I’ve developed a framework for thinking about the depth and quality of relationships and came up with a kind of “relationship spectrum”.
Why do I develop these frameworks? What’s the point? I find it helps me see things more clearly particularly in the blurry area of interpersonal relations. You can plan a path forward with the current and new companions in your life. You can decide if the quality of your relationships is good enough and what to do about it (try harder or step back). You can better prioritise who to devote your limited energy to.
From the first meeting you gradually advance through these levels eventually settling on one. Sometimes the level can recede. Sometimes it can fluctuate up and down. Often we will think we are on a higher level that we are due to certain illusions.
Which level the relationship is on can be analysed using the 4 Elements framework.
Level 1 – Apathy: You either don’t know them or you know that you don’t want to know them. If someone stays at this level then they have probably shown signs of significant incompatibility.
Level 2 – Sympathy: This person seems “all right”. You care and feel some compassion. You genuinely wish the person well from a distance. You don’t make time for them but aren’t adverse to small doses. They might even make it to your facebook.
Level 3 – Friendliness: You like the person but there isn’t a real connection. You might hang out now and then. Perhaps often. But there is a lack of depth. Most people start to use the word “friend” at this point. Conversation doesn’t get very personal and generally remains on a superficial level. These relationships do not rely on any high degree of mutual understanding and are usually just to fulfil basic needs of connection. They provide comfort and a sense of belonging. Some people who have problems forming close bonds with others will often have a lot of these with nothing much above. This relationship is generally reliant on regular contact and therefore as one goes through life many of these relationships tend to come and go.
Level 4 – Affection: This is where feelings of love begin. You “click” conversationally. You have decent chemistry and hang out quite a bit. You are “good friends”. You confide in each other but still keep a lot to yourself. If you move apart you will still keep in touch on occasion. People who you have a lot of shared history with but have drifted away a bit may sit here.
Level 5 – Attachment: You have strong feelings of love and attachment for this person. You miss them if you don’t see them for a while. You may Skype them regularly if you move apart. Most average marriages are at this level as are longer term friends.
Level 6 – Devotion: You are completely devoted. You think about this person a lot. This is a pretty high level of relationship except that complete understanding is not achieved but there is still a high level of it. Good marriages are at this level and so are most life long friendships. You can only maintain a few people in this category at any one time and some people will not have any.
Level 7 – Complete Bond: There is nothing between you. No secrets. No misunderstanding. You desire to know every little detail of each other. To be capable of having a relationship of this type requires both people to have a high interpersonal intelligence and be very outwardly focused. This kind of relationship is extremely rare and most people never have one hence the saying “we are all alone”. I can only think of about 3 people I know who are at a high enough level of development to be able to get to this point with anyone.
What do you all think? This seems to make sense to me. Share any adaptations you might make for yourself.