20 Things I’m Learning From Relationships

I began this list for another blog but in 2016. That feels like an entire life ago, but it was sometime around the birth of my second son. I aimed for 25 lessons but stopped at 20. I haven’t edited this “draft,” though I’ll post it and, likely, return with an updated, five-years-after-divorce version. Maybe after I’ve those other five lessons.

Sons, relationships are tricky things. I define relationships as those lovely interactions which turn into friendship, companionship, and the regular engagement of my life with someone else’s life. I have in mind as I work up this list my relationships from before, from now, and from the future. My early attachments, friendships, romantic relationships, working relationships, and basic acquaintances are all a part of the learning environment here. To follow is a brief reflection of what I’m learning about me, about people, and about the world. I’m included necessarily in all three.

I’m learning:

  1. I am complete. I am a whole person, with likes and dislikes, most of which I can explain, some of which I’m still learning, and I’m whole.
  2. I am different. I’m not the person most people think I am, and a large part of developing a relationship is in presenting who I am in the mirror or face of who someone thinks I am.
  3. I am needy. While I don’t think of myself in this way initially, I’m more convinced that at an essential level, I need others, and I’m committed to the recovering work of being in quality relationships, committed to being needy and being okay with that.
  4. There’s a “but.” I only need others insofar as they are participatory in the salvific, constructive, overarching redemptive work of me being my real self. I think there is a small number of people who are willing to be in this type of relationship with me.
  5. I’m not a morning person. I wake up slowly to the world, and this characterizes how I let people in, how I engage people, and how committed my significant others must be to be in relationship with me.
  6. I do what I like. I work a lot, and I’ve systematically chosen to enrich myself with power (and been blessed with such a gift) so that I can choose to do what I like, not what I’m told–mostly.
  7. I don’t like to be told what to do. Others can tell this story as good as I can, but I’m really good at doing what I think is right, at being self-directed, so being in any true relationship is, at first, a testing of my ability to be interdependent.
  8. I know how to quit. I don’t quite know how to lose, but I know how to quit; this is an ever-present switch in me that enables me to cut-off those who no longer matter and it’s a lifelong temptation, the notion that people don’t matter.
  9. People want to be loved. This is trite truth, and it’s just as challenging because loving is very hard when it has to be consistently offered in murky, uncomfortable, or otherwise difficult circumstances. Indeed, most of love has to be applied in such circumstances.
  10. People have a hard time choosing themselves. A lot of people put others before them–consciously or unconsciously–and that behavior repeats itself in choices against the self. The slow work of healing is about saying yes to yourself, your wholeness, your being saved, your being true. You cannot choose another if you haven’t chosen you.
  11. People want others to know them. I think this is a divine desire, wanting to create in order to express self-knowledge; wanting to be in order to be known. When a person ends a good relationship, there’s destruction in deep places. That’s normal and it’s normal to feel it.
  12. People want to be supported. The most beautiful testament to love is in showing up after a long drive or after a fight or after some ending in order to express that some things don’t change, that love endures, and that love is displayed by supportiveness.
  13. People want to be heard. When a person talks too much, whatever that is, it just may be because they haven’t been adequately heard.
  14. People grieve. As foundational as is the reflex in people to love is the reflex to lose those loves, and when we lose, we grieve–consciously or not.
  15. People are inconsistent. This is one of the most basic abilities in people: to change and, therefore, to be inconsistent. It colors the best of relationships.
  16. People disappoint. Because we have our stated and unstated expectations of each other, disappointment is inevitable, and unfortunately forgiveness is not. Forgiveness is a series of choices that is hard to come by.
  17. Most people in relationships seldom know what they really want, ask for what they really want, or show what they really feel. This is wisdom from David Richo in How to be an Adult (p 84).
  18. Love and respect go together. Claiming to love a person has to pair with regularly allowing that person to choose, in other words, respecting that person’s choice. This is wisdom from Grammie Joseph.
  19. Telling a person ‘I love you’ is completely restorative, redemptive, and settling. Most people don’t say ‘I love you’ enough. Wisdom from Jonathan Alvarado.
  20. The most helpful, honest relationship is the one that is both alluring and scary. I have in mind a relationship with God but it’s true about the other real ones too. Healthy relationships carry a quality of the known and a quality of the unknown. When you’re in it with a person, you should humbly accept that there are so many potentially lovely unknowns to be discovered, and that’s nerve-rattling!


  1. Thank you for sharing.
    Im in my 40’s and I’m finally starting to understand more about relationships by unlearning everything I thought I knew about relationships.
    I’m just being open to the experience and adventure of sharing curiosities with other people.

    p.s. Bell Hooks does a wonderful job of sharing her perceptions about the components of relationships in her book, ‘All About Love’.



    1. Thank you, Vernice. And this midlife phase feels just right for the re-learning and unlearning you’re talking about. Yes, to bell hooks. I used to read All About Love every other year for about ten years. One of my favorites.



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