I just returned from the ACR (Association for Conflict Resolution) annual conference, which really opened my eyes in a lot of ways.
But one thing I wanted to share tonight was a concept from Stephen Reynolds, a mediator in Santa Cruz, CA with Common Ground Mediation Services. He comes from a business background, and had an interesting, analytical view of committed relationships. His view is that each committed relationship really has 6 relationships going on at once.
In no particular order …
- Physical & Romantic (sex, affection, physical space, division of household chores)
- Emotional & Spiritual (connectedness, communication, individual development, religion, values, ethics)
- Social Activities (how the couple relates to friends, family, community)
- Parental (relationships with children, decision-making, discipline, activities)
- Financial (managing income and debt, planning for the future)
- Legal (marital status, views of the law, legal relationships with others)
Therapists tend to focus on the first two, lawyers & mediators tend to focus on the last two or three.
You can picture what things would look like if they were going well — or not well — in any of these areas. And then you really get an idea of how complex each relationship is, how we relate to each other on so many different levels. So you see why relationships take so much work.
And most especially, so much communication.
Where is your relationship? Which areas are your strengths? Which are your weaknesses? What is still going well that you can build upon? What needs more work?
I have spoken before about the stages of divorce. But I think this framework actually says it better, and lets us think about it within relationships that are still in progress, not just those that are reorganizing, or coming apart.