Improving relationships with correct distance
Updated: Nov 24, 2019
During self-realisation mentoring sessions I often discuss relationship challenges caused by incorrect distance.
Correct distance aims to find the ideal distance between two people; a sweet spot so to speak that enables any relationship to flow in relative harmony.
So what do I mean by distance?
In essence I am referring to degrees of intimacy or openness. How open to someone should we really be? Do we treat everyone the same or should we discern the level of openness that is appropriate for each person we know?
Everyone is unique, so the notion that we should treat everyone the same and have just one fixed protocol to navigate relationships inevitably ends up being inadequate. And yet this seems to be happening more and more often in my experience helping people. There are no doubt numerous factors that contribute to a lack of relational awareness. These days success tends to be measured by how many friends we have, rather than the quality of our friendships, and this may influence how we go about relating to others. Modern western people are statistically more alienated and isolated from community than ever before, so it makes sense that if we are hungry for connection we might also feel pressured to make the most of whatever we attract into our lives.
Humans are wonderfully complex beings, and as such our coming together in relationships is also complex. Sometimes we gel well with each other and sometimes we simply don’t. This is easily understood in terms of frequency and vibration, where the sum of a persons thoughts and emotions either improve coherence with another person or decrease coherence. When we are in coherence with another person we always feel more energised, happier and in harmony with them. Incoherent relationship dynamics tend to make us feel more tired, stressed and uncomfortable.
I have known people in their search for belonging and connection to throw all discretion aside and open themselves up to everyone in equal measure as part of an idealistic approach. In this way we override our gut instincts about someone, and enforce an openness protocol no matter what until the other person proves themselves to be incompatible.
I have heard countless personal stories of people who can’t bear to be in the presence of another person (usually because of negative behaviour) and yet endure them simply because they do not know how to say no, or cannot cope with the idea that they might hurt someone by drawing a more appropriate boundary.
The reality is that on a planet with 7 billion souls there is simply no way we can know everyone; we by necessity have to choose who we spend time and energy with and who we don’t. It’s our personal responsibility to find correct distance with the people we attract into our lives, because not everyone is meant to be a friend, and they shouldn’t have to be. In the same way, we don’t have to be a friend to everyone, albeit we can treat everyone in a friendly and respectful manner.
I find it useful to divide relationships into sectors, with each having their own protocols or social etiquette. In this model, each sector represents degrees of closeness or distance. Closeness equates to stronger psychic energy exchanges and permissions, while with greater distance there are fewer and fewer contracts of energy exchange.
Inner Circle - the inner circle includes only people we have a quality rapport with; those we inherently feel safe enough with to enjoy intimate sharing (not necessarily sexual). The inner circle is highly selective and represents relationships with the highest trust levels and emotional openness. For most people their sexual long term partner/s belongs here, and sometimes family members such as close siblings, and very close friends. Sometimes we know no one who qualifies and our inner circle is appropriately empty.
Friends - for clarity-sake friends are those we have a high degree of trust for based on experiences we have had with them. To be on friendly terms with someone does not define them as a friend in this context. A friend has earned their place in your life, and friendships necessarily take time; there is no such thing as an instant friendship. Friends are reliable, trustworthy, loyal and innately supportive.
Alliances - often we mistake acquaintances for friendships because we conflate the notion of friendly with friend and they are not the same thing. Alliances are usually friendly-acquaintances, and sometimes family members. Not all family relationships operate as friendships or enjoy enough rapport for them to belong in the inner-circle. It’s quite normal for most family relationships to operate as alliances; we help each other from time to time but don’t have the same relaxed connection as we have with friends and inner-circle members. With alliances we treat each other with respect and friendliness but we are aware that the foundation of the relationship is about the exchanging of resources for mutual benefit. Usually we employ more formality.
Neutral - refers to everyone we meet that we don’t have much in common with and as a result have minimum friendly relations with. This sector includes the majority of people on the planet.
Enemies - enemies are those few people we might find ourselves in conflict with. Sometimes people in this sector are not actively aggressive toward us, but those whose behaviour is toxic and undesirable. Unless we ourselves are consistently unfriendly and unkind to people, this sector is empty or lightly populated. Quite naturally, with enemies, we have the most distance and the strongest boundaries. The best way to resolve this sector is to undertake self-transformative processes - in this way we position our enemies to become our teachers.
Inner circle protocols will be different to friendship protocols and different again to alliance protocols. It is up to us as individuals to define all relationship protocols but inevitably we are strongly influenced by social conditioning. Here are a few examples of how protocols differ from sector to sector:
With enemies we might decide it's best to avoid any contact at all. That might include avoiding eye contact, crossing to the other side of the street etc. We do this to protect ourselves from avoidable negative outcomes.
With alliances we may decide the appropriate distance is to only meet with them in neutral territory like cafés and restaurants. Certain aspects of our personal lives may be off limits.
With friends we may feel more comfortable meeting them at home, at their home as well as out in public places.
With inner-circle members we might be comfortable being naked in their presence, or allow them to witness emotional vulnerability etc.
So what happens when we move into incorrect distance with someone?
To be in incorrect distance with someone is to either enforce an overly intimate connection with someone who you don't trust enough or feel enough mutual rapport with, or it is to treat someone who deserves more openness with cold formality. Either way relationship tension results. It is surprisingly common for people to move too quickly into an 'inner-circle' mode with a complete stranger, and when we do this it is hard to recover from and the relationship opportunity can be lost. If we are overly intimate with our sharing with someone we hardly know, we are bound to make them feel burdened and uncomfortable, and they are more likley to give us a wide berth the next time they see us. Often the incorrect assessment of a situation is due to projection; we see what we want to see and not what actually is.
In a world where many feel isolated and lacking in quality relationships, it is easy to understand why we might be tempted to jump into relationships full throttle, but as human beings, the best relationships are built upon trust, and trust takes time to build.
Now there are always exceptions - it is possible to meet someone for the first time and feel wonderful rapport, and feel like we've known them all our life and discover in that magical moment that the other feels the same way too. If we are good at reading the energy, and we are adjusted to owning our own projections, it sometimes works well, to enjoy a blissful and fleeting moment with a complete stranger that feels like a grace. The moment passes and we know we're not going to see them again. Situations like these can be surprisingly sustaining, but they cannot take the place of long term relationship journeys.
In my experience people choose incorrect distance because they don't recognise they have a choice; they think they have to be nice to everyone, and that nice means always open. Sometimes we are so hungry for inner-circle connections that we put just anyone there, yet opening up in this way is risky and can set us back emotionally. The moment we realise that relationships take many forms and operate at different emotional levels, it is much easier to give ourselves permission to be with people in a way that is true, free from our projections and society's expectations.