The Value and Problem of Relationships
Our lives consist of a complex web of relationships in which we constantly move. We have relationships with
significant others. There are relationships with children and close family members. We also have relationships
with friends and social acquaintances. There are work relationships and professional relationships. We have
relationships with neighbors and vendors and business people and service providers and the list goes on. All
relationships are important even though there is variation in the degree of importance which we ascribe them.
Despite the ubiquitous nature of relationships in our lives and the degree to which we need and depend on
these relationships and the value that we ascribe to them, they are often fraught with problems. The problems
that we experience in relationships inhibit the level of their function and we are not able to easily achieve the
specific goal or goals of the relationship. Less functional relationships seem to introduce more problems than
they resolve and this might lead to termination of a relationship.
For example, let’s consider what might be the most highly valued relationship in our society, one’s relationship
with a significant other. People enter into intimate relationships seeking love, romance and companionship.
Many people do not want to go through life alone. Many, if not most, people seek a partner with whom they can
live. Such partnership or companionship may be a fundamental need for most people, if not all people, although
the degree to which individuals experience this need certainly varies.
There are many problems that attend these highly valued relationships. People seem to know what they want in
a partner but they do not know how to go about finding what they want. Or they enter into a relationship thinking
they have found what they want only to discover that what they found is different from what they thought they had.
As a result many relationships are full of conflict and many relationships end. That relationships end is not
necessarily a bad thing. Some relationships should end. Some relationships should never begin or they should
end shortly after they begin. When to begin and when to end a relationship, how to evaluate the quality of a
relationship that exists, and how to identify and resolve problems that exist in any specific relationship are
issues that perplex and mystify most people.
Since one of the conditions that I treat is the relationship disorder, I see a lot of different relationships and
different kinds of relationships with many different degrees of dysfunction. A big part of my work is to help
people resolve the dysfunction that exists in their relationships. Another part of my work is to help people
evaluate the quality of a relationship which they have so they can decide whether to continue in it. Not one of
these issues is easy to resolve but all can be achieved. Some people have a longer row to hoe than other
people in terms of the number of problems they have to resolve and the severity of each problem. But every
person in every relationship has problems. No one is exempt. All relationships can move along the continuum
that ranges from dysfunctional to functional. No relationship ever arrives at perfection and all can improve
regardless of the point at which they are on the continuum.
How to do this is another matter. Most people do not have the time or energy or interest to devote to analyzing
and understanding the nature of relationships or even the nature of their own relationships. Some of us do.