This week, as I think about the spring retreat and as I live in my own relational world as a betrothed man, I've been playing with an old idea that there are three entities in every close relationship that need attention, protection, nourishment and care: the two who are in relationship and the relationship itself.Each intimate connection has unique requirements – distinct (but not completely separate) from the individuals involved.
For example, imagine it's an autumn Sunday evening in a marriage that's drifting apart.John and Marcia have just spent most of the weekend, each doing their own thing.John heads downstairs with a beer to catch Sunday night football on the big screen in the den.Marcia cozies up in the bedroom to watch Sex and the City reruns.Each is moving toward what they desire in the moment.In some relationships, that could be a lovely win-win scenario.In a malnourished relationship, however, it may not be the wisest choice.
What strikes me here, in a new way, is that I am not one-half of a relationship, I am one-third. This gives pause – and raises questions:
What if the old standard of fairness (50-50) is a bit greedy and short-sighted?What if my half is only a third?
What if it's not enough to nurture me and nurture you?I have a hard enough time listening to myself and listening to you.How do I listen to the relationship?
Three important pronouns:I, You, We.How do I honor all three in a balanced way?Or, better yet, how do we, as a relational team, work together to care for ourselves, each other, and that nebulous entity between us?