Did you ever experience a friendship or other relationship that degraded so far that at some point, when it got to be ugly and mucky and unbearably sad, all you wanted to do was climb into a time machine and transport yourself back to a moment when the friendship was still good and talk to the person the way you once knew them, telling them what’s now going on because that person, that friend you once knew, would understand? Yes, I know a little about that. It’s been a part of my life lately, but when I stop to think about it, it’s always a part of life as long as there are relationships in it.
A few years ago now, Chris, my darling Hubs, and I had a gigantic and super-serious talk about our marriage. Life had been hard. We had moved to Minnesota, experienced job loss, lived without many friends, had lots of small children and not enough money, and we let all of these happenings take their toll on us. Our relationship was suffering from what I now call circumstantial erosion, the unfortunate reality of allowing life and all the crap it brings to erode away at your relationships because of your lack of care for those relationships. What I have learned since that time is that this is not just a marriage problem, but a relationship problem.
Relationships of all kinds-marriages, partnerships, friendships, parent/child-all take work and lots of it. They require time and and sacrifice and grace and, perhaps most importantly, intentionality. Without intentional efforts to continue building your relationships and maintaining them, the happenings of life, both big and small, will wash over those relationships and carry them out to sea. The thing about erosion, and if you are from an ocean town you may understand this better, is that it doesn’t happen quickly. It happens slowly, gradually, unnoticeably, a little bit of sand at a time, until suddenly one day you look out and the beach has disappeared and you find yourself standing on just a strip of sand, wondering where your relationship has gone.
Be intentional. Be intentional. And when you think you have invested in your relationships and been intentional, be more intentional. Work at them. Don’t let all that life brings distract you. Don’t take the easy way and let your relationships drift. Give those people whom you deem important in your life as much purposeful effort and care as you can give them while still maintaining your own strength.
Sometimes erosion is irreversible. Sometimes by the time you realize what has happened, the damage may be too far along and it would take the Army Corps of Engineers to come in with major equipment to rebuild the shore. But sometimes, if you are watchful and careful, you might be able to prevent the shore from being completely washed out from beneath you. Tell your people the hard things, be honest, have conversations, let them know that you see things breaking down and eroding. Tell them you won’t let life and all its happenings wash away what you have. Tell them that it will take mutual effort, but that you are willing to work at it. And more importantly, that you are willing to keep working at it, since erosion is always a threat. Because these people, these folks whom you love and have invested in, are worth just a little more of your effort, no? To prevent circumstantial erosion? And maybe, just maybe, you can turn things around and the shore will be restored once more. I know it’s possible. I’ve seen it happen. 🙂