Relationships Aren’t Made. They’re Grown.

In Parker Palmer’s book, Let Your Life Speak, he talks about how we use the word “make” a lot. We use it when we talk about making friends, babies, and love. But in order for these things to be healthy, we need to be growing them instead. We need to be growing friends, babies, and love. That’s how real development happens.

The same is true for our relationships. Healthy relationships aren’t made. They’re grown. Kute Blackson writes,

“The real purpose of a relationship is about two people coming together to serve the growth and evolution of each other’s soul.”

A healthy relationship is like a plant. It can become stagnant, wilt, or die when we fail to take care of it. Like a plant, our relationships need the following things to be healthy and grow:

Sunlight

Our relationships need happy, joyful times, and positive experiences. They need the light of open communication and honesty. If there is anything troubling us, we need to bring these things into the light. If they remain in the dark, the problems become like a fungus that harms the relationship. As Louis Brandeis said, “Sunlight is known to be the best disinfectant.” 

Water

For a plant, water provides structural support and moves minerals to all the right places. In a relationship, the challenges that arise are like water. When handled well, challenges can bring two people together and provide opportunities to give each other much needed support. They also help us move our attention to the places that may need work. And like water, we need just enough challenges over time to build a healthy relationship and support structure. Too much and we drown. Too little and we not be able to handle the water load if a bigger challenge hits.

Space

Within our relationships, we need space and freedom to be who we are. Without enough space, we feel closed in and cannot grow into the person we are meant to be. This means accepting people for who they are, not who we want them to be. We can’t make a daisy be a rose. We must allow the daisies in our lives enough space to grow and be the best daisies they can be.

Boundaries

Along with space, a relationship also needs a defined sense of what works and what doesn’t. Boundaries are about teaching each other how we want to be treated. Without a clear sense of what’s okay and not okay, relationships can potentially lose shape and grow in unhealthy ways. This involves communicating to each other what’s acceptable and what’s not. 

Regular Weeding

When problems arise, they need to be addressed and taken care of as they happen. If they aren’t, they can quickly overtake the relationship and become much bigger problems. Pluck those weeds when they pop up. 

Good Soil

Most importantly, healthy relationships need a foundation rich in trust, honesty and communication. Without good soil, a relationship will struggle to survive. The soil of a relationship needs to be fed regularly to keep it from becoming depleted.  This involves taking the time to regularly talk and actively listen to what matters to each person, then demonstrating to others with our words and actions that those things matter to us as well.

Above all, relationships need to grow and change as the people in them grow and change. You must grow together or you will grow apart. Sometimes growth is hard. Sometimes it’s messy. But if we take the steps to care for it, a relationship will grow in healthy ways and be a place for both people to thrive and bloom.

9 thoughts on “Relationships Aren’t Made. They’re Grown.

  1. What a wonderful post. I love the idea of growing relationships – I’d never thought of it like that. I believe honesty is crucial. People mistake kindness for never hurting another’s feelings but sometimes things need to be said. Sometimes it’s the kinder thing to open up. Of course this can be done compassionately. Equally things need to be heard. That requires listening – another crucial skill to grow over time! (Which my wife tells me I still need to work on) Thanks for sharing firefly 🙏

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, AP2! Your comments remind me of something my son said to me once–“Sometimes you gotta say things that may be hard for someone to hear.” I agree, and as you said, these things can be said with compassion. We need honest communication delivered compassionately! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes exactly. Your son seems very wise. People won’t accept rocks that are hurled at them – they’ll duck or block, and then hurl some back. But if handed to gently, there is much a greater chance of being heard. 🙏

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Such words of wisdom! I’ve read Parker Palmer’s The Courage to Teach, very thought provoking and engaging, a favorite in academic medicine. The ideas here are spot on as well. Having a growth mindset and a growth mentality in all of our relationships (parent/child, spouse, friendship) would truly be a game changer. I think the tendency is more toward stalling out or taking things (and people) for granted without it.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thank you for a helpful and thought-provoking article.

    Some relationships are not forever. Sometimes there’s not much you can do to change that. But in your close relationships, you need give the attention needed for them to grow. I might add, growing old with someone you love can be a beautiful thing. ❤ All the best!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for your thoughtful response, Cheryl. You’ve got me thinking now that I should clarify that there are many different kinds of relationships, but the ones that are grown are the most meaningful. Some are deep and some are casual and that’s okay. Growing old together sounds lovely. 💕

      Liked by 1 person

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