation is the same every single time. Words of advice and encouragement fall on deaf ears and it’s as if a record is being played, stuck in perpetuity on the same track. In a case like this, the listening partner in the relationship can become emotionally drained. This year, one of my relationships has stagnated because it seems pointless to share deeply of myself when the other person can’t seem to go past the point where they’re stuck.
On the other hand, this year a new friendship was unexpectedly born from the ashes of an old, dead relationship. One person decided to take a brave chance and reach out past old hurts that they had no way of knowing had fully healed over. They were joyfully welcomed and so a friendship was born because time, forgiveness, and God’s own love and mercy in a person’s life really can heal even the deepest wounds.
Also in positive relationship news, what seemed to be a waning relationship picked up steam this year and gained strength. This happened because one partner did the self-work that was needed to recover their severely damaged integrity, then they found the courage to open their heart and mouth and share their personal discoveries in an atmosphere of no judgement. Where poor communication helped kill one relationship, regular and raw communication saved another.
Back in my executive management days, at the end of the fiscal year I was required to do a performance appraisal for each of my direct reports. I’d sit down and rate each of them on their previously agreed goals for the year, giving them a score out of five and making comments on why I gave that score. We would then discuss and agree on an improvement plan for any areas of shortcoming and set new goals for the next fiscal year.
If I was appraising my relationship management performance for this year, I’d give myself a three out of five because of the responsibility that I bear in the failures. Those failures don’t make me happy but they also don’t weigh on me because in each case I feel that overall I handled it the best that I could. Therefore, I’m not carrying burdens over them. Still, they don’t leave me with happy feelings.
Today I don’t feel like relationship management is a particularly rewarding job, perhaps because this year’s relationship lows were proportionately lower than this year’s relationship highs. That is to say, the accumulated highs were so mediocre that they couldn’t fully offset the accumulated lows. Even so, relationship management is still a job that I must do every day and I must do it well if I want to be happy in this vital area of life. So I’ve tried to learn all that I can from this year’s failures and I’ve already been putting those lessons into practice with my relationships in general.
Hopefully, next year I can score myself at least a four. Hopefully, next year I can handle my existing and coming relationships in such a way that the relationship highs will far outweigh the inevitable lows. #Relationshipgoals, right?