On Relating and Relationship, Part 1

Attachment, attraction, and love relationships constitute one of the most prolific areas of investigation in social psychology.  The importance of relationships is clear in the research, pointing to our fundamental need to belong.  In their research, Baumeister & Leary (1995) identified five criteria that point out a fundamental need to belong.

  • Relationships make a direct contribution to survival and to thriving
  • The universality of the mother-child and romantic lover interdependence are found in all cultures
  • Relationships have a profound effect on social cognition, defining who we are and the attributions we make.
  • The drive for relating is satiable – when deprived we exhibit searching behaviors and when satisfied our searching is significantly reduced
  • The consequences of being chronically relationally deprived can be devastating; relationships are vital to our senses of happiness, physical, and psychological well-being

What can we learn if we look at these findings from the perspective of faith and spirituality?   The universality of the nature of relationships may in fact point to interpersonal relating as a design feature in all of us, and that we were designed to be relational beings. Why do relationships make direct contributions to our thriving, and why are the mother-child and romantic lover interdependence universal in all cultures?  Could it be that we are designed for relational interdependence?  If our relationships help to define who we are and are vital to our senses of happiness, physical, and psychological well-being, might this point to the idea that we are made for a permanent and fulfilling relationship in which we will find our highest expression?

We are designed for relating and interdependence, and are thus equipped for a unique relationship with our God.  That “master relationship” is intended to be both consuming and defining, the one relationship in which we can find our highest fulfillment and true identity. Augustine of Hippo famously stated, “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.”  These words echo those of the Jewish king, David, “As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God?”

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