To delve into the question of what relationship is, if we consider it in the broadest possible sense so not just to be something between people, but also between objects, and between people and objects, then our language itself gives away that there is no relationship without also considering what is between the people and objects in relationship – that is the space between them.
Whether we consider colossal heavenly bodies such as the sun, planets, moon and stars; the cars moving in traffic on our streets or the comparatively trivial salt and pepper shakers on our dining table, these things are all in relationship and we are in relationship with them… in space. From this perspective, we are in fact in relationship with every person on earth and with everything in the Universe. And in between all these things and people, in every moment of life, is space – defining within it each and every relationship.
The observations of astronomers and the laws of physics describe the order, movements and harmonious relationships of the stars and planets, reflecting something absolute in how they move through space, very rarely hitting or imposing upon one another, an order and flow of great magnitude that is never dropped or abandoned as they move in relationship. On this very large scale, humanity is undoubtedly in close relationship with the sun and the moon, which are of great significance to all life on earth, and we have a deeply felt, ageless connection and fascination with the other planets of our solar system and the stars far beyond.
In everyday life, we are in close and unavoidable relationship with everyone around us, whether we know them or not. Our agreed road rules are an example of something as a society we have enshrined to ensure order, flow and everyone’s safety on our roads – what it takes to hold one another in the space we share in relationship as we drive about. These rules reflect the minimum level of regard for one another that gets us where we want to go, while maintaining the space that prevents collisions.
Everything I’ve described to this point is definitely relationship, but what about our personal relationships? We all have many through the duration of a lifetime – with partners, family, colleagues, friends, associates, opponents and possibly even enemies – but I will focus on our personal partners, they being usually the closest and most significant relationships we have, and often the most complex and demanding.
Given that our closest personal relationships are often just that, the most complex and demanding, a fact upheld by the thriving relationship counselling industry, it’s worth asking – is there something we’re missing, something simple and foundational to relationship we’ve lost connection with that would bring simplicity back to our personal relationships? Should they even be complex and demanding? Can there be simplicity in personal relationships?
My own personal relationship with my wife, Jenny, to me stands out from my previous relationships as much as we stand out in our relationship to everyone around us. So, the question to ask might be – what is at the core of my relationship with Jenny that makes it what it is and makes it stand out?
The answer to this question reveals how the simplicity of true relationship works and is lived, in this case by Jenny and me in our relationship.
As I’ve come to recognise, from experiencing the complexity of my previous relationships in contrast to the simplicity of my relationship with Jenny, I can offer an observation and understanding that true personal relationship cannot be present in the absence of one immutable thing, that being… space.
We all know the notion of giving someone space when they are upset, and that kind of space has little to do with physical distance. Once again, our language reveals something about space – not only that it’s intrinsic to relationship but that it also has dimensions that are not physical. To distinguish, let’s say that non-physical space is energetic space.
How then does space work in a personal relationship, in my relationship with Jenny as an example? Simply because there is an energetic space between us that we both hold sacred and that defines the quality of our relationship. That space between us places and keeps us in true relationship, as we hold one another in a mutual regard that does not allow pictures, expectations, issues, reactiveness or past hurts to take hold and cause any dynamic between us. As there is no perfection, if either of us does bring in some turbulence, the space between us is never dropped, allowing both to remain free from imposition or confinement, and permitting the one in turbulence to return in their own time to the stillness and harmony of the space we hold together.
So, it is the space between Jenny and me, held in a quality that we’ve made foundational and refuse to drop, that makes the relationship that is ours possible and ever deepening. Like the enshrinement of and regard for road rules that make driving a car safely possible for everyone on a busy road. Like the obedience of the stars and planets to a universal order, that astronomers observe, and physicists formulate.
Focussing on relationship between people, wherever energetic space is held as a sacred point, there can and will be stillness and harmony. And from there, everything that follows by way of love, joy and truth also can flourish. Speaking from my experiences in previous relationships, if instead we accept a dynamic or an interplay of numerous dynamics, the outplay of the pictures, expectations, issues, reactiveness or past hurts we bring in instead of space, then the quality between two people is deteriorated. What follows is imposition, manipulation, negotiation, control, compromise and complication, any or all of which in any combination take hold – the absence of energetic space that should be described as an arrangement and not true relationship.
My previous ‘relationships’ were all lacking in the constancy that is possible only when space is held sacred, and so to varying degrees they were in fact not relationships but arrangements. And there I experienced first-hand everything all too common and only possible in the absence of space – the collision, conflict, imposition, compromise and complication.
Space held sacred in a personal relationship allows us to deal with our stuff without going into a dynamic, so that we can connect and stay in a steadiness of connection with another, essence to essence, without arrangements. And in that space, where we do connect essence to essence, without facades, filters or protections, we enter true relationship.
True relationship, as reflected by the harmony, order and flow of the heavens, is a possibility between people that does not occur by accident but by intent and only with the intelligence required to establish and sustain it. And it follows that, if the energetic space between us is intrinsic to any true relationship, then that space itself holds intelligence – the intelligence accessed by the ones who put it in place and with great care maintain it as a sacred point.
The quality of all aspects of human life is determined more than anything by what we make and hold sacred – and what we don’t – and making the sacred integral to life in our Livingness. Just as decency and respect made sacred are foundational to love, as I now understand and live, space made sacred is foundational to true relationship.