Building Blocks : Great Relationships
Relationships – whether that’s with our friends, family or partners – are often challenging. Today, Dan Blythe shares his ideas about what makes a good relationship great – and it all begins with trust.
My wife Charlie and I have been married for three and a half years. Recently, I returned home after an 11-day work assignment overseas; it was the longest time we’d spent apart since we got married.
Of course I missed Charlie while I was away, but realised that what I missed most was our friendship, rather than the physical or emotional aspects of our relationship. Charlie is my best friend and, as cheesy as that may sound, friendship is the very thing that underpins our marriage.
These days, many relationships spring up out of a physical relationship and the foundation is strong sexual desire (lust) rather than anything else. The weakness in this comes when difficulties arise or sexual attraction fades and there is nothing deeper to sustain the relationship.
Friendship, based on love rather than lust, offers more lasting qualities that can withstand the knocks and changes in life. The butterflies, weak knees and burning desires all diminish at some point, but if a strong friendship is in place, there is something deeper to draw and build upon. Friendship involves commitment and trust. In my experience there are four ‘T’s that build and maintain trust in relationships.
Words can build up or tear down and we have a choice about how we speak to each other, and about each other. We can be constructive, like a crane helping the building rise up, or destructive, like a bulldozer knocking things flat! Good communication is key to any relationship. When things are tough it doesn’t help to be a rhino storming into head-to-head collision, or a hedgehog retreating and growing an angry resentment inside. There’s a verse in the bible where Jesus says, ‘Out of the fullness of the heart, the mouth speaks’ (Matthew 12:34). We can lash out with angry words if our heart feels hurt, causing more pain, so it’s important to let God heal old heart wounds. Being willing to listen and trying to understand the other person is the starting point, and it takes a daily decision to communicate in a way that builds, strengthens and supports one other.
In our busy, deadline-driven culture it can be difficult to find quality time together. Charlie and I quickly realised that, if our relationship wasn’t to suffer, we had to prioritise ‘time for us’. We had to keep this time ‘sacred’ and not allow anything to steal it away. Since doing this, our friendship has deepened, as have other aspects of our marriage. When we do this, we say to each other: ‘you are the most important person in my life; you are my priority.’
Friendship involves being transparent with each other; sharing who we are, what we feel, think and believe in. It also involves sharing our strengths and weaknesses. We may fear transparency if we think others’ views of us will change because of something we have done. But being open and vulnerable builds trust and intimacy. It’s a great feeling to know we can trust someone else to know our bad bits and still love us! All relationships involve mistakes somewhere along the line, because none of us are perfect. As painful as it might be, we should be honest and open with our struggles, faults and problems. It’s not that we need to share anything and everything, but working through things together brings us closer.
Truth is not something we do or say; rather, it is who we are. We either live a life ‘being true’ or we don’t. Being true is about having integrity, and integrity is who we are when no one is watching! Integrity is a rare and valuable characteristic today. It involves being men and women of our word, which radically shapes the level of trust within our relationships. When our ‘yes’ means ‘yes’ and our ‘no’ means ‘no,’ and we are not merely about good intentions, saying one thing and doing another, it creates a sure and strong foundation on which to build.
Photography by Matty Levi