The relationship continuum: From “It to Us”: Part 3 of 5 – The situations that bind us

Situational Relationships

The relationship continuum, from “It to Us” and the situations that bind us. If you’ve read the first two parts of this series, you should no longer be asking: What the heck is that supposed to mean? If you haven’t read part 1 and part 2 yet, please go have a look at them as this blog will make a lot more sense if you do. In brief however, the “It to Us continuum” is my own little method for evaluating any given relationship and for determining how much personal commitment those involved have to each other, what brings them (and keeps) them together, and most importantly: the level of intimacy they share. In part 3 of this 5-part series, I’ll talk about the second level of the “It to Us continuum”. Specifically, I’m going to talk about “Situational Relationships” and the situations that bind us.

A “Situational Relationship” is more or less exactly what it says on the tin. It is a relationship between/among people that has been established and maintained as a result of a shared situation they may be in. Situations such working in the same office, mums at the school gate, members of a club or society or even residents of a cul-de-sac. The main identifying feature of a situational relationship is that it is a situation, event or activity that brings those involved together and this situation/activity/event is ultimately more important than the people themselves. We are literally in these relationships only because the situation dictates it, and not out of any personal drive or desire to connect with anyone else who happens to also be in that situation. Looking back to part one of this series, we would place the other children in the school playground firmly in this category.

Most people are involved in somewhere between 10 and 30 situational relationships at any given time, but the specific individuals of that group come and go. As an illustration, let’s use Marge, our imaginary receptionist. We see and say hello to Marge every morning. We chip in to the pool for her birthday gift, ask her how her holiday went, and even stay a few minutes late on the Friday of her leaving drink when, after 3 years of working for the company the time has come for her to go have her baby. Come Monday morning there is a new person sitting at that front desk we’ll call June. June, quite simply is the new Marge. The only real change for us is that we have a new person to say hello to each morning as we arrive at work and life at the office goes on.

All is well until 7 months later when Marge (now having had her baby), pops back into the office to see everyone and show off her new treasure.  This is where the situational nature of that relationship really comes to light. What do we say to Marge? If we’re being truly honest with ourselves, we’d kind of forgotten all about her except as someone who used to work here. If we’d bumped into her randomly on a London street, we’re not entirely certain that we would even have recognised her at first glance. Yes, she was a mini feature of our morning for 3 years, but did we really have a relationship with her? Did we really know (or even particularly want to know) anything about her? Probably not. This is not an insult to Marge, it is only that she is a situational relationship (just one of the other kids in the playground) and we didn’t really have anything else in common. And even though it may pain us to admit it – she almost certainly had little interest in us either!

In this classic situational relationship, we can clearly see that it is the situation (working in the same office) as being the only real thing that brought us together. In summary then, at this, the situational relationship spot along the “It to Us continuum”, the situations we are in are what connect us, and the situation is more important that the other people in that situation with us. Even more important to note is that the other people in the situations that bind us are interchangeable, and that no real relationship, friendship or intimacy actually exists.

In part 4 of this series, I will describe the next level along in the relationship continuum, and what I call: “Friendships”.