How Your Outside Relationships Impact Your Marriage?
Let’s Get to Know Your Seven Relationship Levels – Part 1
What relationships do you have?
Hopefully you’ve taken the time to identify all your relationships. I know you might be feeling apprehensive about sharing them since this assignment was somewhat ambiguous. With your list in hand, let’s take a moment to discuss what we have on the list with your intended partner. I know you expected me to say who, but what is more important than who in this case. This exercise is important in giving your intended spouse the key players in your world. It’s vital to your success in marriage to take a look at your world, since the two of you are about to bring two worlds into contact with each other. Your world is now her world and her world is now your world. Therefore you need to see the pieces that make up each other’s worlds and we do this by examining the seven levels of relationships. In other words, it will expose who’s important in your life as well as who’s not so important.
We will break the seven levels down into two parts:
1) The Outside Relationships. The first three levels represent the relationships that make up those who impact you outwardly.
2) The Inside Relationships. The last four levels represent the relationships that make up those who impact you inwardly.
The Outside Relationships
The outside relationships are those that have involvement in your life and can directly impact your life and how you live. These relationships have more of an outside-in influence on who you become and how you do life. That’s not to say that they can’t influence you inwardly which we will discuss later. However, it’s not the outside relationships that help you make your own life decisions. Let’s not go into too much detail about that. Rather, let’s discuss how these first three, no four, levels of relationships impact your world and the world your spouse is about to come into direct contact with.
- Relationship Level 0 – Family.
This is the relationship level that doesn’t really have a number; it’s the default or level that’s not optional. It’s called “family.” We call this level zero because you can’t control the family you’re given. No matter what the predicament, as a child we have no control over who’s a part of our family. When we open our eyes to life, these are the people who are there. In fact, it’s the individual born who now is the intruder. This means our family is the default relationship and we all have someone we call family and there’s nothing anyone can do about it, for the most part. No matter what legal steps you take, you can not undo those you’ve been given to in family.
For a spouse who’s coming into contact with your relationship level zero, he or she must understand that level zero is not optional. It is what it is and one must accept it as such. This level includes, but is not limited to, mom, dad, siblings, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, children, etc. Whether you accept this level or not, you can’t change that these people are a part of your world and mean something to your spouse. So look at the list and decide now that these people will not be a problem or identify the ones that can be a problem. Do this so that you and your spouse can develop a plan on how you will handle life in the world of your relationship level zero, your families.
- Relationship Level 1 – Neighbors.
Level one represents the people you know only because of proximity. This relationship group emerges from the environment you’re in. When you change environments people in this group tend to not go with you.
It’s easy to think that your neighbors are more important in your world than they really are. That’s not to say that they are not important people. They’re just not as important as we normally make them out to be in our world. Ask this question, if I move, change jobs, change churches, will these individuals continue to be a part of my world? If truly in the neighbor category, the answer is no. Therefore you must not allow level one relationships to be anything other than level one relationships. This is the key takeaway. Level one individuals are not level zero, family. Because you’ve decided to marry, you can be guaranteed that your relationship level-one relationships will change. Be ready for it.
I might mention as this often comes up. You must also consider that your allies fall into this category. An ally in this case would be like a child’s other parent, when you’re in a blended family scenario. They have a spot in your world, but you must not give them a place other than in level two. Because any time you misplace a relationship, it creates challenges for your new world. Knowing which level a person resides is imperative to eliminating the common problems we often see when people decide to merge their lives into one.
- Relationship Level 2 – Disciples.
Level two relationships represent the people who need you, but you don’t really need them. They’re the people you influence whether you realize it or not. They’re your students or anyone who wishes to learn from you.
Each of us have level two relationships, but we need to know their place. It could be that young person who stops by to learn how to mow the lawn or get tips on finances. Your world is shifting and your level two relationships will be impacted. They might not be able to have the amount of time with you that they’ve gotten accustomed to pre-marriage. Your spouse may not understand the relationship or the history behind it. Therefore, post-marriage, these relationships, all relationship levels must adjust or be adjusted.
- Relationship Level 3 – Friends.
This one you might find surprising to be called an outside-in relationship. Level three relationships are what we call “friends.” These are the people you’ve selected to do a part of your life with, but can end at any time you choose. Because we so often group any and everyone in the friend category, it becomes difficult to see the important from the least important. Yes, I said that not all friendships are created equal. We will talk about the most important friendships in the next section. For this section, we’re only discussing the least important friends. You do know you have friends that you can easily walk away from? Just like you need to know who will be with you no matter what, you need to know those who won’t. Your partner in life will also need to know this. This is your opportunity to clarify for your spouse who’s simply a friend and nothing more.
Put some names in this category so that you both can know what and who falls into this category. When we review the more important relationships as we climb in relationships levels, level three may have to be adjusted; this is normal. The key here through this exercise is to begin making the distinction.
We will take a break here for now and in our next section, we will discuss the last four levels. We call these the “inside” relationship levels. These relationships impact you inwardly and thusly how you live outwardly.