May 2015. I was failing in love. Again. Convinced everyone else had received some memo that I missed out on, I was determined to find out what it was (because, of course, it seemed logical that that way I would get it right) – and that began a long exploration into love and relationships.
conversations on love (saudade)
It started with asking my friends the questions I had never asked when I was listening to their stories. And their answers almost always surprised me – there was something illuminating about the things I heard when I stopped assuming that I knew what they meant, how they felt when they shared the same stories. It made me understand their stories and them much better.
So, curious about what I would learn from strangers whose stories I did not know, I started speaking to them. I would take friends of friends (and their friends) out for a “love-conversation”. I would ask them how they defined love. For the rest of the interview, we then “made sense” of this definition through the stories they shared.
I would ask them questions like:
Does love have to be unconditional?
How do you categorize your people?
Does jealousy stem from the other person having what you want, or you not getting what you want (because of the other person)?
We make vulnerability scales and plotted our relationships on graphs of needs…
It changed how I saw relationships.
I heard of stories with varied levels of happy and sad endings (and so much in between), sat with people who spoke of the hurt they experienced as well as the hurt they caused, listened to memories of warm love and deep longing, and collected the lessons they learnt in the process…
I felt the ways in which we carry our hurt as excuses to continue hurting others, and the ways that led to repeated cycles of hurt…
I saw how language affects how we love, and how losing our mother-tongue as our natural processing language changes how we think of love…
I learned about different ways people organised their relationships, of the different kinds of relationships and different sexuality and preferences…
We spoke about vulnerability and plotted how we experienced it on graphs. I experimented with my vulnerability – what happens if I am completely (as possible consciously) vulnerable with every stranger I met…
(I am currently revisiting these interviews and having some new ones and considering ways to document this journey)
“deliberately developmental” relationships
Looking back, I think I learn t so much from my relationships”.
We all grow in our relationships. We all know we grow in our relationships. But often, we only remember that looking back, when we are forced into transitions.
What happens then if we saw our relationships as spaces for growth? How can we go through them being deliberate about our development? I explored this for my final assignment for T006: Adult Development. I call these relationships “deliberately developmental relationships”:
With wholeness as its goal, these relationships “put into place deliberate practices that help its people feel safe enough to be themselves” and see relationships as “wonderful place to discover parts of ourselves we didn’t know existed,” by using “friction” in building a life together as “possibilities to reclaim aspects of who we are that we have neglected or pushed into shadows”.1
Based on “Deliberately Developmental Organizations“, these relationships look a little like this:
“Developmental practices” are practices that can be cultivated in relationships to foster growth within and through them. Imagine turning conflicts into opportunities to make sense of the world and understand each other’s deeper sides better. Or learning about how the other person experiences things like vulnerability, love, disappointment, and know how you can support each other in that before the situation pushes your limits.
Relationship tool-kits are learning tools – rituals, games, activities – developed specifically to help turn relationships into spaces for learning.
There are a lot of exciting things we can do with this work. One example is this talk I gave at a design firm in Feb ’18, where we can look at our problems with relationships like it were a design problem – and ways in which we could then design for better love.
1 LaLoux, F. (2016). Wholeness. Reinventing organizations: An illustrated invitation to join the conversation on next-stage organizations (pp. 81-109)