We are all in the pursuit of love. Everyone wants to love and be loved by another regardless of sexual orientation, race or creed, yet relationships seem to be hard to manage. At best we can say that long term relationships and marriage seem to be on the critical list. Leaving many to wonder if there is any hope, has marriage become obsolete?
In the normal course of life Relationships ebb and flow, that is to say that they change over time as we evolve and negotiate the twists and turns of life. It is how we address those stressors, which determine how we bounce back. Every great relationship started out great but lost its luster as the wear and tear of life impeded it. Relational Resilience can be defined as the ability of a relationship to recover from adversity versus break down over time with each challenge.
While stressors differ from couple to couple, there are a few that tend to be the common denominator in relational fragmentation:
1. Lack of Trust, Trust is a foundational element of any relationship. When it is present, an individual feels safe to disrobe and share who they really are and love without fear. No one likes looking over their shoulder; everyone should feel safe in their relationship.
2. Ineffective communication, communication should be a meeting of the minds that unifies, yet when communication is askew, two loving individuals are unable to come together instead they wind up at a stand off
3. Unsolved disagreements. Disagreements often indicate areas of misalignment that must be addressed. Disagreements are useful when they result in workable solutions that bring peace.
Stressors are challenging all by themselves; however, they become magnified amidst the social media age, when people are less armed with great communication skills and shy away from interpersonal interactions` to embrace tweets, Instagram and Facebook posts or text. In many ways we have lost the depth of true relationships, which are strengthened by deep understanding and fortified by enduring connections. Instead relationships today are fed on meager diets of written words, shallow talk, pictures and re-‐tweeted sayings. We are relegating relationships to more hollow modes of interaction. In this atmosphere Social media can make ordinary challenges extra-‐ordinary. It has weakened the foundation upon which we try to build relationships that can go the distance.
Like in the fable of the three little pigs, where only the brick house could withstand the puffs of the big bad wolf; the same can be said of relationships, only those that have been constructed of solid building blocks can withstand the winds of adversity. Social media age supports using hay and stubble to cultivate relationships. People text that they are breaking and discuss disagreements in the same manner instead of sitting down together and benefiting from the ability to see one another, decipher body language and tone, look into the eyes to read the emotional cues that may not be audible in words. This is the true art of relationships which is more than how we communicate, it is also how well we are able to interpret what others are saying when they haven’t said a word. It includes anticipating how you should respond after factoring in all of the nuances. There are so many layers that can get lost in abbreviated text, posts and pictures.
Maybe social media has flourished because it shields us from our greatest fears. There is no need to worry about difficult conversations, rejection or confrontation because social media offers a one-‐ended conversation. We become bolder behind the keyboard than we are in person; in lieu of being bolder, we take on another character and say what we wouldn’t normally say because all inhibitions have been removed.
Inhibitions can take the form of insecurities; self esteem issues, and the fear of retaliation. Just imagine, you and your significant other get into an intense argument. Following the disagreement you merely post a picture of the city skyline with a caption reading “a much needed night on the town”. Your post is an instant dose of retaliation that leaves your partner to interpret as they may. This one sided conversation saves us from facing up to the relational challenges that we all had to deal with in the past as a part of maturing as individuals. Social media has conveniently become a crutch, one that can also cripple relationships by limiting their ability to grow and deepen over time.
A line must be drawn in the sand to retract the negative effects of social media. We must become intentional about restoring the softness of humanity and reviving true connection. As we begin this work, we bite the bullet of latent fears that shield us from true love. Only then will we master the art of building relationships.