It’s amazing how we as humans, are multidimensional. We switch up our mannerisms and personalities based on who we are with. A different language is made with each person we feel close to, as inside jokes become anecdotes for the memories we’ve created with that person. We meet so many people in our day to day lives, and come across those who manage to become permanent fixtures within our tumultuous journeys. Strangers become close friends, and soon enough we form special bonds with those who have stayed and overlap our lives with theirs. Life is no longer a singular experience, it’s shared with those who know us best.
Throughout our lives we fill our time and space with relationships and our attention is overextended through these various aspects. In our day to day, we group individuals into categories where we determine the significance of these relationships. According to the ancient Greeks, we experience six different types of connections throughout our lifetime, stemming from piety to common hospitality. However, the categories in which the average individual places most of their energy into on a daily basis is summed up into three: family, friends, and partners.
In our various relationships, we meticulously choose which aspect to show for each one. With our families we show our more reserved and conservative side, careful as to not distort their perspectives on us. With our friends we are more free, we are able to showcase our fun and eccentric side, the side we are embarrassed to show lovers. With our partners it’s different, time is the deciding factor. Initially we show a polished side but if time permits, we gradually open ourselves up to showing those embarrassing parts within us.
From the day we are born we are placed into a relationship we have no say in. Familial bonds differ from friendships, you don’t get to choose your family but you get to choose your friends. Through our personal growth and development, family is fundamental in our learning process. As children we absorb everything like sponges, we incorporate values and beliefs that we outgrow as we begin to assert our individuality.
This is where the formation of friendships becomes crucial, as they expose us to different perspectives that we find ourselves aligning with more. It’s important to choose the right ones in order to challenge the mindset our caretakers ingrained into us, thus stimulating intellectual growth. “Well, how do you know when you’ve chosen the right friendships?”. It’s sort of like a feeling, you just know. Kind of like you just know when you’ve chosen the right partner.
Romantic relationships have always been placed on a high pedestal. You can have the job, the car, the house, the wonderful family dynamics and positive friendships, but if you don’t have a romantic partner things just feel… off. The belief that romantic relationships bring out a special side of us has been ingrained into our minds by society. We experience significant moments with our family and friends, but intimacy in a romantic sense feels different. We are presented to a side of us that leaves us feeling fragile and exposed, it’s a side that we believe our family and friends wouldn’t understand.
We are with family 24/7. We breathe the same air, share the same space, and live day to day in each other’s lives like clockwork, until the day comes in which we move out and venture into the world on our own. There are sides of us that only family sees, personas in which our friends and partners are made unaware of. “Storge” was the term ancient Greeks used to describe the bond between parents and their offspring. A special bond where only mother and father feel connected to their child in such a way that is indescribable, where love is exchanged selflessly and boundlessly. So it’s interesting that somehow most find it challenging to be themselves around the people they were raised by. Why is there difficulty in fully showcasing our authentic side to those who gave us life and helped us grow in ways other relationship dynamics couldn’t have? Of course, family relationships differ for everyone. The love of a parent or guardian could become conditional when we find ourselves asserting our individuality in a way that distorts the mold they believed we’d fit into. Establishing ourselves poses the possibility of rejection from family, but finding those who truly understand your identity could change your life for the better.
Friendships are special. When you find the right people, these relationships help you grow to become a better person. They allow us to be who we are unapologetically, with no reservations or filters. Honesty is always present, and we are given the space that’s needed to make mistakes without being belittled. After a certain point, the term “friends” becomes too small of a word to describe the closeness two individuals can feel. In finding the right people, “friends” become extended family members, filling the shoes of a long lost sister or brother that was once missing. The ancient greeks categorized this into “Philia”, a type of love where respect and acceptance is mutually reciprocated. We showcase our authenticity in hopes of receiving the validation our families may have denied us. Platonic love is fulfilling in a way that’s reassuring and safe. We never question motives and fully expect this person will remain by our side for the entirety of our lifespan. At a certain point in our lives when hardships begin to take a toll on us, comfort will be found within the foundation of a friendship. It’s in these moments where showcasing vulnerability solidifies the dedication one has towards the other. As we learn just how beneficial friendships could be, why do we still feel the need to have romantic love when platonic love could be just as fulfilling? If given the chance, we could form intimate bonds platonically in the way romantic relationships are so often portrayed.
When it comes to romantic relationships, being ourselves is out of the question. To be vulnerable towards someone we’re interested in seems too risky. What if they don’t like us? What if they don’t think we’re interesting? Leading up to the question we are afraid to face: what if they reject us? Love is a choice, much like being transparent. We can choose to show our partners the more introspective sides of us, or we can choose to keep things at a surface level. It’s risky when it comes to the unification of two people, you lose as much as you gain. However, with time and patience our perceptions shift and we start to uncover those embarrassing parts we were so afraid to show. The connection is no longer at a surface level, it has descended into a tier where two lovers have reached a mutual agreement where love can grow organically. Slowly but surely, the connection we share with our partners become profound experiences. “Eros” is what ancient greeks called this bond, where love can feel ethereal.
Through the various relationships dynamics, there is one we we seem to neglect the most: the relationship we have with ourselves. For whatever reason we put in time and effort towards other relationships, but fail to pour that same energy back into us. We can fill our lives up with people up to a certain point, for life will force us into moments where solitude becomes a state of being. “Philautia” is how the Greeks described the relationship we have with ourselves, and they believed practicing self compassion was crucial. It’s important to cultivate a healthy relationship with yourself as there’s a side of us that no one, not even our most trusted confidant will ever know. Your friends, family, and partner will recognize the different parts you’ve allowed them to see, and while we can be as honest and open with the people that we love, a side of us will remain unknown. To nurture the part that’s hidden to everyone else, is to acknowledge the intimacy you share with yourself. No one knows you better than you do.
Relationships in any sense of the word, from platonic to romantic are important. As we form these connections we start to enmesh our identity into theirs. What was once a characteristic of a family member or close friend begins to show up in our mannerisms and becomes our personality trait. It’s no wonder that even in their absence, those we love live within us in some way, shape, or form. When we find ourselves in the pleasure of our own company, we are given the opportunity to embrace our independence. Balancing your time, energy and space for others including yourself is key in order to feel a sense of tranquility in life. Nonetheless, it’s beautiful when you’re able to have intimate moments with someone you love (including yourself), even more so when the moments are genuine and full of sincerity.