What defines the best in human relationships? Is it the setting and pursuing of shared goals? Is it in defining roles and specializing in optimal outcomes? Or, is it simply in being supportive – in carrying the burden when one’s partner, either because of inability or blindness, cannot? Perhaps, depending on the relationship and the circumstance, they are all true to some degree. But aren’t the superlative relationships about bolstering, even challenging, the other person to be the very best that they can be?
As it relates to my colleagues and teammates, the best help me strengthen my weaknesses and fully use my best attributes. With my children, they push me to be a better parent with each new phase and difficult question, just as I urge them to become fully independent and functioning humans. With my spouse, the relationship continues to evolve, even as we mature further into adulthood. Boundaries are established, challenged and redefined. And, it is good. While in each of these associations, respect, support and even love, are required, isn’t a reasonable performance expectation also necessary?
While vacationing a few years ago, I was planted at my laptop with a phone to my ear. My family was dressed and ready to head-out for a day of roller coasters. Feeling the pressure to depart, I exclaimed that I “had” to work longer. Calmly, my wife took me aside and reminded me that while I could work if I chose, it was not required. She was right. I like to work. I’d do it all the time if I could. But doesn’t my bargain with those around me require that I invest in them too? Wasn’t claiming that I had no choice simply giving me a pass to do what I wanted? It was time to stop working and go visit a giant mouse.