Labeling Relationships


Labeling Relationships

Christine Ruffolo


For the second time this year, I told a client they no longer need to pay me.  We were peers, and the level of engagement and conversation I got from talking with them far exceeded my $65 per hour asking fee.  The interest was mutual, the reciprocity organically leveled up, and I simply told them we could do this as friends.  ‘This’, I concluded, was simply interacting and connecting as eager equals.  We are all brokers of perspective — what one has to offer and what one wants to know.  Without the other, one, on its own, has no value.

We could speak of student-teacher, parent-child, partner-spouse.  With each, there are assumed roles and assumed behaviors and abilities that correspond with those roles.  The teacher has the answers and the student has the questions.   The parent knows how to take care of the child and the child learns what care is from the parent.  The partner-spouse relationship is more intimate, special, and demanding than a friendship.  It’s supposed to be.  The rules we glean about how one conducts themselves within each of these labels dictate how successful each relationship is perceived.


Expectations Kill Relationships.


People cannot possibly live up to the image we’ve created in our heads.  Especially when we are looking for that which we haven’t communicated.

And yet, that’s ultimately what we want.  For someone to be able to read our minds and be exactly what we need them to be.

There is a strange and potent power in not having to ask.  It’s a test of being known; a test, of course, that can only be passed with time spent with.

I’ve run a sort of social experiment with TM the last couple years.  Instead of inviting them to me in order to hold a sort of teaching and learning conference, I decided to go to them, to simply to hang out and see what comes of being in the vicinity.  It was a practice in investing in letting things happen organically.


What would come of an interaction void of social pressure and social risk?


An ease of asking and answering.  Being, with warm pauses to look around and share space and attention.  I’ve met spouses and children.  A Dad who had lived through some things.  To be invited in begets more inviting.  To be with the person AND their persons was to fully experience along side of.  It wasn’t long ago that I considered these others intrusions, much preferring the far fewer variables of a strict one-on-one.

But to know someone is to know their house.  Their routine.  To watch them interact and to interact with those that they might be more comfortable with than you.  There is a feeling that occurs when you are truly welcomed in, void of the manipulations that come from the decades long habit of getting someone to like you.   The energy of being interested turns into the effortlessness of being present.


There is nothing that you have to do.


You don’t have to control or conquer or win over.


The sincerity in which one can simply ‘exist with’ has taught me more than any workshop or certification.  It has seeped into every single one of my relationships and wedged them from mileposts to which they had been assigned.

This erasure of measures also acts as an erasure of distance.

And norms.

And constructs.


What might we see if we weren’t pointed in a particular direction?

How might we relate and connect if we didn’t have established parts to play?


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