Monday, July 16, 2012

Deepening Relationships

I remember very well the weekend trip my mom and I took around Thanksgiving to Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, my junior or senior year of high school. Cold air nipped at our noses and coaxed out the Scandinavian blush of bright red to our cheeks as we walked for several hours around a half-frozen lake that was ringed with beautiful mansions.  I was given a purity ring, silver with a tiny pink gem that lay in an entwined heart and cross, and I eventually gave that purity ring as a symbol of my virginity and faithfulness to my husband at our wedding.  The topic of that weekend was purity (and anything I ever wanted to know from Mom).  Ironically, the elderly couple in the hotel room next to us decided to get it on during one of our discussions about sex - and we could hear their passion loud and clear!

Now, just to be clear, this is not a post about sex, purity, abstinence, or anything in that realm.  No, it is about deepening relationships, because one of the greatest things that resulted from my weekend with Mom was not just a stronger desire to remain a virgin until my wedding day but a deepened understanding between Mom and I.  In that weekend, we became more than mother and daughter with a decent relationship; we became very close friends, and though we hit some rough patches when I was  in college, my mom is one of the closest friends I will ever have.  And it all started with a weekend of complete transparency.

What do you do to become closer to someone?  Do you write them a message on Facebook?  Do you hang out over a soy vanilla latte (if you're a girl) or a game of Halo (if you're a guy)?  Pardon the stereotyping, but you know what I mean.  Do you live with them, or connect over long distances with Skype?

These all are ways to spend time with someone, but you can spend a lot of time with people and not become closer to them.  Take work, for example.  I work 12-hour shifts.  Twelve hours is a lot of time in one day to spend with the same people who are not your family.  Because I have worked this job, with about the same people, for two years, I have spent more time with my co-workers than with my best friend, yet I am much closer to my best friend (who currently lives 15 hours away from me) than to any of my co-workers.  

No, while time spent with someone is great and will help you grow closer to that person to a degree, the key to creating a deep relationship with someone is transparency.  And I mean, open the closets and let the skeletons fall in a pile in front of that person type of transparency.

My mom was an open book that weekend (and remained an open book since that weekend).  I did the same, peeled back my teenage pride and revealed myself to her and learned how to do that better over the next several years.  It is a both-and relationship; if only one person reveals parts of herself, then the other person is merely a journalist, receiving but never giving.

It can be scary, opening up the deepest, darkest parts of yourself, because you are trusting that person to not abuse those tender parts.  But relationships go nowhere if we do not continue to expose ourselves.  And sometimes, the person we thought we could trust does end up hurting us after we reveal ourselves to him.  But that is why deep relationships do not happen suddenly; we need to expose ourselves little by little, seeing which people we can go deeper with and which ones we should not.  But if a relationship is stagnating that should be deeper (such as with a sibling, or a parent, or a very close friend that you feel you are plateauing with), then invite that person to coffee and remove the hat, the mask, the concealer, the foundation, and the primer, and let them see the real you deep inside.  And usually, that person will return the favor and let you see their real self.  And the relationship will deepen.

My husband and I, my mom and I, my best friend and I, all have that deep no-hidden-layers relationship.  Our friendships will last forever because of that.  I wish to have that relationship with my sisters, as well, and perhaps someday we will have our own Lake-Geneva-weekend, of sorts, where we can reveal everything to each other.

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