Building healthy relationships takes work! There is no easy to follow recipe. No magic sauce. If deep meaningful relationships were easy, we would see a lot more of them. But we don’t because we live in a world where we believe things should come easy, so when things get hard our society often looks for the easy way out.
The word relationship simply refers to how two or more things are connected. When two people work together, they have a relationship in the context of work. When two kids live next door, they have a relationship in the context of being neighbors. And when two people share similar interests, goals, and outlooks on life, and spend time together, they have a relationship or friendship based on those interests they share. Often relationships, both romantic and plutonic, begin because of these common interests, but this will only carry a relationship so far.
The more we can do to create connections with one another, the stronger the bonds we possess. Whether in a marriage or friendship, we have threads of connection because of our shared interests, our shared experiences, and our shared memories. But if we aren’t careful, the busyness of life can distract us. And when we become distracted, the frequency and depth of our shared experiences lessen, our shared memories become distant, and the threads that hold us together become strained, sometimes frayed, and if we aren’t careful, they break. This doesn’t have to be the case.
Intentionality refers to acts being deliberate or purposeful. Deliberately spending time together and purposefully placing the need of others above your own takes work and focus, but the pay off is incredible. When a relationship is grounded in honesty, vulnerability, and accountability; intentionality is a little easier to pursue. My friend, Justin, and I have a friendship in which we share similar tastes in music, similar political views, and the same stupid sense of humor. But what makes our relationship as deep and as strong as it is are the memories we have intentionally made, the adventures we have intentionally pursued, the time we have intentionally spent. Being deliberate and purposeful is why our friendship has survived and thrived as long as it has.
I try to approach my marriage the same way. My wife and I may have similar interests and enjoy some of the same adventures in life, but unless I intentionally pursue time, space, and experiences with her, our relationship will become stale.
The vulnerability, honesty, and accountability we have cultivated over many years of marriage make intentionally spending time together easier and our shared interests have made a basic connection possible, but those connections are just threads. Each memory we have made because we make the other a priority, each adventure and shared experience we take on because we intentionally pursue one another, weave together with those basic threads of connection, creating ropes that tie us together. The more we live intentionally with one another, the thicker those ropes become. And when the busyness of life does come along, there is little, if anything, that can cause those ropes to become strained or frayed.
This means we have to pick up the phone and make a call, go to coffee, plan a trip and take that trip, show up ready for conversation. This means we need to enjoy a night out, an afternoon on the back patio, or a walk through the neighborhood. And we must do it week in and week out, month in and month out, year in and year out.
This mean we must deliberately and purposefully pursue one another.
If we want healthy relationships, then we must intentionally pursue the very thing that makes relationships healthy.
We must intentionally live life together.