Removing Obstacles and Seeing the Basis in Relationships

The following chart summarizes the three bases of relationship and how each basis is undermined by the three fundamental emotional reactions, attachment, aversion and indifference.

How reactions
undermine relationships
to things like
to things like
to the basis itself
Mutual benefit
looks like a transaction
or series of transactions
Security Risk Benefit from
the transaction
Shared aim
looks like an aim you cannot or
choose not to achieve on your own
Control Shared aim (i.e.,
a covert agenda)
Shared aim
Emotional connection
looks like a person you
want to have in your life
Being honest
The emotional

Mutual profit relationships are business relationships: buyer-seller and business partnerships. Profit always involves risk, so the relationship is undermined if one or both parties are attached to security. If either party is not interested in profit, then there is no basis for a mutual profit relationship. And if one party cheats or steals from the other (an expression of aversion), then the relationship is undermined.

Political and community organizations are ostensibly shared aim relationships as are all professional relationships. The shared aim in the attorney-client relationship is the legal position of the client. The aim in the teacher-student relationship is the education of the student. If the teacher or attorney has another agenda and is more concerned with money or other forms of profit (fame, power, etc.), then the basis of the shared aim relationship is violated. Control is a key issue in shared aim relationships: non-profit and political organizations regularly experience fights over control. Spies are shot because they form relationships and conceal a different agenda.

In emotional connection relationships such as marriage and friendship, the concern for continual happiness is a key issue. Continual happiness is impossible. If the expectation is to be happy all the time, the relationship will not have the depth or resources to negotiate the inevitable periods of pain and difficulty we encounter in life.

General principles

Confusion and difficulties arise when the relationship is viewed differently by each person. For example, a film director sees his relationship with a studio as having the shared aim of making a good movie while the studio tends to see the relationship in terms of mutual profit. When a doctor is more concerned with making money or advancing his research, he undermines his relationship with his patient.

Each kind of relationship has different obligations and responsibilities. We must be clear about the basis of the relationship before we can know what our responsibilities are.

A relationship cannot last if it is out of balance. Imbalance in a relationship, whatever the basis of the relationship, inevitably leads to lack of respect on one side and resentment on the other. Relationships can and do endure periods of imbalance. Sooner or later, however, the imbalance must be addressed if the relationship is to continue.

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