Dictionary.com defines a relationship as
1. a connection, association, or involvement
2. a connection between persons by blood or marriage
3. an emotional or other connection between people
4. a sexual involvement; affair
In other words it seems that relationships can occur between any people who have contact with one another - stylist/client, grocer/customer, teacher/student, husband/wife. The list is virtually endless.
If you were to ask 100 people, however, for a one-word definition of relationship, you'd likely hear this: challenging.
Relationships have boundaries and, unless you are a robot, the boundaries tend to blur. Constantly. Professionals fall in love. Best friends fall out. Marriages fall apart. Parents fall down on the job. There is nothing more slippery than the parameters of a relationship. There are road blocks and detours. Signs get stolen. And sometimes the edges of the road vanish altogether.
As if that weren't difficult enough, relationships occur between human beings. Human beings who have traversed life via roads and back alleys and waterways. No one arrives at a destination without baggage. Sometimes the baggage is light and trivial, and the traveler hasn't had it all that long - isn't all that attached to it. He can set it down and walk away from it, realizing that it can easily be replaced with something new and improved. He even feels relieved when the burden is lifted. He feels like he can run a hundred miles, hand in hand with his new partner.
More times than not the baggage is heavy, soul-shattering. That kind of baggage has been around for a long time, and it has grown and morphed and gained momentum. That kind of baggage whispers lies into the traveler's ears, "You won't find anything better than me. You can't live without me. You don't exist without me." Often there is no one else around to dispel the lies, and the traveler eventually falls for this load of dung. Not only can the traveler not let go of the old baggage, he also finds some comfort in it. It's familiar, it's part of his identity, it's better than having nothing at all. So the traveler surrounds himself with the old, rotten baggage and tries to keep dragging it along everywhere he goes. Darn baggage keeps getting bigger and uglier and louder. The baggage gets in the way, sticking its tongue out any new partners, acting as a land mine. "Maybe," the traveler thinks, "it would just be easier to sit here beside the road and let others go by."
Only the traveler can break the spell that baggage holds over him. But the secret code is hidden in passages most of us are afraid to enter. The others that the traveler meets along the way feel frustrated, wishing they could be appealing enough to the traveler that he would toss the old rubbish aside and grab hold of them instead. Lots of times the others get tired of battling the old baggage and part ways with the traveler. Sometimes they fight the good fight but find themselves defeated and damaged. And now they carry baggage, too.
Ask the traveler what he would like, and he might say something like this: "I know my baggage stinks. I hate it, too. But I'm having trouble unloading it at the moment. Don't fight us, but don't give up, either. Walk along beside me. Bring your baggage, too. We can compare them and point out their shortcomings. Maybe we can help each other see just how unhealthy they are and find a way to outsmart them and escape. And then we can sprint off down that new road I caught a glimpse of a while back."
Hey, traveler, when you race off down that new track, go ahead and look back at your old baggage. Just one time. And stick your tongue out at it.