Today is Memorial Day, 2014 and I find myself in a reflective mood. I am struck by the way very young men and women have died in wars that were not of their own making. I really don’t think it makes one a Liberal or a Conservative to simply pause and be thankful for the sacrifice of soldiers. To die in one’s late teens or early 20s as a soldier means forfeiting decades of relationships and all the possibilities of the exquisite experiences that are contained in them. It’s easy to lose sight of this when we objectify wars and battles according to our own political beliefs or predilections. But movies like Taking Chance (Kevin Bacon) not only make for great Memorial Day entertainment, but drive home the point that each and every fallen soldier held together unique and delicate threads in the social fabric of a group of real people who felt the loss.
So, I am dedicating my new Relationship Glossary to all those men and women who died as soldiers and so could never respond to an invitation to a Memorial Day BBQ. Relationships never take place in a vacuum. There are always other people, unknown to us, who make them possible.
The Relationship Glossary provides brief definitions of concepts that are helpful for troubleshooting in relationships. The Relationship Glossary is a list of terms and definitions, hand-picked by me. I created it to be a reference for my clients, life coaches, therapists, parents, couples, and anyone who attempts to make sense out of relationships and improve them. All of the definitions are written by me, but most of the terms and the concepts they represent are general knowledge and they did not originate with me. For the few that are my own invention, I have tried to mark them with an asterisk (*).
The purpose of The Relationship Glossary is not to promote psychobabble or to give people ammunition to talk down to one another by throwing around therapy words. Rather, it is to clarify terms and concepts that I have found to be useful as tools in understanding people. Most importantly, I have found myself discussing these terms with clients in the process of establishing a beachhead of hope. Relationships are messy because life and love are messy. But we all know, deep down, that relationships with other people are one of the most crucial aspects of what it means to be human. When they go badly we are miserable. When they go well there is a satisfaction that touches us to the very core.
Understanding these terms is no substitute for love, my very first entry in the glossary. But love has it’s gears, machinery, and it’s rivulets through which it flows. My hope is that some or all of them will encourage people to think more deeply about their own relationships, how to repair them, how to enhance them. and how to give and receive love in its various forms. Whenever possible, I try to use metaphors to make the concept stick in people’s minds.
The greater Los Angeles metropolitan area, where I live and work, is known for superficial relationships. After all, it’s the home of Hollywood. Urban sprawl has made friendships much more difficult along with the pace of life. Who has time for friends? Movies about profound relationships are made in LA while the relationships of people in “The Industry” are strained to the breaking point with impossibly long hours and a host of other pressures. Each city of the world and every rural area has it’s own unique stresses and strains that make relationships confusing and difficult.
Nevertheless, there are courageous souls that set their sights on being better parents. better husbands, better wives, better daughters or sons, and better friends. My work has allowed me the privilege of spending many hours with such daring women and men. I have often enjoyed seeing the triumph of love and vision against impossible odds and much suffering. My clients, along with my own issues and problems, have been my teachers.
Over the years I have become increasingly convinced that just trying harder is not the road to more satisfying relationships. Sincere effort can actually make things worse. I know this from first-hand experience. The desire to try, to care, to start again is necessary for change, but it begs for something more: wisdom. We must understand people’s needs and how they truly need to be loved. But to do that, we must understand our own needs, our own triggers from past wounds, and what giving and receiving love means in a particular messy situation.
All my life I have been on a quest for more wisdom about people and relationships. It’s what led me into psychology, and often occupies my thoughts and prayers. Many of the terms in The Relationship Glossary represent insights of others that provided illumination to me in my own path of life and growth. Others have been obvious in the way they help men and women make decisions about what to do next, when faced with a challenging relationship.
Keep in mind that The Relationship Glossary starts out simply as a list with only a few definitions filled in. If you want to see how these definitions percolate in my mind before they reach the glossary page, then follow me on Twitter.com/drgreghamlin. Beginning Memorial Day, 2014, my intention is to keep filling in the definitions as time permits. If you think there are other terms that should be included, please send me tweet or comment on this post.